Penny Dreadful is Showtime's new psychological thriller and horror series set in Victorian London, which will explore familiar frightening fictional characters through the main characters Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and Vanessa Ives (Eva Green).
Creator John Logan and stars Josh Hartnett and Eva Green discuss Vanessa Ives and Ethan Chandler, the familiar fictional historical characters, and why the series takes place in Victorian London.
Read on for excerpts from the Penny Dreadful at Showtime's press conference during the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour.
On Vanessa Ives and Ethan Chandler
Green: I play Vanessa Ives and she's kind of rebel. You know, it's such a repressed time, the Victorian times. And so she's very hungry for life. All her five senses are very much alive, tingling all the time. But it's in Victorian time, so it's always the conflict inside her. But she's yeah, it's complicated.
Hartnett: Ethan has been working in a Wild West show. It's not necessarily the top Wild West show. It's kind of a second-tier Wild West show. But back in the 1800s, .. Buffalo Bill created the concept of the chivalrous cowboy and the nefarious Native American, it was the biggest show on earth, and it traveled. ... We're taking on this as though it were kind of a follow-up act in a way and my character is on this he finds himself in London in the middle of this intriguing situation, and he decides to stick around and see what happens, and we don't know why really, and that's why you have to watch the show.
On Vanessa and Ethan's first meeting and relationship
Logan: The first person that [Ethan Chandler] meets of importance is [Vanessa Ives] whose first line to him is, "You did not tell the truth," which is you know, writers kill themselves over what's the first line the characters are going to say to each other, and there's something about that line that speaks a lot of their relationship. It's the probing of what's the truth, what's the monster, what's the humor, what's the light, and what's the dark. So gradually they sort of expose each other as the season and hopefully the series go on.
On unique look at familiar characters
Harnett: You won't watch the film and say or watch the show and say like, "Oh, well, there's a character we've all seen before." Because I think that even the people that are playing characters that you've seen before are playing them in a different way. So it just feels unique from beginning to end when you're on set. You're not seeing an interpretation that's been done before. And so I think we all kind of fit in that same area.
Logan: I didn't want to just write a Frankenstein story or a Dracula story or a Dorian Gray. That's why I created the characters that Eva and Josh played to be the centerpiece of the story, because I wanted a fictional story that was completely unknown to the audience, so there wouldn't be any sense of familiarity of us playing on the tropes of what we've done before. And by going into it from sort of their perspective, as you will, it allowed me to look at the characters, characters I've known and loved since I was 8 from a new perspective. And what I'm hoping is that genre fans like me, you know, the Comic-Con geeks, will sort recognize that we love the fact that we're playing in a familiar world, but we're kind of playing with it differently, because we're coming in with a whole new narrative involving these characters.
On Victoria setting
Logan: We're dealing with a very specific era. As Eva said, 1891, the Victorian Era, was a highly specialized era. And why I chose to set the show then was not because it's sort of a cool visual to bring these characters together, but because there's something about the Victorian era that reminds me of right now, because they were on the cusp of a modern world. I mean, if you were the agrarian economy has been replaced by industrial economy. They're looking across the ocean to Germany and America and saying their navies are bigger than ours and they were grappling with the very elemental question of what it is to be human, with Darwinism, with evolution.
And, like, I sit down on my computer today and I feel exactly the same way. I don't understand any of the new world that's sort of zooming toward us. So the fact that they were on a cusp, that these characters, the characters that Josh and Eva play are on a cusp of a modern age is why I chose to set it then, because I think we're sort of on the cusp of the same thing now and it's frightening and there's dissonance and there's excitement to unchartered waters. And what we try to do with all the characters is pull them out of where they are comfortable and send them into uncharted waters because to me that's what makes good drama.
Penny Dreadful airs Sundays at 10 pm ET on Showtime.
(Image courtesy of Showtime.)