If you’ve missed your dose of supernatural dramas featuring LGBTQ+ relationships, look no further. Vampire Academy is a thrilling new series based on the Richelle Mead novels, filled with jeopardy, romance and royalty. The show was adapted by executive producers Julie Plec and Marguerite MacIntyre, best known for their work on hit programmes such as The Vampire Diaries, The Originals and Legacies. The ten episodes follow the close friendship of two young women as they navigate polar opposite lives. Rose, played by Sisi Stringer, is a lower-class Dhampir; a half-human, half-vampire protector to her Moroi royal counterpart, Lissa (Daniella Nieves). The first series follows the duo as they go through a series of personal challenges to survive in a world looming with the threats of the antagonistic Strigoi. Vampire Academy explores a lesbian romance between non-royal, status-seeking Mia Karp (portrayed by Mia McKenna-Bruce) and Dhampir guardian Meredith, played by Rhian Blundell.
GAY TIMES speaks with the actors about what to expect from the upcoming series, playing an LGBTQ+ couple, and tease what’s in store for the pair over the course of the season.
Mia and Meredith, on paper, are as different as two people can be. Whilst Mia is hellbent on climbing the elite hierarchy and making a name for herself amongst the Moroi, Meredith is a tenacious guardian-in-training focussed on her duties. Blundell and McKenna-Bruce both believe their characters’ differences is what makes their relationship thrive and have such palpable chemistry. “I think it was because they were so different, it was actually a bit easier,” says Blundell. “Because when you have that kind of contrast, you bounce off each other.”
McKenna-Bruce adds: “They act with each other in a way that they don’t act with anyone else. So it was quite easy to be like, ‘This is something different for them.’ Because in real life we get on so well, I think we were very comfortable with each other, which makes everything a lot easier.”
Vampire television series have always had LGBTQ+ elements, especially that explore relationships between women. From Buffy The Vampire Slayer, to Jennifer’s Body and First Kill, Vampire Academy hopes to provide a fresh take on a frequently adopted motif. “I think, very rightfully so, there’s almost like the claiming of sexuality and claiming the sexual power that comes from both vampires and how queer women have been represented in the media on the whole,” explains Blundell. “So it’s actually really nice for us to approach it as, ‘Do you know what? This is just actually a young couple.’”
Despite the intense spark between the pair, Meredith and Mia’s budding romance isn’t without its heated moments. But the tribulations they face are nothing to do with their sexualities. McKenna-Bruce says: “The conflict came from where they were socially, because Meredith is a Dhampir and Mia is a Moroi, and Mia’s trying to climb the social ladder. So that was where the conflict came from… They’re just a young couple that fall for each other.”
Unlike some of the other couples that develop over the season, Blundell and McKenna-Bruce agree that Meredith and Mia’s journey is more fledgling in comparison. They have more of what Blundell describes as “sexually charged moments,” where the couple are finding their rhythm. Whilst filming such fervent scenes, there were times when the actresses struggled to maintain their composure and stay in the moment. “We broke character a lot!” laughs Blundell. “We had fun on set. We’re great friends and we really cared about doing these characters and doing this story justice.”
McKenna-Bruce adds: “We had this really great safety with each other from the get go.”
Representing an LGBTQ+ romance on screen wasn’t something either of them took lightly. There was a sense of duty to deliver an accurate and nuanced depiction of queer romance for the viewers. But overriding that was a sense of honour to be playing these roles. “I tried to sort of remind myself that there’s a responsibility, but it’s not totally my responsibility,” Blundell shares. “I did remember reading the characters and thinking, ‘Wow, what I would have given to see a story like that in a show like this,’ and so there was a responsibility there. But it was more of a privilege. It was a joy to get to do rather than a pressure.”
McKenna-Bruce chimes in: “I literally can’t put it better! A privilege, it is. As Rhi said, these are the stories that need to be told and seen on the screen. So getting to actually be a part of that is so amazing.”
Despite taking place in the fictional boarding school St. Vladimir’s Academy, surrounded by Dhampirs, Moroi royal families and Strigoi, there was a lot about Mia and Meredith which real-life Mia and Rhian can relate to. McKenna-Bruce says she relates to Mia Karp “100%. I don’t say that lightly! Because when we first meet Mia, she’s not that similar to me, I hope! Mia really finds herself throughout this season, and I think that’s something everyone can relate to; discovering who they really are, and what’s really important to them, and realising it’s okay to go, ‘Actually, what I thought was important to me, isn’t.’”
“I think a similar kind of thing with Meredith in that I really related to that,” adds Blundell. “She is of a lower social class, and therefore she never lets her guard down for a second. She’s constantly trying to prove herself. She’s constantly trying to keep herself in the rankings of the Dhampir, for example. And I think I spent a lot of my youth constantly being like, ‘No, no, I must never let never let the weakness show,’ until she ends up in this budding relationship and all of a sudden, those cracks start to make it in.”
When it comes to Mia, Meredith, and all of the characters that viewers will meet throughout the first season of Vampire Academy, it comes back to them being authentically depicted, and more similar to the audience than it initially seems. “I’m just so excited for everyone to see these real people,” says McKenna-Bruce. “And I say real people, I mean, they’re vampires! They’re real people as in they’re going through real people things and having to deal with real situations that people have to deal with. And obviously, they exist in a different world, but I think it’s all really, really, really accessible and relatable, and I hope every person can watch it and see themselves reflected in some way.”
Blundell concludes: “It was an absolute honour to be on the set and to be around the cast that we have. And you know how everybody is telling these stories and how everybody is filling those roles in a way that I don’t think we’ve ever got to see before.
“It’s really cool escapism! Like, who doesn’t want to see vampires running around with magic powers? You get it all! You get the light and you get the dark.”
Vampire Academy also stars Kieron Moore (Sex Education, The Sandman), André Dae Kim (Locke and Key), J. August Richards (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) and Anita-Joy Uwajeh (Lucky Man).
The first four episodes of Vampire Academy will be available 16 September on Peacock on Sky and Now.
Watch the trailer below or by clicking here.