Showtime's Victorian England-set thriller (debuting May 11) is a monster of a production — and not just because it stars Frankenstein's brute
Just outside Dublin lies Ardmore Studios — onetime home to Braveheart and My Left Foot — which now shelters Showtime’s new horror drama about an African explorer (Timothy Dalton) who teams up with a clairvoyant (Eva Green) and a Wild West entertainer (Josh Hartnett) to find his missing daughter. Their quest gave Penny Dreadful creator John Logan, who co-wrote Skyfall, a way to revisit classic literary creations we’ve all known and loved (and had nightmares about). “Sir Malcolm, Vanessa, and Ethan are the fictional spine which come into familiar characters like Dr. Frankenstein, the Creature, Dorian Gray, and vampires,” Logan says. Let’s take a trip inside the creepy creature feature.
A Yankee Guide Hartnett plays an American outsider by design. “He’s the eyes into this world,” says Logan. “I wanted the audience to be led into a world that was so bizarre and unfamiliar that they would feel completely unsettled — not only because it’s a different country but [also because] it’s a different time that deals with the supernatural.”
Gore Galore The prosthetics lab could easily be mistaken for a morgue because on any given day, a visitor could find a fake dead body — or a pile of innards — lying on one of the tables. “Everything needed to feel real,” says McKinstry. “John didn’t want to hold back on the gory part.”
Bloody Hell The monsters on Penny do their fair share of killing, so a team of expert prosthetic technicians came aboard to, um, lend a hand. Fortunately, production designer Jonathan McKinstry had no problem stomaching the bloodshed. “I worked on HBO’s Band of Brothers, and there were a lot of dead bodies on that.”
Signs of the Times An entire print shop was formed at Ardmore Studios to make vintage signs for the set. “Signage played such a huge part in everyday life in Victorian London,” explains McKinstry. “Buildings were covered with them, so we made sure we represented them wherever possible.”
Location Swap The streets of Dublin doubled beautifully for Victorian London. “It hasn’t been modernized in quite the same way, and traffic was easy to control,” says McKinstry. “We weren’t completely trapped on a backlot.”
Setting the Scene A turn-of-the-century torture tub? Close! Look for monsters to come and go — and be created — on eerie set pieces like this one.