Laura Vandervoort is dealing with a chicken-or-the-egg scenario when it comes to her acting career.
She is not certain whether she is drawn to the kind of strong characters that science fiction projects have to offer — such as in her new Syfy werewolf series "Bitten" — or if it is that she has such a loyal fan base because of her past sci-fi work and that means she is one of the first actors considered for sci-fi parts.
"I guess it's a bit of both," Vandervoort says. "I really don't go looking for sci-fi projects, but ever since I played Supergirl on 'Smallville,' my fan base has been so amazing. They want to see me in more sci-fi. I do know that I'm drawn to play strong women, especially if the role is demanding.
"When I discussed the show with the producers and they told me what they were looking to do, I realized the role encompassed everything an actress would kill to do."
Of course, Vandervoort's talking metaphorically and not slipping into a more aggressive werewolf state.
It's a killer role that puts plenty of demands on the Canadian actress. After playing recurring and supporting characters, Vandervoort is the star of the cable drama based on the Kelly Armstrong novels. She plays Elena Michaels, a rare female werewolf who has left her Pack. Her quiet life is disrupted by a series of events that forces her to return to the werewolves' ancestral domain.
"Bitten" also stars Greg Bryk ("A History of Violence") as werewolf Pack "Alpha" Jeremy Danvers, Greyston Holt ("Alcatraz") as Elena's werewolf ex-boyfriend Clayton Danvers, and Paul Greene ("The Client List") as Elena's current beau, Philip McAdams.
The actress says she would be lying if she said she didn't feel any pressure as the lead in a TV series. She has dealt with it by throwing herself into being as physically and mentally ready as possible.
Vandervoort wasn't familiar with Armstrong's novels before landing the role, but she has since read the books. Just as the reading she could do before playing Supergirl or Lisa in "V," the books provided a wealth of background material to use in her performance. It wasn't necessary for her to create a back story because she read all about the horrendous life Elena went through with foster parents.
Having the background work out of the way allowed Vandervoort to concentrate on the physical aspects of the role. Most of the transformations from human to werewolf are done through special-effects wizardry, but the process starts with some tough physical — and revealing — acting moments.
"When you are naked, on all fours, in the middle of the forest, it's a little uncomfortable," Vandervoort says with a laugh. "I just keep in mind that this is where Elena is finally releasing the animal in her. That's one of the great things about the role. She's so strong that I just fell in love with Elena from the start."
Those hairy transformations are different from other werewolf films and TV shows in that the pending werewolves undress rather than have their clothes ripped to shreds during the change. Vandervoort jokes that if Elena ripped through her clothes each time she transformed, she would need an enormous wardrobe.
Along with the demands of shooting "Bitten," Vandervoort has been working on a project inspired by all of the trips she has made to sci-fi and comic book conventions.
"Almost all of the girls who are there are dressed as these midriff-baring superheroes. I decided young women need a different role model, and so I have been writing a children's book," Vandervoort says. "It's about a young girl, who is quirky and an oddball, who on her 10th birthday finds out she's a superhero. It's called Super Duper Deelia."
Vandervoort has been working with an illustrator to create a graphic novel and there is a strong possibility her tale will become a live-action series.
"Bitten," 10 p.m. today, Syfy
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.