Eric Mabius, Nature of the Beast
As part of ABC Family's "13 Nights of Halloween" campaign, Eric Mabius (aka Ugly Betty's editor in chief of "Mode" magazine, Daniel) plays a charming college teacher who takes a hair-raising turn during the full moon in the cabler's Nature of the Beast. The original TV-movie, which encores tonight at 8 pm/ET, also features other familiar TV stars, including Eddie Kaye Thomas ('Til Death) and Autumn Reeser (The O.C.). Mabius took a break from memorizing his lines to talk with TVGuide.com about his penchant for horror films and the many layers of Daniel Meade.

TVGuide.com: Nature of the Beast is a horror movie, so your character is, of course, creepy and violent. But he's pretty slick, funny and charming, too.
Eric Mabius: I thought the script was wry and witty and sarcastic, kind of the way [director] Rodman Flender directs as well. Even though it was such a short hiatus, I thought it would be fun to do. I got to literally and figuratively chew up some of the scenery... and some of the people in the scenery.

TVGuide.com: You've acted in many different genres but several of your films are horror films. What attracts you to that genre?
Mabius: Horror never really goes out of style, and some of my favorite movies are similarly themed horror movies that are very self-aware — they don't take themselves too seriously. [I like] movies that poke fun at themselves and the genre and have that sense of irony. That's how my friends were growing up and at Sarah Lawrence — kind of hip but slightly geeky.

TVGuide.com: Tongue-in-cheek?
Mabius: Yeah, definitely.

TVGuide.com: Then you probably enjoyed playing this "alpha wolf" — a devious and scary lycanthrope, but a fun-loving ladies' man, too.
Mabius: I like to play someone who's the bad guy but you think, "Oh, that's the kind of person I would like to go out and get drunk with or go to Vegas with." There's still something redeeming and certainly likable about them. I think good comes out of evil sometimes. No one is all one thing, but [instead] there are degrees to which the good and the bad define the person.

TVGuide.com: Just like Daniel Meade. Sometimes he's helping Betty or reconciling family relationships, then sometimes he's... a cad.
Mabius: Which is why I have such a good time playing him. He's doing his best but he's falling short in a lot of respects. And I feel like I have a dream job to that extent because I'm not going to be stuck playing a cop looking at gruesome murder scenes for X number of years. I get to do broad comedy, drama, romance and slapstick.... It's just amazing, it really is.

TVGuide.com: Lately it seems Daniel has turned over a new leaf of responsibility. Is that going to continue?
Mabius: What the writers always achieve is an unrealistic world to a great extent, but the interactions — the people — aren't. As in life, we take one step forward and 10 steps back. I mean, I think he's going to grow up a lot but he's not going to grow up too much.

TVGuide.com: I'm startled by the new Alexis. She's so blissful and innocent; her assertiveness is gone. Is that aggressive, competitive spirit between you two going to come back?
Mabius: I have no idea. We literally get [the scripts] the day before we start filming.

TVGuide.com: I hope you memorize quickly!
Mabius:
Oh, we have to! We're getting good at memorizing pages and pages on the same day now. I've never worked this way before, and I have to say I think it brings a spontaneity to the show. I mean, we always stick to the script, but it lends an immediacy to all the characters on the show. It's kind of like live theater.

TVGuide.com: Daniel has so many different relationships on the show, but my favorite is the one he has with Betty. They're so different, in background, personality, circumstances. I love to see them working together, helping each other out.
Mabius:
I think the writers understand that that's the backbone of the show — that their relationship is of paramount importance. They're careful not to rush how close they get too quickly, or to leave it by the side for too long.

TVGuide.com: That's great to hear, because right now Betty's dealing with her family, you're dealing with your family.... I miss seeing you guys together!
Mabius:
They'll have other conflagrations, but the writers and creators understand on a very deep level that that's at core what people want to see — and honestly what they enjoy writing as well. It's really a relationship that's deepening over a long period of time, which is so fun to play, and to watch the results.

TVGuide.com: And it's such a different relationship compared to what else is on TV.
Mabius: I agree. Although I don't really watch much other TV. I barely have enough time to watch our show!

TVGuide.com: Well then, I appreciate you taking the time. I guess you have lots of memorizing to do.
Mabius: [Laughs.] Yes, I do!

Check out Eric Mabius in his day job on Ugly Betty, with clips in our Online Video Guide.

Get an exclusive look at Alex's reborn romance with "Jane Doe" on Grey's Anatomy in the Oct. 22 issue of TV Guide. Try four risk-free issues now!

Send your comments on this Q&A to online_insider@tvguide.com.