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Showtime’s upcoming monster mash Penny Dreadful is set in 1891, but its themes are very modern.
The series, which stars Josh Hartnett and Eva Green, features a roster of classic monsters, including Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and Dracula and weave together the classic origin stories while exploring tones that the country is grappling with.
Penny Dreadful hails from three-time Oscar nominee John Logan (Hugo, Skyfall, Gladiator), who wrote the pilot and executive produces alongside Academy Award winner Sam Mendes and Neal Street’s Pippa Harris (Revolutionary Road).
Hartnett plays Ethan Chandler, a man of action and daring who isn’t afraid of violence. He’s charming and brash, but there are demons behind his eyes. He’s more complicated than he likes to admit. Green co-stars as Vanessa, an enigmatic woman with haunted eyes, who will prove herself a force to be reckoned with as the heroine of the series.
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“I started thinking about themes and why almost 200 years after [Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein] was written, we’re still reading Frankenstein,” self-professed “monster geek” Logan said. “I think it’s because the monsters break my heart. Growing up as a gay man before it was socially acceptable, I knew what it was to feel different, alienated and not like everyone else.”
The first-time showrunner (Penny Dreadful is the screenwriter’s first stab at TV) noted that he drew inspiration from the old Universal horror movies of the 1940s that mixed and matched characters such as the Wolfman and Frankenstein. “I wondered if there was a way to do that now and take these characters seriously,” he said of the show’s genesis.
Penny Dreadful, which is filming in Dublin, will also feature a fair share of poetic dialogue — which inspired Logan to create the series.
“I chose to set the show [in 1891] not because it would be cool visually but because the Victorian era reminds me of right now,” he said. “They were on the cusp of the modern world … grappling with the very elemental question of what it means to be human. I sit down at my computer and I don’t understand any of the new world zooming toward us. We’re on the cusp of the same thing now: There’s frightening dissonance and excitement for unchartered waters. We will pull these characters from where they’re comfortable into unchartered waters, and, to me, that makes good drama.”
Penny Dreadful premieres Sunday, May 11 at 10 p.m. on Showtime. Check out the first full trailer, below.
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