Jay O’Connell talks ‘Werewolf Castle’

After chatting with actor Reece Connolly, we caught up with another member of the cast of upcoming medieval werewolf gorefest Werewolf Castle, here’s what Jay O’Connell had to say about the latest feature from Dark Temple Motion Pictures.

This is your second feature with the Dark Temple crew, it looks like a big departure from Vampire Virus, would that be correct?

I’d say it is, yes! On Vampire Virus I only shot a few days, so I was in and out pretty quickly – with Werewolf Castle, I was able to join as a much bigger component of the production. It was amazing to see how a shooting block runs in full with Dark Temple.

What was the reaction to Vampire Virus like for you personally?

Vampire Virus was my first feature, and my first film job out of drama school – so when I first saw it, I was gassed! Though it was my first time working with Charlie, I already knew his capabilities as a filmmaker, and seeing it just instilled it for me further. I loved my brief moment working on that film.

What can you tell us about Hal Skullsplitter?

Hal “the Skullsplitter” Balfalger is the stoic, brooding and tough-as-nails anti-hero that we’re never quite sure we can trust. He has a dark past behind him that he can’t shake, and when he fights, he’s fighting his demons at the same time. Though his methods and decisions are unorthodox, he fights for the right reasons. His heart is in the right place. He’s fundamentally moral, and does what is right for the sake of humanity, something he refuses to ever let go of – as we’ll find out!

Was there any research you did that helped mold the character?

Researching warriors of different time periods was the most useful. Vikings, knights, and of course, watching a few different medieval fantasy films. I think one of the most important things for an actor to assess when approaching a character is their perspective; seeing the world through their eyes. Medieval warriors don’t behave the same way people do now. I tried to see Hal’s day to day, what growing up for him might have been like, and improvised a few different scenarios that would have taken significant place in his life – you have to honour what these characters have gone through.

How was filming out in Wales?

Incredible. It’s such a beautiful country. I live in London – which is 100% where I now call home – but it was so nice to get away, it was like a holiday! Charlie knows how to pick good locations.

What was it like filming during the pandemic?

It felt a little weird, at first. It felt like we shouldn’t be allowed to do it, if you know what I mean? We took all the precautions required, bubbling, daily symptom checks, and everyone for sure felt safe during filming, but it was almost too good to be true. It made me so happy to be filming again. The pandemic is a bit of an inhospitable environment for making art. Many people are just trying to get through each and every day right now. Getting to do my actual job, after so long not being able to, felt like a dream.

It looks like you’ve covered vampires and werewolves, what monster would you like to tackle next in a feature?

Ooh, very good question! Wendigos have always fascinated me. Big monsters on a large scale have always been a favourite. Lovecraftian horror as well. I think, since I’m still so early on in my career, there’s nothing specific that I want to tackle next – I just want to do it all!

Are you a fan of the Universal or Hammer Horror monster movies?

I love the classic gothic horrors, like Dracula, Frankenstein, I watched them all as a kid but only really returned to them in the last 5 years or so. They shaped how I view horror.

Tell us about a day on-set?

The great thing about working on a Dark Temple production is that Charlie knows what he wants. We’ll turn up to location, get set up, go over what scenes we’re doing that day, do a rehearsal, and then go. I’ve worked on some sets that are very go-go-go, and I think when you’re in that environment you don’t always have the time to take as much care over your work – Charlie works smart, and goes for quality above speed. I really appreciate that as an actor, and his films benefit from it.

Who did you have most interactions with on-set?

For this film it was a smaller group, only 8 or so of us at any one time. We all got quite close. I had a lot of scenes with Peter, who plays the protagonist Thorfinn, who’s great to work with, as well as all the other knights in the group. We all bounce off each other quite well, each performance is different – everyone brings something unique to the table.

Was the atmosphere quite relaxed, who is the prankster in the Dark Temple crew?

Absolutely. Both. One moment it’s fun and laughs, and then it snaps back to let’s get the job done. I think the best film sets are like that, where everyone’s there to do a job that they love. I think you bond well over jokes and pranks on each other, too. Even when it’s cold, you’re 14 hours in and you’d love to just get back and have a shower, you wouldn’t trade it for anything, and you’re happy to be there with that team.

What can you tell us about the Haunting of the Bloody Tower?

Bloody Tower is a chilling psychological ghost story, set medieval in the creepy Tower of London – some amazing castles and sets are in this one, really giving it that haunted atmosphere! I play Perkin, one of the guards. I feature less, but since I was there for most of the filming block, I got to see a lot of scenes get done. There are some amazing performances in this film, it exists both in this world and a ghostly netherworld, which one character has the supernatural ability to travel to. The story arc is really well developed, and I’ll admit that whilst reading for the first time, I got goosebumps. I’m very excited to see how it turns out, and how it differs to Werewolf Castle.

Werewolf Castle is directed by Charlie Steeds, and is set for release in 2022.

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