“I don’t want to give it away and say I’m going to die like I usually do.”
So says Sean Bean, sometimes referred to as “The Walking Spoiler”, as he took the stage at the Television Critics Association Press tour to talk about his new A&E series, The Frankenstein Chronicles. A grounded re-imagining of the Frankenstein myth set in 19th century London, The Frankenstein Chronicles puts a spin on the classic tale by examining it through the lens of an investigator who stumbles on the horrific remains of Dr. Frankenstein’s failed experiments rather than that of the mad scientist himself.
It also puts a spin on Bean’s tradition of dying on screen – often to horrific or devastating effect – at climactic moments in his film’s and TV programs. Well, he’s still probably going to do that, but The Frankenstein Chronicles is putting it on the table up front. Bean plays Inspector John Marlott, the man on the trail of Frankenstein’s morbid, murderous experiments, who also happens to by dying of syphilis. In his attempt to survive his illness, Marlottt consumes some pretty serious pills — an element of the story that not only offers Bean a new way to die on screen, but calls into question his character’s entire grasp on reality.
And as the story progresses, his syphilis kind of gets worse and more intense. And so he does find himself wondering if he has actually seen what he’s seen with his own eyes, whether he’s dreaming it. He’s having terrible dreams. He’s taking Mercury pills, which were pretty heavy stuff in those days, but the only thing that kind of kept it at bay. He knows he’s not going to be around for long.
Hmmmm. A man dying of the syph in a show about Frankenstein….could Bean be in for a bit of a resurrection? Methinks maybe. However, like everything in The Frankenstein Chronicles that doesn’t have to do with bringing back the dead, Marlott’s illness is rooted in historical accuracy.
It wasn’t just a kind of a gimmick to put into the story. I think it was prevalent at the time and many people suffered from it and just trying to keep a clear head with the medication and the syphilis and this horrific discovery. He’s still a quite a sensitive and intelligent policeman, but he’s questioning his own mental state, ultimately, and everyone else is as well.
Indeed, for series creator Benjamin Ross, who also directs all six episodes, The Frankenstein Chronicles was born out of his fascination with the social history of the time period and the way it influenced Mary Shelley’s classic novel.
Shelley’s novel had emerged from these facts, these historical conditions as much as her own imagination, and that there was a way of going back to that story with an emphasis on all of the things that were real in it, that had it and that were part of the world that it had come out of, so, yes, all of that stuff. It’s the stories of fantasy, but it’s interwoven with historical truth… I thought instead just doing a flat-out sort of piece of social history, why not do it actually as Frankenstein, because then you get to enter into the mythical terrain of that world in an ambiguous and in a rich way. So it’s not just a history piece. It’s a fantasy piece, but it’s rooted in the real world.
The series will tie in Mary Shelley as a character within the narrative, and tie in the origin of her novel itself, including the famous dream that supposedly inspired the horror tale.
of the novel is dealt with in our story and is part of the investigative narrative. We take a few liberties with it as you have to in these things. But, yes, it is in there, and it does involve the dream, the nightmare. It doesn’t involve the events in Geneva, but previous to that, acquaintances that she had in the world of science and — her and Shelley, which, again, based in historical facts, which, as I say, we’ve fudged a little bit. But it is in there, and that’s part of the lore, the myth behind the novel itself.
The Frankenstein Chronicles will premiere on A&E later this year.