Resident Evil has infected Netflix with a brand new series set in the game's world, premiering this Thursday. Written and produced by Supernatural alum Andrew Dabb, the series is described as, "Fourteen years after a deadly virus caused a global apocalypse, Jade Wesker fights for survival in a world overrun by infected creatures while being haunted by her past, her father, and what happened to her sister, Billie."
To celebrate the release of the blood-splattered series, FANGORIA spoke with cast members Lance Reddick (John Wick), Ella Balinska (Run Sweetheart Run), Tamara Smart (A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting), Siena Agudong (F9: The Fast Saga), Connor Gosatti (3rd Night), Adeline Rudolph (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Paola Núñez (Bad Boys for Life), and showrunner Andrew Dabb (Supernatural).
Netflix's Resident Evil incorporates elements from the game's entire universe, with characters like Albert Wesker (Reddick) coming straight from the original series. Much like the signature games, Resident Evil intertwines action, horror, and science fiction elements.
"Resident Evil kind of blew my mind twice as a kid, first was playing the games. I played the games before I watched a lot of horror movies, so Resident Evil kind of defined horror in my mind in a way." says producer Andrew Dabb. "From the first [movie], they blended sci-fi, action, and horror in a way that now is very common. You just saw it in the most recent Doctor Strange. At that time, it was very different… There's 30 years of lore to draw on, some of that lore is conventional zombies, but some of that lore is insane. There's a huge well of a broad canvas to paint on, let's go have some fun. It felt like this was a chance to tell stories that could be human but could go to some pretty crazy, fun places. We wanted to do a show that kind of encompassed all of the games. The reason Resident Evil has been so long-lasting is because it has adapted."
The new series features two running narratives set in different periods. Half of the story follows the events leading up to a terrifying infectious outbreak, while the other storyline focuses on the apocalyptic aftermath.
"Going into it, we wanted to show these characters before all the craziness went down and then show these characters as they were 10-15 years later," Dabb explained. "If you look at the characters, they are quite different. The Jade of the present is very different from the Jade of the future, same with Billie. In the future, you pose questions that are then answered by the past. It's an interesting game of call and response that will take place across the first season and hopefully takes place across the life of the show."
With two different narrative periods, characters are played by two different actors to reflect different ages. Adeline Rudolph is tasked with playing the apocalypse-bound version of Billie Wesker.
"I got really lucky, I got [the scripts for] all eight episodes, so there's a lot of independent research that I got to do about Young Billie. When I got onto set, Siena [Agudong] had already shot a couple of episodes for Young Billie, and I was fortunate enough to get a hold of those and watch her do her thing," says Rudolph. "There was a mix of imagining for yourself how this character now evolves as an adult but also kind of finding the little elements that tie young Billie and adult Billie together. I felt like watching Siena, that we had a couple of characteristics that were similar, and hopefully that showed through. We also discussed the underlying love that we have for our sister Jade."
Lance Reddick takes on the role of Albert Wesker, a very well-known character to fans of the video game series. While his character had deep roots in the already established lore, Reddick mainly focused on what was conveyed through the script pages.
"When I first became aware of the project, my only orientation to Resident Evil was the movies. I wasn't even aware of the game. Which is ironic given that [the games] are ground zero for the entire mythology," says Reddick. "I had the good fortune of the eight episodes that we shot, and I was able to read the first seven before we even met on the project. Once I got the role, my first focus was to just try and bring the character that was on the page to life because he was so well written both in terms of nuance and in terms of how dynamic he is."
Many of the actors and creatives involved with the series have heavy roots in the genre. Adeline Rudolph is most well known for her role on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, making Resident Evil yet another horror television series under her belt.
"Specifically for this series, I get to play more of an antagonistic character as I have in the past. I think what really draws me to them is their complexity," says Rudolph. "The question is, 'how did they become who they are?' Especially with me being able to play adult Billie, and young Billie being so different from adult Billie. I think that's what really draws me in. To create or have a backstory to your character, to understand exactly the nuances of what made them who they are now."
In her role as Jade Wesker, Ella Balinska gets her fair share of blood-splattered fun on set. Because of her role in the series' apocalyptic future narrative, Balinska's character often finds herself on the brink of being devoured by flesh-eating zombies.
"Props to all of the supporting artists who did such an amazing job. At any moment where energy sort of dipped on set, immediately the director would call 'action!' [and] they're full send immediately [and then] you're full send," says Balinska. "It's this huge atmosphere of complete immersion, which if you've ever dreamed of being in a zombie apocalypse, that is where you do it."
Balinska is a fan of the games and made sure to inject what she'd like to see from a Resident Evil episodic series into her performance as Jade Wesker.
"I did play the video games, yes indeed. Number two was my favorite. I also knew the films. It was very fun going back into the franchise and rediscovering everything that makes Resident Evil what Resident Evil is. When we were on set, as a fan, I was able to really bring all the things you would want to see from a Resident Evil protagonist and throw it into the mix of this awesome family drama situation that unfolds in all the chaos.
While her character is often in the midst of high-stakes horror survival moments, Balinska made sure always to emphasize the humanity of her character's journey.
"It is so easy to slip into this habit of a protagonist making all of these excellent choices, perfectly trained. They know exactly what they want to do. You don't really as an audience member feel scared because you know how stuff is gonna play out," says Balinska. "What we really wanted to do was keep the audience on the edge of their seat. We wanted all of the sequences to feel dangerous, to feel real. For Jade Wesker to actually be making some pretty poor choices at times. She's a human being, so she's doing the best she can at any given time. And a lot of the time, those decisions come back to bite her. So those things were really what grounded it. She has a family that she is trying to get home to. The decisions she's making really do inform her daughter and husband's future. So all of that put into the mix was anchoring, to say the least."
The younger cast members Tamara Smart and Siena Agudong play the younger versions of Billie and Jade Wesker. These characters are original to the Netflix series but deeply connected to Reddick's Wesker character.
"I was definitely coming into it fresh, so I didn't really know much about the games or Albert Wesker," says Agudong. "But after looking him up, I also followed through with Billie Wesker and Jade Wesker and found out that they were completely new characters. I looked up a bunch of things about how corrupt he is, so it was really interesting to approach the series as a daughter of this crazy guy."
"We started on the same level, which I think was really beneficial for the both of us because they are two new characters, and I kind of love Jade and Billie because I think some of their characteristics come from their father, which is kind of funny" Smart replied. "We kind of were on the same wavelength for that."
With episodic horror finding great success on Netflix through shows like Stranger Things and Midnight Mass, it's important for new narratives to execute their take on the genre with care and effectiveness.
"I think the secret sauce to a good horror story is that you are not rooting for the bad guy," says showrunner Dabb. "There are some things like slasher movies where you do root for the bad guy, but I think in something like this if you do not care in some way, shape, or form about the people who are dying…your main characters, you are not going to care what happens. If you can make the audience care about those people, then you can put them through hell, and the audience will be right there with you. They'll be going on a journey with the character rather than watching the character go on a journey, which is a fine distinction. The best horror movies are the ones where it feels like there's something in the room behind you, not just what you're watching on screen."
Resident Evil hits Netflix this Thursday, July 14th!