Beauty and the Beast might be a "tale as old as time," but the stars of The CW's reboot promise their version is modern, dark and grounded in reality.
The new series, which is a revamp of the 1980s-era CBS incarnation of the classic fairy tale with a procedural twist, stars Smallville's Kristin Kreuk as New York City homicide detective Catherine Chandler. Tough on the outside, Cat buries a world of hurt stemming from witnessing her mother's death at the hands of two gunmen when she was just a teen. Australian actor Jay Ryan plays Vincent Keller, an ex-military man who was turned into a beast during a government experiment gone wrong and is the unknown person who saved Cat that fateful night years ago. And just like the original story, there's an inexplicable force pulling both the beauty, Cat, and Vincent, the beast, towards each other.
"They have a connection, a chemistry in the air [between them]," Ryan tells TVGuide.com. "It's one of those relationships where when everything is great you're on cloud nine, but when it's bad it's really bad and you try to kill each other." Kreuk adds, "Catherine [doesn't like] to feel a connection on a human level to anybody. She has certain people she trusts to a certain degree, but her relationships with those people aren't very deep. So with her and Vincent it's a lot deeper, which is a lot scarier."
Keep reading for more about how the show compares to previous versions of the tale, whether Kreuk and Ryan worried about the campiness factor, and how Cat and Vincent's relationship compares to Clark and Lana's on Smallville.
How does this remake compare to the '80s show?
Kristin Kreuk: This one is very much modern to post 9/11. The '80s version was a little more romantic, and ours can get a little dark. Apart from thematic elements that go through every Beauty and the Beast, ours is different in content.
Tell us about this version's Catherine and Vincent.
Kreuk: Catherine is a really strong character. Her mom is shot in front of her and then what she chooses to do with her life after that is help people. It's a controlled profession where you feel powerful, which is important for her because she feels so vulnerable internally. I loved that she chose to go in that direction as opposed to getting really tortured — not that she doesn't have that beastliness inside of her, but she's so strong.
Jay Ryan: In our version I'm playing the beast from an internal perspective rather than a very preconceived idea that most people have of what a beast looks like. And I'm playing it with a more demonic thing within him that I'm trying to suppress. Also, in ours these characters need each other to progress forward as people. They're very similar in temperaments, they're both alpha personalities, they both want the same thing, which is justice, but they go about it in very different ways and have very different ideals. Vincent almost finds Catherine naïve at times because his world is so complex where hers is very black and white.
How will his inner beast come out?
Ryan: Vincent is almost two people, the guy trying to regain his humanity and the beast within him who's very dangerous and at any point could overtake him. There will be moments when he completely blacks out and the beast takes over his body and his super powers (like sight and strength) will get stronger, which is intriguing for Catherine.
What is the dynamic between Catherine and Vincent?
Ryan: They have a connection between each other, a chemistry in the air from when Catherine's mother was assassinated. It's one of those relationships where when everything is great you're on cloud nine but when it's bad it's really bad and you try to kill each other. So it's quite sexy because it's love/hate, but for them it's about weaving into the middle of that to find the true love between each other. I think there's a long way we can play it out on TV without it becoming boring.
There's also a government element to the show.
Kreuk: We've got Muirfield, the government organizations that created the beasts, but they're not going to be involved in every episode. The DNA is going to mutate more so that'll create volatility with Vincent he hadn't experienced previously. So there are things that we start to discover that will amp the stakes even higher.
Ryan: Muirfield are hunting Vincent down and eventually he'll be on the run from them. The more people he brings into his life, the more baggage there is for Muirfield, so those people become targets of an assassination as well.
Does the show ever feel too cheesy?
Kreuk: I think worrying about the campy will come along a little later. Right now everything feels pretty grounded in something that could be realistic.
Jay, do you feel pressure in taking on this iconic role?
Ryan: I don't feel any. Maybe it's my naïveté, but I feel like I've been cast in a great show, but it's not Superman. I'm pretty lax and if I'm unemployed next week I'll go to the beach.
Kristin, did you purposely look for a role unlike Lana on Smallville?
Kreuk: As we were going through the process I was aware I didn't want to play the same role again. I had done a bunch of stuff since Smallville (like Chuck), but I didn't want to be rescued each week. There's a weird thing that happens when you play a damsel in distress in your interactions that I don't like. People who become fans want to save you and I don't like that.
Can you compare Cat and Vincent's relationship at all to Clark and Lana's?
Kreuk: The Clark-Lana story was different because they were young, naive and it was a blind love that was doomed so it was a tragic romance. This I think will be much more earned. There's a mutual connection from the start and it's still a soul mate thing, but love is going to deepen as they go through difficulty together.
Finally, Kristen, who's the better kisser, Tom Welling or Jay?
Kreuk: I've not had to kiss Jay [yet]!
Beauty and the Beast premieres on Thursday at 9/8c on The CW.
Additional reporting by Natalie Abrams.