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Madeleine Martin on New Shelley of 'Hemlock Grove': 'She Just Wants to Be a Normal Teenage Girl'

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Madeleine Martin on New Shelley of 'Hemlock Grove': 'She Just Wants to Be a Normal Teenage Girl'

Madeleine Martin as Shelley in a scene from Netflix's 'Hemlock Grove' Season 2 (Brooke Palmer/Netflix)

One of the changes on Hemlock Grove this season is that Shelley, the outwardly monstrous daughter (experiment?) of the Godfrey clan, has been recast with actress Madeleine Martin (Californication). Or maybe just "cast" would be better since in the first season, she was played by a variety of actors and stand-ins.

As you can see in the above photo, she still looks much like she did last season, but she's not as covered up and hunched over. In fact, thanks to special effects, we'll be seeing more of Shelley than ever. Yahoo TV spoke with Martin about taking on the role, what Shelley will be up to this season, and why she didn't even watch the first season of the Netflix series.

We also talked with new showrunner Charles "Chic" Eglee about why Shelley was recast, why she's the "beating heart of Hemlock Grove," and what the rest of the cast has to look forward to this season.

When we last saw Shelley, she took two shotgun blasts to the chest and still made it back for Season 2. How does it feel to play a lady Terminator?
Martin: [Laughs] That might be my favorite way anyone's ever put it! It feels amazing. Shelley, yes, does make it to Season 2. She's on the run, being hunted, and has fled Hemlock Grove. I love Shelley. She's such a compelling character because she's both conceived and created.

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What did you think of the character when you first saw her?
Martin: I sympathized with the character immediately: this girl who doesn't look like a girl, and she's rejected by society because of her appearance. She just wants to be a normal teenage girl.

How did the producers explain the character to you?
Martin: They showed me a picture of her, and they said that she's kind of similar to Frankenstein's monster in Frankenstein. I think they actually said this exact phrase, which I like: that she was the most hideous person on the show, but that she was the most beautiful on the inside. Which is, of course, what no girl wants to hear! [Laughs] And I was, like, "Perfect! I'll do it!"

And they explained that Famke's [Janssen] character is probably the most beautiful on the show, and yet, on the inside, she has a heart of stone. Obviously, she portrays the character in a much more interesting light than that and she's multifaceted. But I found that idea really interesting, that Shelley is hideous to society, but she's like a child on the inside.

Nicole Boivin as Shelley Godfrey in Netflix's 'Hemlock Grove' Season 1

Nicole Boivin as Shelley Godfrey in Netflix's 'Hemlock Grove' Season 1

Shelley's already been played by a few different actors. Did you get to talk to any of them for tips?
Martin: I worked with Michael [Andreae], who plays Shelley's body with me this season. We collaborated on her. He's 6-foot-7, so he's very crucial for bringing Shelley to life; I am barely 5-foot-3. But that is very helpful for all the action scenes; the crew really knows what they're doing, having two people doing that.

So Shelley has a lot of action scenes this season?
Martin: Yeah. Well in the world of Hemlock Grove, everyone has a lot of action, especially this season.

Was the makeup process difficult?
Martin: Not for me. Maybe for Todd Masters; he's the one who created the prosthetics. I just have to sit there for three hours while they put it on me. Also, this season, Shelley's eye emotes and it blinks. They do that in post-production; so when I blink, the mechanical eye will also blink. I don't know how they do that, but it looks really cool.

What else does Shelley get to do this season?
Martin: She meets a young man who is letting her hide out in his basement. He's very crucial in helping her evolve this season. She helps him out a lot as well. Shelley has her own storyline apart from Hemlock Grove, which is fun for me.

What part of the show do you like most? The story, the characters, the horror?
Martin: Actually, I hadn't seen the first season. My brother was a big fan of it; he likes really scary things. So, when he told me to watch it, I knew I would find it too scary because my tolerance for horror is very low.

That was one of the things I was worried about when I started working on the show. I had never worked on anything supernatural or so scary. I thought, gosh, I wonder if that would be a hindrance to me acting in this. But it was not. And my tolerance is much higher now; I'll probably even watch the show!

When people ask me what Hemlock is, I love to say that Hemlock Grove is a world where people's deepest desires get to be explored and given free rein.

Watch a promo spot featuring Janssen:

You said that your storyline was separate from everybody else's. Did you get to work with them eventually?
Martin: [Laughs] Yes, it's just the Shelley Show! No, I did work with Famke and the rest of the cast, which was very exciting once I got to be in that world.

Who were your favorite people to work with?
Martin: I love the relationship — especially this season — with Shelley and her brother, Roman [Bill Skarsgård]. And Bill is such a fine actor. Those scenes, I found really heartbreaking. He reminds me of my own brother in real life.

Charles "Chic" Eglee has been in the business for more than 30 years. He spent his early days in TV writing for classic series like St. Elsewhere and Moonlighting, but his first Hollywood job was working with Roger Corman on Piranha Part Two: The Spawning in 1981, so he sees Hemlock Grove as coming full circle back to his supernatural horror roots. Of course, his more recent experience as an executive producer of Dexter and The Walking Dead certainly doesn't hurt either.

Much of the talk surrounding the first season of Hemlock Grove was the huge amount of gore. What are you hoping people will focus on with this season?
Eglee: I think Grand Guignol has its place in storytelling as a condiment, but for me, the thing that drew me to the material was the opportunity for storytelling through character.

Watching each of those characters jointly and severally struggle with their nature, whether Olivia, Roman, Peter, and to some degree, Norman, who seems to be the one character unaware. He's, by definition, excluded from the mythology of the show. I think it's going to be interesting to see all of these characters wrestle with the core nature of their being.

That's really what the show is about this season. It's less about high concept horror. Not that the show was about that last year; but the thing that drew me to the show was the opportunity for storytelling through character.

Madeleine said she was drawn to the character of Shelley too, not the horror part of it.
Eglee: The thing that I think is most compelling about Shelley's character is that she is the one repository in that world of pure good. She is the beating heart of Hemlock Grove that is somehow uncorrupted by everything that's taking place around her, all these horrific events. Despite what she looks like on the outside, what's inside is really unsullied.

And I think, to a large degree, Shelley becomes the surrogate for especially our young female viewership. We live in a culture where there's an awful lot of emphasis on appearances — the externality of beauty in a Kardashian world. So I think that character resonates especially with our young female viewers.

Because we make these awful demands on girls — how they should look and what they should weigh and what they should wear and what makeup and all of that stuff. And I know this because I have a young daughter and she looks in the mirror, and it doesn't matter that she's been blessed with beauty. I think she, like so many of our viewers, looks in the mirror and only sees imperfections.

I think that's why Shelley is somebody who the young women relate to. Because they see her purity of heart, they see her essential goodness. And they're able to look past her deformity and misshapenness that everyone sees — that they see in the mirror — to see that kernel of strength and goodness inside. And to me, that's what makes Shelley such a commanding character. And certainly, having someone of Madeleine's caliber coming in and just bringing that character to life is wondrous to watch.

The cast answers questions from fans:

Why did you decide to make that casting change with Shelley this season?
Eglee: The thing about Shelley last season — and I wasn't around to understand the process — the result was Shelley was s little bit of an ad hoc formulation week to week. It was kind of a mixture of stand-ins and actors and voice-overs and the 7-foot stand-in and the little girl. It was just cobbled together week to week. And out of that, by the way, came an incredibly visceral, very palpable performance. It was quite arresting and obviously had a huge viewership judging from the boards.

So I thought, my lord, what if one were to sit down and actually design that character? And then how about we go and get a really wonderful actress, which we were able to do. So really, it was about our enthusiasm for that character and really wanting to invest time and resources to bring that character to life in a fully realized way.

And Madeleine just hit it out of the park. Shelley, when we first meet her, as we left her, is mute. And the acting chops that Madeleine brings to this without saying a word is really extraordinary.

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What about the other new faces this season?
Eglee: We have a new character that we're introducing, [played by] Madeline Brewer, who — I'm not going to give away the storyline — but she finds herself marooned through an unexpected set of circumstances in this world of Hemlock Grove. And what's interesting about her is she comes to Hemlock Grove, and she's a stranger, new to this series, and what story is it that she is bringing in with her? What past is she bringing? What are her reasons for being here? What's her agenda? Because we know that everybody in Hemlock Grove seems to have something going on other than what's really going on.

So there's that set of expectations that I think has been set up. And then also, I think we worry for her because we know that Hemlock Grove is a world — a dangerous one — and nobody who has come into that world leaves unscathed. I think people will be anxious to see how the Miranda character fares in the toxic bath of Hemlock Grove.

Most of the time, when you see werewolves and vampires, they're feuding, but last season, it was almost like a buddy cop film with Roman and Peter. Will there be open hostility now that Roman has changed?
Eglee: It's interesting. That's one of the hard things about the show. When people say to me, "What's Hemlock Grove about?" I don't say it's a werewolf show or werewolves and vampires. To me, that's almost beside the point.

They just happen to be human beings or some sort of hominid with that as an attribute of who and what they are. And the struggles that they are going through have more to do with who they are as characters, with who they are as individuals, not the high conceptness of "one's a wolf-man and one's a vampire." It's not really that kind of show. That just becomes a lens to examine their fundamental humanity and the struggles that hopefully we're dramatizing as being universal.

The 10-episode Season 2 of Hemlock Grove premieres in its entirety on Friday, July 11 at 12:01 a.m. on Netflix.