One of the great things about “Blood Drive” is that it is a visual feast for the eyes. From the blood-chugging cars to the incredible set designs and the beautiful cinematography that seems to change seamlessly from episode to episode, the series paints the picture of a world like no other. One of the big parts of that equation is the characters that inhabit the world. A potpourri of post-apocalyptic personalities, the fictional call sheet reads like an old Loony Tunes cartoon where Bugs Bunny takes a wrong turn at Albuquerque and winds up in a weird saloon.
We recently sat down with one of the more visually memorable “Blood Drive” cast members, Carel Nel, to discuss his heavily-tattooed character Rasher, performing opposite Colin Cunningham, and why his involvement in the series was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
TrunkSpace: We have been asking this of every “Blood Drive” cast member we speak with because, well, it just seems like an obvious first question. (Laughter) Did you ever wonder if the material you were working on in “Blood Drive” would ever make it to air?
Nel: I remember reading the pilot episode, which is called, “That Fucking Cop,” and thinking, “Who is going to air this?” After getting the part and reading the rest of the show I thought, “This is genius!” It was so tongue-in-cheek and funny. If we get 70 percent of what was on the page, it would be a monumental effort. Credit to James Roland whose crazy vision has given us such a unique and entertaining television show.
TrunkSpace: Just to be clear, you’re not all-over tattooed in real life, correct? That many additions to your skin before each day of shooting must complicate things from a continuity standpoint, no?
Nel: I have zero tattoos. They are all fake. It didn’t really complicate things as Kerry Skelton and her team of makeup artists did a phenomenal job. They had about 300 different photos of my face, so there was never a problem. The only complication was that I had three hours of makeup to do every day, but it was worth every minute.
TrunkSpace: And you did some shooting of the series out in the hot sun of South Africa. We’d assume that body sweat and temporary tattoos are probably not the best onscreen partners? Did it take a lot of touching up to maintain the look?
Nel: Not really. I’m South African so I’m very used to the weather, and fortunately, we shot most of my scenes at night or indoors.
TrunkSpace: How did you become involved in the series and was Rasher always meant to reoccur?
Nel: I was actually having dinner with friends at our local hang out and bumped into Luke Mason who I’d worked with on a different project. He told me he was working on “Blood Drive” and asked why I haven’t auditioned. That Monday he mailed me sides and the rest is, as they say, history. So, thanks Luke… I appreciate it.
As far as I know they were struggling to cast Rasher and they almost cut the character from the show. Initially they said I would do two episodes, but I ended up doing five.
TrunkSpace: You shared an… interesting scene with Colin Cunningham’s Slink in a dentist’s chair. Were we accurate in the assumption that you were administering an enema to your scene partner, and if so, how do you explain that gig to your family and friends? (Laughter)
Nel: (Laughter) I think you’re referring to episode 4. I don’t remember the enema, but I do remember the dental work on Slink. Rasher is truly a jack of all trades.
Well, I told my mom it’s a show about cars that run on human blood and she couldn’t get past that part, so I kind of gave up. My friends on the other hand were easy. I just said “grindhouse” and “the cars run on blood” and they were all like, “That sounds crazy, when can we see it?!” It hasn’t aired in South Africa yet so we are all waiting in anticipation.
TrunkSpace: How do you view Rasher’s role in not only the race itself, but in the world that “Blood Drive” takes place in?
Nel: I think it all boils down to Rasher’s relationship with Slink. When I met Colin the first day on set we immediately hit it off and started figuring out Rasher and Slink’s relationship, which I think, really helped in creating a world for us to exist in. Rasher isn’t Slink’s underling or minion; there is a true friendship and mutual respect there. They are in this world together. I would view Slink as a mentor and a father figure to Rasher. Then everything else makes sense. Rasher is with Slink for better or worse. He is in on the plan and wants the race to succeed.
I would sometimes joke with Colin that Slink had saved Rasher from a torturous childhood and adopted him as his son. You always need a bit of a backstory.
TrunkSpace: Visually the character fits in perfectly with the chaotic craziness of the “Blood Drive” world. How much of who Rasher became existed in the original script and how much of him was about discovery in wardrobe and makeup?
Nel: There wasn’t much reference in the script except that he had tattoos over his face. I had a makeup test the day before I had to start filming and we weren’t sure exactly what to do with Rasher, so Kerry and I just started putting tattoos on my face. We had this idea that he did the tattoos himself, so we went for a prison tattoo look. There are gangs in South Africa with a similar look, so that was what we were going for.
As for wardrobe, the incredible Danielle Knox had the costume all figured out. She had me in a kinky BDSM bodystocking and a corset, which was extremely uncomfortable but looked amazing. A lot of credit must go to Danielle and Kerry for creating an incredible look for Rasher.
TrunkSpace: The sets in “Blood Drive” are just as unique and off the wall as the characters appear. Did the environments play a role in your character development?
Nel: Yes! Andrew Orlando outdid himself. It was an actor’s dream to walk onto set. I would just look around and there would be hundreds of cool things lying around. I would just say, “Hey guys, do you mind if I use this in the scene?” and they would be like, “Yeah man, go for it… please just don’t break it.” So yes, it helped me to be much more creative.
The Mayhem parties were insane! It made it so easy to be in the world of “Blood Drive.” There would be fire coming out of the stage and hundreds of extras just going crazy. The extras were amazing. They bought into “Blood Drive” just as much as the actors.
TrunkSpace: We previously mentioned Colin Cunningham. He seems like an incredibly talented actor, not only in performance but in character discovery. What was it like working with Colin, who you spent most of your scenes with?
Nel: Colin is amazing. We had a blast. I learned a lot about acting from Colin. I think he created something like 20 different Slinks and each of those 20 Slinks would interact differently with the other characters. It was great to watch. He was so easy to work with and always keen to discover something new. He would say, “We’re missing something in the scene…” and we would work out something new. Everything he did was to try and make every scene better. His performance is at the same time frightening, weird, funny, crazy, and extremely truthful. What an actor!
TrunkSpace: Beyond the performance and the work itself, what was the highlight for you personally in working on the series?
Nel: Being South African and working on local stuff, we don’t nearly have the budgets you guys have. So to be able to work at this pace and on this scale was a highlight.
TrunkSpace: “Blood Drive” is so very unlike anything else on television. That statement is said a lot about a great number of shows, but usually it’s just said for the sake of saying it. It truly is the case with your show. Does that make being involved with it feel all the more special?
Nel: This was a once in a lifetime experience. The amount of creative freedom we were given, the incredible cast, the insane scripts, and the amazing vision that each of the directors had just came together beautifully to create this crazy show.
TrunkSpace: Do you anticipate that working on the series will open up more doors for you as an actor, and if so, does it concern you that visually Rasher looks so different than what casting directors will discover in Carel Nel?
Nel: I hope it does and I think Rasher’s look will be a great addition to my show reel. Just imagine… you see a normal character and then BAM, Rasher pops up on your screen. I think it might even help.
TrunkSpace: When you look at your career moving forward, what would you like to accomplish? Do you have bucket list items that you want to check off in your career?
Nel: I just want to work and do work that I’m proud of. And maybe play Hamlet on Broadway.