Burning rubber on the small screen tonight is the first episode of Blood Drive, a new Syfy series that's both a lurid love letter to Roger Corman's Death Race movies and the gory, glorious drive-in days of old, while also making a mark with its own crimson-stained swagger. Taking place in a world circa 1999 where water is coveted above currency and violence is commonplace, Blood Drive is populated with intriguing characters looking to make it across the finish line in a cross-country race with a big prize and an even bigger penalty for losing. There is nothing else on television quite like Blood Drive, and with the series premiering tonight on Syfy at 10:00pm ET, I had the pleasure of speaking with lead actor Alan Ritchson about playing Arthur Bailey, a moral compass in a world gone mad.

Hi Alan, thanks for taking the time to talk. I've watched the first episode of Blood Drive and I'm so on board with the craziness, humor, and twisted personality of the show. I can safely say that there is nothing like it on TV right now and that's saying something these days. When did you first find out about this show and what was the process of you getting involved as Arthur, a police officer forced to participate in the Blood Drive?

Alan Ritchson: First of all, I'm really proud and honored to hear you say that there is nothing like this on TV. I think this is people's cup of tea or not, to make something that nobody can watch and say that they've seen before is something that I hope more people are trying to do.

I was introduced to the show when my team sent me the script and I read it and loved it from the first reading. I just knew that it was for me. The characters were so vibrant, they jumped off the page. I liked the journey that my character in particular was taking and the world was so unique that I felt like I had to be a part of it, so we went full-throttle. They were kind enough to send me all 13 episodes, and I was kind of surprised to learn that they were all written before auditioning, so I got a better sense of what this world is. I just devoured them and fell in love. I felt like each one got better and I got more invested.

I almost wish I hadn't read all 13, because by the time I was auditioning for this—I don't really get nervous when I audition now, I've been doing this for 12 years and I've gotten pretty good at doing what I do, and I've learned how to work and I'm never really nervous going in, like, "What are they going to think of me?" I just want to do my best, but I was a little nervous going into this because I had read all 13 and I wanted it so bad that I was like, "Okay, don't screw this up. Don't screw this up." [Laughs.] I was grateful to eventually get that call that I was the guy. I fell in love with what was on the page.

It's interesting that Arthur is one of the last moral compasses in a world that's gone completely bat-shit insane. Was that appealing to you, to be this voice of reason when everyone around you is just completely on a different spectrum of insanity?

Alan Ritchson: 100 percent, because I feel like we're all Arthur at some point in the day. All of us flip Twitter open and read some headline and we're like, "What is wrong with the world? We're the last sane person alive." To be willing to lose everything, your life included, in the hope of saving that one person or being that last beacon of light while some monster tosses you through a truck windshield—whatever it is, Arthur's inner journey parallels how I move through the world in a lot of ways. I love his journey and I feel like it hits home.

Blood Drive has its own personality, but it's also this love letter to grindhouse films and racing films and apocalyptic films—it has that Mad Max vibe to it as well. Were you a fan of that sub-genre at all when you came onto this, or was that a new world for you?

Alan Ritchson: It was a little bit of a new world. Any really big classic like Mad Max, or Conan the Barbarian, or Quentin Tarantino movies that skew grindhouse, I was always a fan of those, but I wasn't well-versed in that whole world, so it was a little new to me. Every episode is sort of its own movie and its own take on this different grindhouse genre, which I think is super cool because it keeps everybody fresh. It keeps us on our toes as we're making this and it keeps our characters on their toes. You just can't lose that way, it's so fun. And I hope that translates to the audience. I was learning as I went. I was like, "Oh cool, so this is a vampire grindhouse and this is sort of like a zombie grindhouse." It was fun to explore those worlds and learn as I went.

That's fitting for your character, because he is so different from everybody else. He's described as a boy scout mixed with a Ken doll, so it makes sense that you're learning as you go in that world, because it fits the mold of your character.

Alan Ritchson: Right, here you've got this guy who is fully capable of handling himself in any world. His Achilles heel is in his moral compass, as you said. The thing that sets him up for danger more than anything is the fact that he's not going to hit first because he wants so badly to do the right thing and be different and fight evil with good. You put somebody like that in a world where he's already a deer in headlights and it sets up a lot of great, fun action and conflict, and that's a ton of fun to play. [Series creator] James Roland did a great job of putting that on the page from the get-go, so that was always there and it's always been a blast to bring that to life.

I love, too, that as dark as the show can be—at times literally throwing bodies into car engines and using people as fuel—it has a sense of humor to it as well. You have a background in comedy, as a lot of people know you as Thad Castle from Blue Mountain State, so was it kind of fun for you to still do something comedic while also being a badass?

Alan Ritchson: Oh yeah, that's exactly right. Thad was such an outlandish character and to me was a little boy on the inside. There was a weird innocence that juxtaposed his earnestness in accomplishing his goals to whatever means. So it was a lot of fun, but it made things very outlandish. I hadn't really gotten the opportunity to be the voice for the audience that's like, "Okay, this is ridiculous. What is this?" We're in this together, and I feel like I'm able to be the one that's holding the audience's hand, leading them through this crazy world going, "Of course this is insane, we're going to get through this together." That's a lot of fun, but in this sort of badass, a little bit cookie-cutter on the outside, but really, deep down, Arthur just needs to be pushed hard enough to be bad, too. It's a fun, gritty character to put a light comedy spin on.

Yeah, I'm excited to see how he might change after 13 episodes, because I'm sure that he's going to go through a lot. Hopefully he still has all of his limbs at the end [laughs]. I understand that filming took place in South Africa? What was that like?

Alan Ritchson: Yeah, we were in Cape Town. I think it was the only place in the world where we could afford to make a show like this. Talk about honoring grindhouse. We went there because the US dollar goes pretty far and the crews are outstanding, so you get a lot of bang for your buck, but I don't think we could have done it anywhere else. We were doing more than any show should have been able to pull off, shooting the amount of carnage and the mess that that makes and the cleanup that it requires, as well as the action and the sets and building a different world every time. We would do it all in a seven-day span. People sitting at home watching it might not know what a feat it was, and that is the essence of grindhouse. It really is a grindhouse show and it really honors that world well. So I hope the audience gets a sense for that as they watch and can appreciate that.

The cost of mop heads alone just to clean that mess up must have been huge.

Alan Ritchson: [Laughs.] The guy that had to clean that up, his name was Storm, and he's been in the business for twenty years and is truly the nicest person I've ever met in my life. Never heard the guy complain once. But you're right, he would go through 30,000 mop heads without a complaint. He'd just clean up a mess and all of a sudden he'd be like, "Another take? Okay, I'll go get another mop." And he'd show up with another mop as we'd finish up the scene. He's got to do it all over again, that poor guy. It's a messy show.

The set pieces in the first episode alone are amazing, and they make it look like you were in a Rob Zombie concert mixed with Doomsday, just total, awesome chaos as you mentioned, so it's pretty incredible that this is going to be a network TV show because it feels so cinematic. It looks like Syfy let you guys do whatever you had to do to get it done.

Alan Ritchson: Yeah, they went for it. I don't think there's a way to make this show without just giving into what it is and going, "All right, here we go." And they really honored that, and kudos to South Africa because that place provides unbelievable production value just in the set pieces that exist there and the geography and the ability of those crews to come together and create something. I remember there was a problem with the diner [in episode 2] right from the get-go, and we basically didn't have a set the day we were supposed to shoot, and the director walked in and was like, "Where's the set?" And we almost didn't have a delay that day by the time the cameras were up and running. They built a magnificent set so fast. Fifty guys fly in and there's hammers and nails and all of a sudden there's a beautiful set, fully completed. Those crews are world class and really I can't say enough about South Africa. The people there work hard with a smile on their face and put up amazing work. The area itself gave us beautiful, cinematic shots.

Before I let you go, I know you have a couple of anticipated projects coming up, Office Uprising and Ghosts of War. Is there anything you can tease about those films?

Alan Ritchson: Yeah, Office Uprising was fun. My job there is more of a cameo. I'm friends with a lot of the people who made it and they asked me if I wanted to be a part of that. I just love the concept of the movie so much that I was happy to come in for a day and put my spin on a character. It was a lot of fun for me. It's like Office Space meets the zombie apocalypse. It's a really great genre twist, and the same thing for Ghosts of War, although they're on completely opposite ends of the spectrum as far as genre and cinematic tastes go.

Ghosts of War is one of the most beautiful films I've ever been a part of. Cinematically, it's just stunning and gorgeous. It's a World War II thriller, and it marries these different genres in a way that we don't really see that much, and it's always fun to be a part of something that's venturing into somewhat unchartered territory. That's a gorgeous film—very tense and dark and it was a lot of fun to bring to life. I'm anticipating both, but they're wildly different.

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.