Sisi Stringer And Daniela Nieves On The New Vampire Academy Series - Exclusive Interview

Before "bestie" became a casual greeting on TikTok, Richelle Mead's "Vampire Academy" book characters Rose Hathaway and Vasilisa Dragomir defined the word back in 2007. Not only would they die for each other, but the best friends are so connected that Rose can quite literally see through Lissa's eyes at times. Now, after the 2014 movie adaptation didn't take off, the characters are coming back to the screen with a heightened focus on the royal aspect of the universe in Peacock's new "Vampire Academy" series. 


"Mortal Kombat" (2021) actor Sisi Stringer is taking on the role of the badass Dhampir Rose Hathaway, who's training to be Lissa's Guardian after they graduate from St. Vladimir's Academy. Meanwhile, Daniela Nieves ("Save Me" and "Snowfall") plays Lissa — the only surviving member of the royal Dragomir line. While the Moroi princess navigates her new powers and royal duties, Rose fights back against the oppressive system that forces Dhampirs to sacrifice their lives for their Moroi charges while living in squalor.

Stringer and Nieves spoke to The List for an exclusive interview where the duo discussed the "Vampire Academy" books, the universe's classism, and how "Mortal Kombat" prepared Stringer for her Dhampir training. They also touched on the show's on-screen representation and how the series handles Lissa's mental health.


Class struggles in a best friendship

You both play best friends dealing with class struggles, as Lissa is royalty and Rose is almost considered second class as a Dhampir who's expected to die for her. How did you navigate that dynamic? Did you read the books or watch the movie to get a vibe of what's been done, or did you want to go in with fresh eyes?


Sisi Stringer: I had read the books and loved [them]. [I] loved the books — was obsessed with them as a teenager, and I watched the movie as well. That was definitely something I loved. I went back to that stuff during the audition process to refresh the subject matter. But I'm a fan. I've been a fan. What about you?

Daniela Nieves: I didn't know about the books when I got the audition, but I knew that I had to read the books because there was such a strong fan base for this, and I almost felt like I owed it to them to read the books. It almost felt like a respectful thing to do. I was like, "You have to." 

I was more scared to watch the movie, because a book [is] really about the story and the characters, and you're not putting faces to it. But as an actor, watching another actor's perception of who Lissa was, I was a little scared that, "Oh, what if it would throw me off, or I'd start to want to make choices like [Lucy Fry] did?" I did want it to be true to me — because I felt like if we were cast, it was for a reason, and there must be something that we can bring to it. But I still ended up watching the movie.


Stringer: We all did, as a guilty pleasure thing. Also, the class divide and the sociopolitical aspect of it is really cool because it's in the script and it's in the story, but it's created visually as well. You see it in the costumes, in the sets, in the things that they're going through. It's funny because there's that divide within the cast because the people who play Moroi, the good vampires, and particularly the royals, they're dressed head to toe in designer. They look amazing. Their dorms and their houses are so luxurious; they're castles and things like that. Then the Dhampir is where we're always in training, learning how to fight, and our sleeping quarters is military stuff. Everyone has a million bunk beds in one tiny, cold room. It's cool that you get to see it represented aesthetically.

From Mortal Kombat to Dhampir training

Sisi, you were in the action-heavy "Mortal Kombat" movie in 2021. Did that help prepare you for the incredibly tense fighting scenes Rose has?

Stringer: Absolutely, but I did have to learn how to learn again. I came in, and I was like, "Yeah, [it's] a piece of cake. I've got it. Don't worry." Then it took me a while to get there, and thank God I had the stunt team like Cassie Jo Craig, who was my stunt double. She taught me so much, and all of them were amazing. Drew [Liner] was there for me all the time. We had most of our initial fight scenes together, and he was really generous and supportive, too. I got there in the end, and then by month five out of seven, I was on my pro stuff. It did help, but also it made me too confident.


Nieves: Sisi is really good at things a lot ... I don't know how to explain it. Even when she was struggling or whatever to do it right, whatever she says ... she looked like such a badass. She looks like Rose. She looks like she could kick my ass any day.

Stringer: Daniela did one stunt where I [pushed] her, and she [fell] on the ground, and they called cut. I'm like, "Are you okay, princess? You need something? Can I get you a Band-Aid?" She's like, "What are you talking about?"

Tackling Lissa's mental health

Daniela, while Lissa is royalty, she's also somewhat of an outcast. Can we expect to see Lissa struggle with mental health throughout the show? Why do you think that's such an important subject to tackle in media?


Nieves: Wow. Actually, you do see more of her mental health. We use fantasy, and there's a literal reason why she's having mental health issues. But [they're] small ways to tackle important issues that really do happen. It's definitely important to see that in media. Representation is important in any aspect — whether that's race or mental illness, [which] is a huge part of pretty much everyone's life [that] everyone struggles with. Seeing people in the media struggling with things that you're struggling with as well is super important to have.

Stringer: Definitely. Like you said, diversity of race and gender and sexuality and all that kind of stuff is represented really well. That's one thing that sets us apart from the movie — we have such a diverse cast truly in an authentic, genuine way. It doesn't feel like tokenism or anything like that.


It's amazing to be a part of something like that, and we get messages all the time [from] people being like, "I haven't seen someone like you on my screen before. I have always wanted to see myself as the hero, and now I'm watching you do it. It makes me feel like I can." That's always been super important to me and to Dani, so that's another thing to be proud of.

The first four episodes of "Vampire Academy" release September 15 on Peacock, with subsequent episodes releasing Thursdays.

This interview was edited for clarity.