Last week, the first four episodes of Peacock’s new series “Vampire Academy” made their premiere. Actress Jonetta Kasier has since spoken with us, filling us in on the series and her character of Sonya Karp.
Based on the Best-Selling six-book collection by Richelle Mead, the series is filled with “Friendship, romance, and danger. In a world of privilege and glamour, two young women’s friendship transcends their strikingly different classes as they prepare to complete their education and enter vampire society. One as a powerful Royal, the other a half-vampire Guardian trained to protect against the savage ‘Strigoi’ who threaten to tear their society apart. That is if Royal infighting doesn’t do the job first. ” Learn more about the series here.
Kelli: “I watched the first episode last night. I enjoyed it.”
Jonetta: “Oh, my god. Really”
Kelli: ” I did. I have to say it’s very different than the vampire series I’ve seen. It’s complex (in a good way).
Jonetta: “It’s a little different.”
Kelli: “Yeah, it is, and that’s not a bad thing.”
Kelli: “Being different is a very good thing in my book, I see the same things over and over, and over, you know, the same plots.”
Kelli: “Tell me a little bit about Sonya? Who is she?”
Jonetta: “Sonya Karp is a librarian at the Vampire Academy. She is there the entire time. There is one that is not recognized as one of the royals. We see kind of how she’s isolated from just, I think, society as a whole, kind of the girl that’s always there, but no one quite knows why she’s odd or anything like that. Yeah, that’s kind of my character. She is also the adopted daughter of Victor.”
Kelli: ” And because you’re adopted, you don’t get recognized as a member of society with the other royals?”
Jonetta: “Yeah. They know I’m adopted by a royal vampire, but I’m still considered a non-royal vampire. That’s one of the main things that drives Victor when it comes to politics and creating equality in the world. It’s a very political society, and he made it his mission to bring that equality because of the social injustice that his daughters have to experience. They can’t get into the same events or things like that just because they weren’t born into the bloodline.”
Kelli: “Well, that’s not fair.”
Kelli: “Is one of the big parts of the series the drive for the throne? Victor seems to be a very important part of that.”
Jonetta: “He is. He is, and the thing with the show is, I think for the audience, like if you were watching, they have to start here because later on in the book there are big things that happen, and no one who hasn’t read the books would understand those things that will come in later seasons if they didn’t start here. There are things that are going on with the fight for the crown and understanding the way the world works, and why someone can’t get something just because they don’t have enough royal blood or enough cousins that are alive there in their line of the family and things like that.
Kelli: “Right, right. Another part of the story that interests me is the situation between vampires and the Strigoi. Can you explain that a little?”
Jonetta: “Yeah. The Strigoi are traditional. They can’t go out in the sun. They are evil, violent, and soulless. That’s what they are. The vampire society sees them as dead. They actually give them a funeral. When they turn into Strigoi. At that point, they are dead to them. There’s a lot of mystery about who the Strigoi are. They’re considered dead. They’re outside the ward of the dominion and we only see them when they’re attacking someone or killing someone, so we don’t know much about them. We’ll get to see them explored in this first season and maybe, hopefully, see what the Strigoi are and the mystery of everything in season two.
Kelli: “What can you tell our readers about the academy itself? It looks fantastic.”
Jonetta: “Oh, my gosh. It’s totally sick. The actual academy was built. It’s in Spain. They built it at a monastery, so it’s very classic, old school. It looks like a castle. It hasn’t been here, and they just built the barracks that the dhampirs sleep in, which is another type of vampire that we have. They’re half human, half vampire. They sleep in the barracks. Then we have my library inside the monastery. It’s very beautiful. They’re actually old Spanish textbooks that they put on the shelves there. It’s just such a beautiful, what they were able to create, such a beautiful environment. There is a church that they built and it’s absolutely stunning, breathtaking as you walk in, everything is so rich, and it was built very well. I hope that in the future if people get to tour the school of Vampire Academy, it would be such a cool thing to go and sit down at the grounds where it is. My garden is there and on set when I’m walking through that, it’s amazing. It’s so cool to have a set that actually has been built for a show because rather than being in a studio where there’s just a green screen or something like that.”
Kelli: Right. Building it and having it physically there, does lend an air of authenticity to it.”
Jonetta: “Yeah, it does. It’s so, so cool.”
Kelli: “What is Sonya’s function in the academy besides just being a librarian? I think she’s probably got more in store for her.”
Jonetta: “Oh Yeah, there’s definitely more in store. But I can’t really say much about it yet.”
Kelli: “I understand.”
Jonetta: “Hopefully after episode five, episode six, we get to see some of that revealed. Yeah, she’s just cherished by Victor, her father, and Mia is like her sister and they have that kind of sister relationship, but you can tell that Sonya cares about her, and she does love her, and they fight like sisters would, right? She may think that because Mia wants the crown and wants those things, and she thinks maybe Sonya is a little bit embarrassing or something like that, like the sister that does embarrassing things. Sonya’s just there. She’s at the library, she does what she’s supposed to do, and she does little more than that to bring more attention to herself. She stays out of everyone’s way. She’s kind of in the background in the first episodes.”
Kelli: You mentioned earlier that she has the power of spirit magic what is that?
Jonetta: “She does. That’s the whole thing is we don’t really know what the spirit is, and it’s going to be talked about in later episodes since that was revealed because it’s one of the elements of power, and she’s going to show more. I believe in episode six, we get to see some of that.”
Kelli: “In what episode do we really get to know Sonya?”
Jonetta: “We meet Sonya in episode one. Well, I guess in episode four when a boy comes in and they have this beautiful, innocent love that gets played out and they go to the garden, and they have a beautiful moment and we get to see the spirit magic at work at that moment as well. Yeah, I think that’s kind of where we get to see more of Sonya. Episode four, I’d say.”
“Episode five comes out tomorrow.”
Kelli: “Yay. I’ll have to watch more. What’s your favorite aspect of the series?”
Jonetta: “My favorite aspect is that we have such diversity in our show, but that’s not the focus of it. There are dynamic characters that will have to be played by people of color and Black people. Yeah, it’s just like cool stories that are being told here in a world where there’s such a heightened state and everything is just urgent, if it’s not right now, it’s right now. I think that that’s kind of what I love so much about the show. It’s everything is so real and serious. If this person gets the crown, then the whole dominion will start to fail, and it’s that sort of thing. It’s a very fun world to play in with all of the cast and the locations that we filmed in. We were all over Spain. We got to explore Barcelona and Madrid. I think all of those things combined were what made the seven months of filming the show such an amazing experience.”
Kelli: “Right. I’m guessing you haven’t heard any word if it’s going to be renewed?”
Jonetta: “Not yet. We’re really hoping. Really hoping.”
Kelli: “Oh, I bet.”
Jonetta: “It would be so sad for them to have to tear down that entire academy after just one season.”
Kelli: “Right. Plus I’m sure they’re so many more stories to be told and explored.”
Kelli: “I haven’t read the books, but I would love to see more of the story, you know?”
Jonetta: “Yeah. Yeah. There are a lot of things that need to be explained about the world. We have half human and half vampires. They are not royal vampires. There are royal vampires. We have the Strigoi vampires, so it’s like all of those things have to be explained in the first couple of episodes or you just would be so lost as to what we’re doing.”
Kelli: “At the same time, it was, like I said, I’ve never read the books, and it’s a new world to me. There are so many different types of relationships and political issues. It’s very interesting.”
Jonetta Yeah. Yeah, it is interesting.
Kelli: “There are a ton of action sequences and magic. Are those practical or CGI, or a combination?”
Jonetta: “It’s CGI. I think it’s episode two. I’m in the library and I’m talking to a bird, so what that was the bird, they kind of had like a fake bird sitting on the shelf, and I’m talking to this stick bird, and then they, brought in CGI equipment and they, I don’t know, take pictures and record it. I know they made it fly in. It was so cool. Then in episode four, I’m healing a bird, a dead bird, and it lights up. It was actually a little bean bag. I reach out my hand and there’s light and then the bird flutters off.
What I had to do was, the director, Jesse, he was so great, he was just like, “Okay, now reach out.” He just instructed me. There were no lines. He was like, “Okay, now reach out. Okay. And now look up and follow the bird, the direction of where the bird would go.” When they cut all of that together, they had the bird fly off. It’s like, “Oh wow, it looks like I’m looking at a real bird flying away. That’s so cool.”
Kelli: “That has to be a little awkward, talking to a bean bag like that, pretending it’s alive.”
Jonetta: “Yeah, it was definitely a little awkward. It’s funny. It’s like you’re trying not to laugh while you’re doing these scenes because it’s all in your mind, it’s all make-believe, and it’s like, okay, this is where the kid inside gets to come out and play because I’m just using my imagination completely at this point.”
Kelli: “I always love hearing interesting things like that about what takes place behind the scenes. Bean bags and stuffed birds. Gotcha.”
Jonetta: “Yeah [laughter].”
Kelli That’s awesome [laughter]. If you had to tell somebody why they should watch this series, what would you say?
Jonetta: “Oh. “If you’re looking for something that’s different to watch on TV. We have the political drama, we have the relationships that you can become obsessed with and fall in love with, and we have lots of options. Our stunt actors for this show were so talented. The stunts were not CGI. That’s something that was just very, very, very cool to witness and see how hard a lot of our actors work trying to keep up with the stunts.”
Kelli: “I bet that’s awesome to see.”
Jonetta: “Yeah. I’d like to say that we have great acting in our show. We have a lot of actors that have been working for many years. We have J. August Richards. He’s been acting for 20-plus years. Mia McKenna-Bruce, she’s been acting since she was probably like eight years old. Daniela Nieves, she’s done Spanish soap operas and then a Nickelodeon show, and Sisi Stringer who’s done Mortal Combat. I think we have such a great cast who have been brought together and really do care about the craft. I think that that passion relates to the screen. I think if that’s what you’re looking for, is something where there’s passion, and there’s action, and stuntmen, the political drama, then that’s our show. It’s a combination of Game of Thrones and Harry Potter if you will.”
Kelli: “That’s a great description actually.”
Jonetta: Thank you.”
Kelli: “Are you working on anything else besides the series right now?”
Jonetta: “I actually just did a national commercial. I have no idea when that will come out. I did a film, a thriller, when I got back from Spain. I went to New Jersey for three weeks and did a kind of thriller. I’m excited to see that come out. I believe it’s called A Party to Die For. It is a thriller. I believe it’s still in production. Right now, I’m just auditioning for things again, which is always so much fun going in and the height of exercising my craft.”
Kelli: “If one of our readers wanted to follow you on social media so they could stay up to date on your projects, where could they find you?”
See Jonetta Kaiser, who is an absolute sweetheart, on Vampire Academy, now streaming exclusively on Peacock. Watch the first five episodes now and see new ones on Thursdays. Be sure to follow Jonetta on social media to stay up to date on all her projects and more.