PENNY DREADFUL Comic-Con Panel Recap: John Logan and Cast Discuss FRANKENSTEIN’s Influence, the Importance of Family, and Season 2

     July 25, 2014


Moderated enthusiastically by self-proclaimed “dreadful” and evidently devoted fan Aisha Tyler, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful closed out the festivities in Ballroom 20 on Thursday. Though some of the actors were absent, most notably Eva Green, showrunner John Logan and stars Josh Hartnett, Reeve Carney, and Harry Treadaway all spoke enthusiastically about the first season of the surprise hit show and gave hints about what will be coming in the next season.  Hit the jump for more on our Penny Dreadful Comic-Con panel recap. 

penny-dreadful-comic-con-panel-recap-eva-greenThis is clearly a passion project for Logan, who has spent ten years of his life thinking about the show, and he opened the panel by saying how emotional it was to finally be on this side of a Comic-Con stage. He came up with the idea for the show while reading Wordsworth and a lot of other Romantic poets during a period of deep depression, and finally Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which made him weep. Fascinated by the world conjured by that literature, he began conceiving of an idea for the show, which he says is really about “the monster in all of us… the thing we must embrace, the thing which makes us who we really are.”

Logan came back to this idea repeatedly throughout the panel: that gifts and curses can be one in the same. He spoke extensively about how his identity as a gay man influenced and informed the show: growing up gay in a less accepting time, he often felt alienated, and ultimately realized that the thing that made him who he was also made him different from everyone else, a journey most of the characters on the show must also undertake, though in a slightly more literal fashion.

penny-dreadful-comic-con-recap-josh-hartnettOf course, Hartnett and Carney’s characters do have what you might call a liaison midway through the season, about which Logan said, “As a gay man, I thought it would be corrupt and inorganic not to deal with all forms of sexuality on this show,” going on to add that questions of classification (whether Ethan and Dorian were gay, or bi, et cetera) were largely irrelevant: viewers, he said, should take a modern day, twenty-first century approach to the content of the show, despite it being set in the Victorian era. Similarly, when some audience members later asked questions about Green’s character, for whom sex triggers demonic possession, he quickly and emphatically stated that there was no strict corollary between female sexuality and evil on the show, and denied that viewers were supposed to infer that Vanessa was being punished for her actions. The next season, he said, would develop all of the characters’ relationships, including their sexual mores, further.

Another persistent theme throughout the panel was Logan’s lack of experience as a television writer, despite his impressive film and theater credentials, and how that background (or lack thereof) has informed his writing of the show. He and Hartnett said that they have discussed the backstory of his character – an original creation, unlike Carney or Treadaway’s characters – extensively, and Logan said that he hoped to do more episodes focusing exclusively on a single character’s backstory, as he did this season with Vanessa. He described this season as, essentially, an overture to the story he wants to tell, which in the upcoming season will become much more broad and complex, with more threats to the central characters and a more diverse array of supernatural elements.

He said someone had given him the advice that TV is all about family, and so he structured these first eight hours to build a family, which he can now play with and evolve over the course of future episodes and seasons. This ties in, too, to his approach to the texts upon which he has based his show: while he is obviously drawing from classic literature, he isn’t going to be sticking too close to the texts. He said that killing off Van Helsing so quickly, for instance, was particularly “joyous,” since it showed that they weren’t interested in simply recreating the sacred text, not just retelling the story. As he said: “We respect what we have, but we are liberated: come with us.”

penny-dreadful-comic-con-panel-eva-green-olivia-llewellynSome more specific details:

  • Dorian Gray’s fashion inspiration: David Bowie, Mick Jagger. Or, based on his own apparel, Reeve Carney himself.
  • The show – which he has planned out through three seasons – will lead slowly into the Dracula story.
  • One of Logan’s main frustrations this season was not having a villain who could speak, and next season that will be rectified in the form of Helen McCrory, who played the spiritualist Madame Kali in two episodes this season. Simon Russell Beale will also be a regular next season.
  • Next season, the Creature will be forced to pick a name for himself, which will be the name of another Romantic poet.
  • Treadaway thinks that both Frankenstein and the Creature have similar problems in that they “Both grew up with too much poetry.”
  • We will get to see the portrait of Dorian “at some point” – they were going to show a version at the end of this season, but ultimately decided to hold off.
  • In the upcoming season, Ethan will find out exactly what he is capable of, and have to deal with the ramifications of that. We’ll also find out more about his past, and what he’s running from: his father was a titan of industry out west, and treated him terribly, until something happened that led to his current curse (or maybe blessing), which caused him to run.
  • The relationship between Vanessa and Ethan will be a central focus of the upcoming season.

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