It’s alive!

The idea behind John Logan’s Penny Dreadful was to create a television show where classic horror super villains and their hideous minions interacted with society. The show tells the story of Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), a Wild West showman and Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), a hardened explorer tracing a mysterious killer.

“John recalled the 1960s era of gothic horror films when characters such as Frankenstein or Dracula emerged,” Chris King, also the show’s executive and supervising producer said over the phone from Los Angeles. “The novels came out at the turn of the century, the films showed the arcs of evolution of these characters. He wanted to incorporate that kind of storytelling into television, through his favourite characters. He wanted to bring them all together into one world.”

Elaborating King says: “Though we bring in characters from horror novels, the show is a drama about faith. Every one of John’s characters explores the struggle between good and evil.”

Under all the viciousness lies a longing for love and belongingness, for family. King said what Logan, who is known for his writing in films such as Skyfall and Gladiator , loves about television is that one could watch characters evolve over the course of years rather than just a few hours.

“The creators always wanted to stay true to the original material. But since it was a television show, the characters needed to have longer stories beyond the novels. It is a fine balance, to stay true to the character while telling an entertaining story that can carry on. Sometimes it is nice to create new versions.”

Dr. Jekyll, who is introduced in Season 3 is played by Shazad Latif, who is of Pakistani and British origins. “It is a new version of the original Dr. Jekyll and it is a nice way of understanding the character.”

What made the show successful, he observed, was that the creators never tried to dumb down the show. “We tried to keep it as smart, sophisticated and interesting as we could. It is not an easy show to follow, the characters speak in Victorian English and use poetry. But that is why the audience loves it. I’m a huge fan of horror, especially of romance-horror. But John always makes sure this is a drama first before it is a horror show. It all comes down to John’s dialogues.”

The intensity of the genre and the story is challenging, King commented. “Vanessa, played by Eva Green, has been possessed, hunted by witches, and battled her own demons. Yet Eva is always prepared and ready to work and has the biggest smile even after the most difficult sequence. In Season 3, we have truly pushed her beyond anything she’s done before, but she steps up and delivers every day.”

Seasons 1, 2 and 3 of Penny Dreadful will air on AXN from May 30 onwards