After Kristin Kreuk left Smallville, fans who fell in love with her as Lana Lang were undoubtedly heartbroken. Luckily, Kreuk would soften the blow by returning to TV for a guest stint on Chuck the next year, before disappearing from primetime for another two years. 

Now, the Canadian beauty is back on the air—here to stay—in a starring role as the titular beauty of Beauty and the Beast. The show, which airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW, follows Kreuk as Catherine Chandler, a no-nonsense NYC detective trying to uncover the truth about her mother's murder with the help of a reclusive super soldier, Vincent Keller (played by Jay Ryan), who's in hiding after being injected with a faulty serum that turns him into a monstrous (and titular) beast. 

We got a chance to speak to Kreuk, who was busy filming her new action-drama in Toronto, about her penchant for playing classic characters, her show's modern take on a classic fairytale, and the wild adventures she has when the cameras stop rolling.

Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)

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How did you land the role?
The producers of the show, Sherry and Jennifer, pursued me for the role, which was really lovely. I met with them and talked with them and really adore them as people and as women and as mothers and writers and as everything they are. I decided that it would be a possibly interesting collaboration to work with them and that’s kind of how it happened.

What’s it like going from playing the sweet girl-next-door in Smallville to being this bad-ass action star?
Catherine, she’s a little damaged I guess you could say. She’s shut off a lot of her vulnerability and she’s very driven to make sure she makes things right in the world. She’s kind of taken on a lot in her life. It’s interesting for me to play someone who is so restrained in a way because my impulse sometimes is to express really freely and Catherine’s not like that. It’s really wonderful that she’s got a lot of complexity and these layers that are sometimes kind of dark. As these episodes go by, I get to delve into that a bit more, which I really enjoy.

You have a lot of fight scenes. What was it like preparing for that?
Well I have a purple belt in karate and I’ve just been very physically active my whole life. I was a competitive gymnast. Luckily, I think I had the skills already; there wasn’t a lot of preparation needed, which was great. I can kind of just jump on set and figure it out as we go. But it’s fun. It’s very different from what I do as an actor. The physical component, it feels like I have a weird alter life on set where I fight people. I like the challenge.

Do you do your own stunts?
Not all of them. I do all of the fight sequences pretty much all the way through unless there’s a fall or something like that. Normally I’ll do a couple passes, then a stunt double will do a couple passes, then they’ll edit it together. Often when I’m on my back, it’s probably not me most of the time. Sometimes it is. It just depends on what works best and we pick the best pieces for editing.

What surprised me most was that this show took a whole different take on the Beast. He’s not this bad guy who was being punished, he’s a super soldier.
Yeah, I really actually like it. It feels very modern. The themes are beautiful and you can explore them in any context truly, you know? I like the idea that this guy is a soldier and he’s gone through this experience, I would even dare to say like any soldier really does, and he is dealing with the effects of what he’s done as this beast creature and trying to regain his humanity. How can he do that? Is it possible to do that? How does he handle that beast which is both like the actual beast of him turning into a beast and the beast also being the stuff that he’s done that was horrible to him? I really like that. I think it’s fascinating and honest.

You’ve played a fairytale character before. I remember watching you in Snow White and now you’re essentially Belle. What’s your favorite fairytale?
I actually do like Beauty and the Beast if we call it a fairytale. I think there’s something about seeing deeply, for their humanity, beyond what they look like and what has gone on in their lives, the things they think are horrible about themselves, and really building love with another person. That’s what love is. It’s “I see you for all that you are, and I still love you.” And I think that’s really beautiful.

Do you feel any pressure to play these beloved characters?
Not really. I think if I did I wouldn’t do them as much. [Laughs.] I look at the history of the story and things like that, but I try to focus on the story we’re telling now. What’s the metaphor we’re exploring now? What goes on for this person in this version of this story? I don’t measure to other things because that’s not what we’re exploring and it’s totally different. I don’t know if that would benefit me in any way.

What’s it like to work with a new cast?
The cast is so wonderful. They’re all capable, interesting and dynamic actors. As people, they’re just wonderful. I know people say that all the time, but truly, I get to go to set and work with some of the most lovely human beings. I get to laugh all the time. We laugh a lot on the set. You’re building a new family, in a way, and there’s growing pains to that but it’s really wonderful on set.

When you’re not filming, I know you have your “wild women adventure.” What exactly is that?
[Laughs.] Every year, I go with three of my girlfriends somewhere in the world. The whole original idea was that we would just go as girls. It would be about building our relationship with each other and also challenging ourselves as women and really putting ourselves in circumstances that would push us to grow, you know?

Coming up this Christmas is our fifth year, and now we’ve got people with babies—there’s two babies and a grown child—so this year, we’re going to go as a family, boyfriends and husbands and kids. We’re going to go to Italy probably. We do it every year. We’ve done some crazy stuff.

Where have you gone so far?
The first year, we did Ecuador, so we went to the Galapagos, we went to the Amazon jungle, we stayed with a shaman, we went up into the Andes. That was amazing. The second year, we did Syria and Turkey, which I’m so happy we did because of the political situation right now. It’s obviously not a good time to be heading to that part of the world. I’m glad we go to experience it before all of that happened. The ruins there are stunning, and the people, and the culture, and the religion are all so wonderful. We went out in a desert there and drove in a blizzard from Syria into Turkey and go into hijinks.

The next year, we did Argentina, which was an easier trip. Buenos Aires, we tangoed. Mendoza, we had wine. Then the year after, because my friend was seven months pregnant, we did Sedona and did that crystal kind of thing. This year, we’re going with the family, but I think us girls are going to break off and go to Rome for some time or something.