By Sandra Gonzalez
Updated September 02, 2012 at 05:49 PM EDT
BBC America

Franka Potente thinks she hit the fashion jackpot on BBC America’s Copper.

With costume designer Delphine White at the helm, Potente says the show’s journey into 1860s fashion is one with few boundaries when it comes to her character, madam Eva Heissen.

“We took this character for a ride around the block,” says Potente, best known for starring in Run Lola Run and two of the Bourne films. “Me and Delphine said, ‘Listen, if nobody stops us, this is what we’re going to do.’ And [the character] became such a rock star.”

The mid-1860s was a tumultuous time for New York City’s Five Points neighborhood, where the series is set. Rampant poverty and crime left a community of scavengers that had little know of — or interest in — the world outside the area.

On the show, which premiered on August 19, Potente’s Eva is a former prostitute who now calls the shots as owner of the local brothel and occasionally finds herself in the sheets with local crime fighter Det. Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones).

The racy nature of the role is what allowed the actress and costumer White to explore lesser-seen aspects of the era, says Potente, whose character’s wardrobe includes top hats, lace gloves, and yards of off-beat fabrics.

“I always said that if [Eva] is a madame, all these sailors and people from all over the world would come rolling through,” Potente says. “So she has tons of fabrics and bling from all over the world, and we used that. They were cool with that. As long as nobody stops you with your little ideas, you just go with it. And it worked.”

It was important to keep “an open mind about the era” while shaping the character’s style, Potente adds.

“You have to remind yourself that people didn’t [receive] information that fast. There were no computers and all these things. So when you live in such s–t, how much do you care about what goes on [fashion-wise] elsewhere? Not that much,” she says. “So we have to think about it that way, and it’s a little more interesting too.”

See the fashion action for yourself on Copper, which airs Sundays on BBC America.