WEIRD SCI­ENCE

In its third sea­son, Penny Dread­ful plunges even deeper into Vic­to­rian hor­ror lit­er­a­ture. Joseph McCabe goes mon­ster hunt­ing

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Penny Dreadful - Penny Dread­ful re­turns to Sky Atlantic in May.

As hor­ror fans know, nine­teen­th­cen­tury fic­tion is the gift that keeps on giv­ing. Nov­els like Drac­ula, Franken­stein and The Pic­ture Of Dorian Gray have fu­elled count­less adap­ta­tions on stage and screen, and served as the foun­da­tion for cre­ator John Lo­gan’s on­go­ing mon­ster mash Penny Dread­ful. Now in its third sea­son, the se­ries has won an ever- widen­ing global au­di­ence for its take on the char­ac­ters of Bram Stoker, Mary Shel­ley and Os­car Wilde. And in year three, su­per­vis­ing pro­ducer Chis King tells SFX, Dr Henry Jekyll, as played by Shazad Latif, will join the show, when au­di­ences are pre­sented with a new take on Robert Louis Steven­son’s ex­plo­ration of good and evil in The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde.

“When we first started look­ing at the idea of do­ing a show like this,” says King, “we read all the books. We read The In­vis­i­ble Man and The War Of The Worlds. We re­ally went through the trea­sure chest of Vic­to­rian hor­ror nov­els. Just to sort of get a sense of how those sto­ries were told. That’s why Dr Jekyll has al­ways been on the list of char­ac­ters we wanted to ex­plore.

“But only when the op­por­tu­nity pro­vided it­self. We never wanted to feel like it was a forced sit­u­a­tion. We wanted to make it a slow process. Be­cause I think that’s also a bit more fun for the au­di­ence. You just never know who’s go­ing to show up next.”

As King points out, Penny Dread­ful’s Jekyll

will dif­fer in at least one key re­spect from the doomed sci­en­tist of Vic­to­rian lit­er­a­ture…

“We still try to be true to the novel, to the char­ac­ter, but John wanted to make him stand out and wanted to give con­text for what drove him to want to work with chem­i­cals to change who he was. What’s in­ter­est­ing is we play with race here, be­cause the char­ac­ter is of In­dian de­scent. And be­ing a man of colour in Lon­don 1892 was a tough call. We get a sense of Dr Jekyll feel­ing like an out­sider. Just like all of our other char­ac­ters on the show. But he’s truly an out­sider. He doesn’t be­long and no one wants him there. So it’s an in­ter­est­ing dy­namic as to why he’s pur­su­ing things to make him dif­fer­ent or make him bet­ter or change who he is.”

Jekyll will also share a his­tory with Penny Dread­ful’s Dr Vic­tor Franken­stein.

“We play with the idea that Dr Jekyll was a stu­dent at the same time as Dr Franken­stein, so they have a his­tory to­gether as two young stu­dents grow­ing up in the med­i­cal field. It was a fun way of bring­ing th­ese char­ac­ters to­gether. But it cre­ated a whole new dy­namic for both our Dr Franken­stein and Dr Jekyll.”

Where goes Jekyll, so goes his mon­strous al­ter ego. So should hor­ror fans be­gin look­ing for­ward to a smack­down be­tween Mr Hyde and Franken­stein’s cre­ation?

“I can’t re­veal all our se­crets!” laughs the pro­ducer.

en­ter dr se­ward

In ad­di­tion to Jekyll, sea­son three will in­tro­duce an­other physi­cian pulled from the pages of Vic­to­ri­ana – Bram Stoker’s Dr Se­ward; played ( in a bit of gen­der re­ver­sal) by vet­eran ac­tress Patti LuPone. As ther­a­pist to Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives, Se­ward is tasked with over­see­ing the enig­matic medium’s men­tal re­con­struc­tion in the wake of sea­son two’s har­row­ing events.

“We saw at the end of sea­son two when she dropped her cross into the fire it showed that she felt aban­doned by every­body, in­clud­ing her god,” says King of Ives. “The one per­son that she had all the faith in. So she’s faith­less at the be­gin­ning of this sea­son. She’s alone. Sir Mal­colm’s off in Africa bury­ing bod­ies, Ethan has been taken pris­oner and is on his way to the Amer­i­cas. She just feels ut­terly alone and lost. She’s a com­pletely shat­tered per­son from the Vanessa that we’ve known. This sort of strong, pow­er­ful, very well put to­gether woman changes into a bro­ken child.

“The thing about Dr Se­ward is she’s try­ing des­per­ately to help Vanessa, but she’s a woman of sci­ence. So the idea of the su­per­nat­u­ral and the oc­cult are things that for her aren’t nec­es­sar­ily grounded in re­al­ity. But even­tu­ally she comes around to un­der­stand­ing who Vanessa is, and who is be­hind all of the dark­ness in­side of her.” LuPone ap­peared in sea­son two of Penny

Dread­ful as the now de­ceased witch Joan Clay­ton ( aka the Cut- Wife). But, adds King, “when the idea of cre­at­ing some­one who helped Vanessa came up, John said, ‘ I have to have Patti back.’ It’s re­vealed through­out the sea­son that per­haps she has some sort of blood re­la­tion with Joan Clay­ton, with the Cut- Wife, so you’ll come to un­der­stand why the same ac­tor is play­ing two dif­fer­ent roles.”

go­ing na­tive

As for Ives’ other ally, Ethan ( Josh Hart­nett), in sea­son three the were­wolf ad­ven­turer serves as a means of in­tro­duc­ing yet an­other cul­ture to Penny Dread­ful – that of Na­tive Amer­i­cans.

“While the em­pire was tak­ing over Africa and In­dia and wip­ing out cul­tures, in Amer­ica it was tak­ing out the Na­tive Amer­i­cans. What hap­pened to those cul­tures that were killed or forced on to reser­va­tions with their land taken away from them… Yeah, we do play on that this sea­son, with a char­ac­ter played by Wes Studi. His name is Kaete­nay, and he has a very trou­bled his­tory with Ethan’s char­ac­ter. We learn a lot about what hap­pened at the time with Sit­ting Bull and all th­ese hor­ri­ble things that took place with all the var­i­ous tribes in Amer­ica. It’s an in­ter­est­ing world to ex­plore, and to com­pare that with what was tak­ing place in the UK. There are some in­ter­est­ing sto­ries in the Na­tive Amer­i­can cul­ture and we’ve been able to pull some of those out and be in­flu­enced by some of those as well.”

De­spite the hor­ror in which it’s shrouded, King be­lieves that a large part of Penny Dread­ful’s ap­peal lies in its ex­plo­ration of fam­ily and the ties that bind peo­ple to­gether.

“Sea­son one was all about bring­ing this fam­ily to­gether – a very dys­func­tional, dark and twisted fam­ily, but a fam­ily none­the­less. Then by sea­son two, at the very end, we saw that fam­ily ripped apart. They’re all sep­a­rated and scat­tered across the world. This sea­son is about them un­der­stand­ing how much they need each other. And it’s all about re­al­is­ing what their des­tinies are. That leads us to sea­son four, un­der­stand­ing a bit more about them and then go­ing off and bat­tling more dark and sin­is­ter el­e­ments.”

Is there any lit­er­ary char­ac­ter who’s not yet ap­peared on Penny Dread­ful that King would like to see in fu­ture sea­sons?

“There’s so many other re­ally fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ters from that time pe­riod that we can slowly re­veal and ex­plore. I’ve al­ways loved the Dr Moreau story [ The Is­land Of Dr Moreau]. I think there’s some­thing fas­ci­nat­ing there as well… But time will tell. We only have eight to ten episodes per sea­son to try to tell th­ese sto­ries, and we’re gonna take our time.”

There’s so many fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ters from the time pe­riod that we can slowly re­veal

Don’t singe your hair, mate.

Sir Mal­colm Mur­ray ( Ti­mothy Dal­ton) needs a drink.

“If only we had some baked beans to warm up.”

Bil­lie Piper’s Lily copies the pose above.

How to make one ac­tress go a long way.

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