Imagine that you’re a Van Peebles – smart, charismatic, almost absurdly handsome.
Many possible careers loom, but there’s the obvious one – be a movie or TV star.
Mandela Van Peebles (shown here with his dad) went that route. “I graduated college and I tried getting a regular job,” he said. “And I just thought, ‘Wow, that was really hard!’”
So he got an irregular job, as an actor. Now he co-stars in “Reginald the Vampire,” which debuts at 10 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 5) on Syfy, after the “Chucky” season-opener at 9.
And yes, that’s like the decision his father made four decades ago.
Mario Van Peebles was an economics major at Columbia and started working in New York government. As he tells it, he changed his mind and asked his dad (pioneering actor-director Melvin Van Peebles, Mandela’s grandfather) to help start his career. Melvin’s blunt response: Do it yourself.
So he did. Mario soon starred on the “Sonny Spoon” TV series; he’s worked often as both a director (“New Jack City” and lots of TV episodes) and actor. Later, his son was also ready for a career detour.
For Mandela, 28, the “regular job” phase didn’t last long. “I made smoothies at a health-food store called Simply Wholesome,” he told the Television Critics Association.
That didn’t compare well to his father’s life. “I just thought back to how much fun … he was having at work (and) the people around him – how he got to inspire them to have fun and be creative.”
So he switched to acting, getting lots of one-shot roles, plus five “Mayor of Kingston” episodes, playing a troublemaking prison guard. Now “Reginald” gives him a starmaking role.
The show toys with our horror assumptions. “We all sort of have pre-conceived notions … like vampires are only beautiful and vapid,” Jacob Batalon said. “But here we are. I’m the hero.”
Batalon – neither vapid nor beautiful – is best known for playing Ned Leeds in five Marvel movies. Here, he plays a fast-food worker, afraid to ask a co-worker for a date. Then a handsome stranger (Van Peebles) turns him into a vampire, mentors him … and confronts dark forces in the vampiric world.
All of this toys with vampire traditions, in a way some viewers enjoy. “You can’t make a show like this and not think about ‘Buffy,’” said Harley Peyton, who adapted a series of Reginald books.
The look would definitely surprise Dracula. “There’s a lollipop, color-pop aspect to it that really works against the tradition of the dark-noir vampire world,” said director Jeremiah Chechik.
Also surprising is the casting. “We see so many diversities in ‘Reginald the Vampire’ that we don’t usually see with this kind of a supernatural vampire show,” Van Peebles said.
Batalon is Filipino and grew up in Hawaii; Van Peebles is Black and grew up within sight of Hollywood … where jobs are more fun than making smoothies at Simply Wholesome.