If Drake set the tone for post-Degrassi success, then Landon Liboiron is next in line. The 22-year-old actor is part of a young ensemble cast in Netflix’s newest original series, Hemlock Grove, out tomorrow. The elegant horror, based on Brian McGreevy’s bestselling book of the same name, is brought to us by Eli Roth, who directed the pilot and exectutive produces the show. Roth famously promised a werewolf transformation that “would really fuck up an entire generation.” Liboiron plays said werewolf—human name, Peter Rumancek—a Gypsy trailer trash kid embroiled in a deliciously gory murder mystery. We caught up with the young Canadian recently to talk Hemlock Grove, picking Eli Roth’s brain, and achieving Drake-status.
So, did you read the book?
The day after I booked it, I started reading the book. I finished it in a couple days. It’s about as complicated as the show is. It’s got a lot of thing going on underneath it. There were times I had to stop and read back and make sure I was following everything. Brian [McGreevy] is such a crazy writer, and he has a very, very interesting view on the world. It shines through in his novel.
What was the audition process like?
I live in Canada, so I put myself on tape and they called me down to LA for a test screen with Bill Skarsgård. And then after that I found out I booked it.
Describe in one word the feeling of getting a lead in a TV show—and please don’t use the words awesome and amazing.
One word, huh? Exhuberating? [Laughs]
We’ll take it. Tell me about working with Eli Roth. He has a pretty special brain for horror.
He has a pretty special brain, indeed. He has an incredible wealth of knowledge about film, and he’s particularly well read in this genre. He was just a very enthusiastic guy on set. He was very polite to all of us, and asked all of us for any input that we wanted to bring to the characters and to the scenes. He was willing to just bounce things around while we were working on a scene. That to me is the most important thing for an actor looking for a director, in that he just kind of let us play and backed us up with his knowledge of film.
What direction did he give you in terms of the character?
[My character] Peter is a free spirit, and so [Eli] literally just let me be free. Every once in a while he’d be like, why don’t you tone it down here, or why don’t you do a little more here? He really didn’t try to put any of the actors into any corners.
How does one get into gypsy werewolf character?
With Peter, the whole werewolf part of life is simply a part of life. It’s just who he is. It’s not a curse or anything to him. In fact, in the book, there’s some really funny ways that Brian uses the werewolf for Peter as kind of an escape. Actually, there’s a great line, “I’m done solving human problems with people skin.” He sometimes wishes he could drop the face of the human more often to be the wolf. And I think this is why Brian was so smart in using the gypsy culture as the werewolf character. Learning about the gypsy culture, it’s such a romantic kind of poetic way of life, and Peter’s such an outsider outside of all worlds. It’s the same thing as being a werewolf. It’s almost a beautiful way of life to be a werewolf. It’s a good thing.
What was the process like becoming Peter?
Brian recommended a lot of books on the gypsy culture, and I just read as much as I could. I even had the opportunity to drive down to Eerie, Pennsylvania, where I got to meet real gypsies. They weren’t your full-on fortune telling gypsies. They were integrated into society, but they knew the language of the gypsies, and their grandmother didn’t speak anything but Romanian and Gypsy. She was this beautiful, sweet old gypsy. Me and Tiio Horn, she plays my gypsy cousin in the show, we both drove down there together. We sat with them, ate Romanian food, and drank moonshine. We learned about the culture and asked as many questions as we could. Gypsies have a lot of habits in their day-to-day life, and they have a lot of rituals that they find very important like having clean hands before eating.
What was your first ever role?
The first role I booked on a show, I didn’t get paid for it, but it was this really cool independent film called Broken House. This director in Vancouver was working with kids in a juvey, detentional center, and in order to get these kids, who were in there for some serious shit, to get active and doing something creative, he wrote an outline for a script with them, and then he brought in actors and we improvised the whole thing according to the story.
Was that intimidating?
It was, and it was terrifying too. My mom was around, because I think I was maybe 13 or 14 when I did it. Some of the kids in there were just bratty fucking kids, but then there was this one kid who was extremely polite and put together. He would hold doors open for my mom. So she talked to one of the security guards and she was like, that one boy is so nice. I can’t believe he’s in here. What did he do? And the security guard just kind of went, oh, you don’t want to know. In fact, he’s the one that’s in here for the worst crime. Once he turns 18, he’s going straight to jail. It was just creepy, and there were moments when you were in a room with kids that weren’t a part of the project, and they would walk in and the energy of the room would change.
On the topic of Degrassi, are your ultimate career hopes and dreams Drake-level?
Well, I haven’t dabbled in any rap like that. [Laughs] I think for Drake, or Wheelchair Jimmy, I think he’s been extremely humble with his success. The things that he sings about and the things that he raps about, I think it’s really just about the art to him. I think that’s why he was such a fresh face, because he was really bringing back such an old school vibe to it, and I guess that’s how I want to approach my career in acting. It’s not so much about the success, but my own fulfillment of my craft.
Photo by Adam Fedderly.
Season 1 of Hemlock Grove premieres on Netflix April 19.