Dru Viergever was at work very, very early this morning, and by looking at him it is easy to tell why. It takes quite a bit of behind-the-scenes magic to transform him into Ber-Lak, the gruesome-looking yet good-natured goblin in the latest Sci Fi Channel movie event Knights of Bloodsteel.
"I go into make-up around 5 or 5:30 in the morning and sit through a two-and-a-half hour procedure," says the actor. "There are a lot of chemicals involved and that I'm not aware of, but I trust the team. They're amazing. Using plenty of glue they apply a couple of layers of prosthetics and paint, and then finish the process with the intricate elements, such as veins as well as the eyes and ears. Again, the [make-up] artists, who are from the award-winning MastersFX company, are top-notch, incredibly creative and make a fantastic team. Every morning I look in the mirror when they're done with me and I still scare myself," jokes Viergever.
"Initially, it was difficult enunciating through the teeth and utilizing the eyebrows, but the prosthetics are actually quite liberating because there's so much room for facial intricacies. As I mentioned, there was a bit of a learning curve and it took me a while to grow into it, but now, six weeks into filming, it's pretty much become second nature, not to mention great fun."
Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and raised in Burlington, Viergever became enamored of acting as well as music at an early age. During his high school years, the actor performed in such theatrical productions as Oklahoma and My Fair Lady at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts. While earning his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto in Cinema Studios and Music, he appeared in several national TV adverts, and later spent three seasons playing Stew Kubiak in the NBC series Strange Days at Blake Holsey High. An accomplished musician as well, Viergever was on the road with his band when he received a callback after his first audition for Knights of Bloodsteel.
"Unfortunately, I couldn't make the callback, so I just assumed I was out of the running," recalls the actor. "However, two weeks later I got another call telling me the job was mine and I was off and running. Talk about a thrilling moment.
"Before I knew it, I was on the set with Natassia Malthe, David James Elliott and Christopher Lloyd [who plays the sorcerer Tesselink]. I'm a fan of movies and TV in general, so it was very cool to be whisked onto this amazingly expensive set. It's just a mind-blowing project for me. I was immediately impressed by the scope and scale of it, and there was also the sheer excitement of realizing what an awesome role this is."
In Knights of Bloodsteel, Ber-Lak becomes part of a magical quest to help two humans, John Serragoth (Elliott) and Adric Thane (Christopher Jacot), along with a warrior elf, Perfidia (Malthe), save the island of Mirabilis from becoming the playing of the evil Dragon Eye (Mark Gibbon). According to Viergever, his character has more layers to it than is first apparent, but assures viewers that there is nothing sinister behind the goblin's motives.
"Ber-Lak is an enigmatic figure and the journey's guardian, if you will," he explains. "There are some very somber undertones to the character, but overall he's pretty hopeful. We initially play Ber-Lak as being a little bit naive, but there's some wisdom behind his eyes. He's not too sure what to think about these elves and humans. Goblins are a funny bunch and rather antisocial when it comes to the rest of the inhabitants of this fantasy world. They're watchful and very knowing, but hesitant to become involved in other peoples' business. In this case, though, we're all in this together. That's what it's all about, and interrelationship-wise, we learn a great deal about one another and what it takes to coexist. So while Ber-Lak starts out keeping his new-found friends at arm's length, he eventually comes to care about them."
Even behind all his make-up, you can see the actor's eyes light up when talking about a favorite scene in Knights of Bloodsteel. "My character is going to be known as a curve ball pitcher, in that once in a while he'll surprise you and keep you on your toes," says Viergever. "There was a transitional point in the script that read, 'Ber-Lak's eyes flutter,' and I don't know quite how it happened, but I just opened up when we did this shot. I didn't think I'd get to do something like this as Ber-Lak, but I got to flex emotional muscles that I didn't know were there. It was such an amazing discovery and when you watch the final product you'll know what scene I'm talking about. I'm hoping everyone will dig it."
Despite an early morning start and what looks like several hours of work still ahead of him, Viergever has no complaints. "This is playtime," he enthuses. "Come on, this isn't 'work.' We get to inhabit this magical world and everyone loves being here. It's remarkable the things you get to do in this industry. You're a kid in a candy store. Growing up, I was the kid reciting lines from movies, so this is a dream come true for me. Every day I can't believe I'm here, and it just gets bigger, better and bolder. No day is like the one before it. This job is truly a privilege and an incredible ride that I hope keeps going for a long time to come."