Actor/director James Roday has directed a new project as perverse as it is brilliant.
Syfy's new series Blood Drive takes viewers on a provocative, gruesome journey in a fictional, futuristic world where cars are powered by human blood.
Roday, a self-proclaimed horror aficionado, will direct the next two episodes of the series, and says he was sought to be involved in the x-rated project — one of the first of its kind to appear on a cable network.
"If memory serves, showrunner John Hlavin reached out first. He's an old pal. He just turned 130," Roday said jokingly Wednesday, "and then I met with producing director Dave Straiton and creator James Roland, the bearded brain from which all this bedlam and debauchery was sprouted. I was also endorsed by Todd Harthan, my partner in cannibalism."
Roday added, "The truth is, the whole thing was presented to me as the craziest endeavor I would ever sign up to be a part of. It was incredibly ambitious, with no time or money, and oh, by the way, it's being filmed in Africa, and we don't know how SyFy is going to be able air half of what's on the page, but we're shooting it anyway. Obviously, I was in."
Much like Blood Drive, Roday and Harthan's film, Gravy, was a delicate blend of comedy and horror…and a cannibalistic blood bath ensued. Roday said he had creative freedom in directing episodes three and four of Blood Drive, titled "Steel City Nightfall" and "In the Crimson Halls of Kane Hill," respectively.
"I was in a great spot. Straiton was directing the first two episodes and had to set the tone for the series. He had been there hiring the crew and trying to get this thing off the ground and, naturally, had his hands full. Roland was busy building little garden gnomes out of stolen dreams and death smells," Roday said. "I was sort of given the keys to episodes three and four with hopes that I could deliver something that didn't suck. I'm not so sure it was freedom by design as much as freedom by necessity, but it worked out great for me because I was able to blow my schnauz all over the material, which was already super juicy and covered in viscus."
"By happenstance I was also around when they cast Alan Ritchson (Arthur) and Christina Ochoa (Grace), so I had the advantage of already being familiar with both of them. By familiar, I mean we all cut each other and made blood war paint. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that I had an absolutely balls on fire production designer who I called Next Level and an All Pro costume designer who both stepped up and fulfilled several of the items on my x-rated wish list," Roday said. "The stuff we did with Christopher (Thomas Dominique) and Aki (Marama Corlett) was a real collaboration that I was honored to be a part of. Those two were absolutely fearless and put a lot of trust in me. The result, as you'll see, only works because of that fearlessness. And for those paying attention, there's a Some Kind of Wonderful tribute in episode three. Because, well, I just can't help myself sometimes."
Aside from vulgarity and gore, there's a deeper message in Blood Drive.
"I think it's easy to dismiss Blood Drive as a celebration of exploitation cinema, not that there's anything wrong with that. But I know for a fact that there was more than just that knifing its way through Jimmy Roland's frontal lobe when he created this dystopian wasteland future-past," he said. "He's exploring gender politics, socioeconomic pitfalls, and the deregulation of just about everything else. It's about as timely as it gets. It just so happens that he's using a very specific set of water (blood) colors to paint with. It's fun, it's yucky, it's subversive, and anvil-y. It's all of that, plus full frontal male nudity. I mean, c'mon."
Once Roday was finished filming in September of last year, he had the opportunity to make a special visit in South Africa.
"I went to Port Elizabeth on the outskirts of Kruger National Park and spent three days with three rescued male elephants who remain my heroes," he said. "I watched them swim and horse around in a pond. We walked together, ate together, and I read them bedtime stories. Such fascinating, glorious creatures … with whom I share a spirit."
One of Roday's passions is advocating to end the ivory trade, which results in the death of thousands of elephants each year. He asks that everyone visit www.lastdaysofivory.com for more information on supporting the mission to end the deadly practice.
Roday has most recently been filming Psych: The Movie in Vancouver, Canada.
"It's a love letter to our wonderful fans, and hopefully they enjoy it half as much as we did making it. I've also got what I think will be the next film I direct starting to come together, and it's a nasty little rattlesnake with pretty eyes," he said.
Psych: The Movie will air in December, starring a number of Psych alums. The movie is said to pick up three years after Shawn's engagement to Juliet (Maggie Lawson), and Shawn and Gus (Dulé Hill) will find themselves tracking a villain (played by Zachary Levi), who is targeting one of their own. Psych cast members Timothy Omundson, Kirsten Nelson, Corbin Bernsen and Kurt Fuller will also star. Roday and Psych creator Steve Franks wrote the movie script.
Roday said he would describe the film in two words: SUCK IT.
Blood Drive airs tonight on Syfy at 10/9c, featuring Roday's first episode to direct for the series. His second episode will air next Wednesday. He can be found on Twitter, @JamesRoday.
Photo credits: James Roday, Syfy, and Christina Ochoa.
Christina Ochoa (Grace) from Syfy's "Blood Drive."
James Roday with the cast of "Blood Drive."
Roday with the "Blood Drive" family.
Roday at Kruger National Park in South Africa.
"Psych: The Movie" will air this December on USA Network.