TV series Mayfair Witches, interview with actor Billy Slaughter: 'The background is light and dark'
Tv / Interview - 13 January 2024
Mayfair Witches is the TV series on air
Mayfair Witches is the television series based on the novels by Anne Rice (read the interview). The series centers on Rowan Fielding (Alexandra Daddario), a neurosurgeon who discovers her true identity: the heir to a dynasty of powerful witches haunted by an evil spirit. The cast includes Tongayi Chirisa, Jack Huston, Harry Hamline and Billy Slaughter, who has worked on such films as The Magnificent 7 and Jack Reacher.
In the series Mayfair Witches you play Dr. Vernon Lamb. Can you tell us about your character?
Dr. Lamb is the very first character we meet in the show. He’s taking a house call for his new patient, Dierdre Mayfair, and is very surprised when what he was expecting to be a sickly old lady is actually a younger woman in a suspicious catatonic state. It’s always great to be part of an exciting new series starting up, but to be a New Orleans native and to be the one who introduces a brand new series by Anne Rice, who’s such a local legend, is certainly an honor I’ll always be grateful for.
The series is based on Lives of the Mayfair Witches. Have you read them? Do you like Anna Rice's stories?
More than just her stories, I love the worlds she creates. I was more familiar with other works of hers, specifically The Vampire Chronicles. Vampires were always my particular favorite supernatural being. But it was great to get to discover the Mayfair world. I had planned to read the series after I was cast, but then I was told the show was adapted from the books, and there were some major changes, so I wanted to take a fresh look at the material and not be completely bound or mislead by the original. My character, for example, is inspired by the main doctor character in the book, but is very different…different time, place, and person altogether.
It seems to me that Rice manages to create a historical period, and the lives of the various witches, with absolute realism. What do you think?
That’s my favorite aspect of Mayfair. It doesn’t just take one central character and explore their individual back-story, even though we have our main heroine in Rowan - it’s a family, a lineage, a culture. I love history, so like you said, taking the blood-line back to Medieval Scotland gives it such a rich and grounded origin. Then the setting of present day New Orleans is such a nice compliment with its many levels of history and cultural influence: European, Afro-Carribean, Acadian, Native American, etc. Anne and I were both born and raised in New Orleans, and for all the attention it’s given as a modern center of Hedonism, a lot of people don’t realize how steeped it is in traditional Catholicism. The backdrop in which many of us are raised and that formed Anne and her work is old-school Roman Catholicism: saints and sinners, angels and demons, heaven and hell, the light and the dark. Then sprinkle in the other influences I mentioned: voodoo, Santeria, all that gris-gris. Anne wrote against a world of these extremes, but what I like most is that she explores the grey area where they mix in the middle. Our central characters, the Mayfairs - we question if they’re the heroes or the villains; they question themselves; they switch between those roles. The demon Lasher, the source of power of their whole line - we question if he is the savior of the family or their own personal devil who has damned them all eternally. Throughout history and many of its constructs (social, political, religious, sexual, familial), Anne uses the Mayfair clan to explore power, which of course can be a blessing or a curse…it all depends on how it’s used.
You worked on The Burial, as Robert Sperry. What was it like working with Tommy Lee Jones?
I was thrilled to be part of The Burial - such a well-made film all around. My only regret was not getting to work any with Jamie. We didn’t have any scenes together, but everyone said he completely owned every day he was on set, on-screen and off. The performance speaks for itself - one of those dream roles he was born to play. I did have the honor of working with Tommy Lee, an icon to all character-actors like myself. He just has the ability to ground everything he says or does in simplicity and honesty and fosters, if not demands, that of all those around him. But although we were led by our two amazing stars, I would say the same about the fantastic ensemble our wonderful director, Maggie Betts, put together. It was truly a team effort. When you literally get to sit at a round-table with the likes of Tommy Lee Jones, Bill Camp, Alan Ruck, and Mamoudou Athie, everyone can really relax into the scene, knowing the material is in such great hands. All these guys keep you completely honest as an actor. You know whatever you put out there, they’re just going to sit, and listen, and take it in, and respectably pass the dish right back. It was a picture-perfect evening filming out on that yacht…I could’ve sat there all night trading off with those fellas.
You were an active participant in SAG-AFTRA. What do you think of the results?
Baptism by fire - I was honored to be elected Vice President of SAG-AFTRA in my hometown of New Orleans…right before going into our historic strike. So yes, I was very proud to be able to become an even more active participant in the strike! I spent a lot of time early in the strike trying to dispel the myth that this was just an actor or a Hollywood problem. I’m most proud that actors found themselves at a place in time when we got to lead the charge for labor, for the every working man and woman. This was so much bigger than us - this was about the 99% in society vs. the top 1%, the ones who want to keep the rest of us working and producing more and more, while they take more and give us less…of the fruits of our own toil. It was way too long overdue, but truly great to see the American workforce and Middle-class, something this country was founded on, finally standing up again for itself…and making progress! Is the new deal perfect? No. But that’s exactly what negotiation and compromise are - no side is going to get everything they want. I know many very loyal SAG members who didn’t love the new deal, but I would remind them you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The bottom line is we made historic gains in almost every point of the negotiations. You’re not going to fix every problem in one stroke of a pen; there has to be some natural degree of trial and error. From here on out, technology (like A-I) will move at a faster pace than our institutions and bureaucracies. So we’ll definitely have to do a better job at playing catch up, but we have to also accept there will be some bridges we’ll just have to cross when we get to them. And this is only a 3 year contract. If something really isn’t working for our industry, we’ll have another chance to tweak things in 3 years.
Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects?
Some of my upcoming projects that I’m really excited about are D.O.E, Raymar, Nickel Boys, and Half Baked 2. D.O.E. is an action film created by and starring my old friends Sam Medina and Carla Seneca. It has the feel of the Bourne films or Taken, but is female-led, more like Atomic Blonde or Colombiana. I play one of the leads in that, in an awesome role Sam wrote for me. Raymar is a fantasy drama in the vein of Game of Thrones. As a student of history, like I mentioned, working in that genre was definitely a check on the bucket list. Really hoping two those resonate with audiences - would love to develop both of those more. Nickel Boys is from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. I have a small role in that one, but if the film comes out as uniquely as it was written, I think it’ll be a really powerful piece. Then right after working on Pulitzer-winning material, my next project was Half Baked 2, sequel to the stoner-comedy classic. Love that my job keeps things interesting! We all have the times in life when we know we’re getting older. Seems not that long ago I was playing the lovable bright-eyed whippersnapper…now I’m his square boss. I’ve spent most of my life and the past year on strike fighting against The Man. And just like that…I am The Man. Cruel.
© All right Reserved