It’s a tale of monsters and men.
“Penny Dreadful,” Showtime’s upcoming psychological horror thriller from John Logan (“Skyfall”), centers on an American (played by Josh Hartnett) who finds himself trapped in the darkest corners of Victorian London amongst some of literature’s iconic monsters.
It’s a world that Logan, who was promoting the show Thursday during Showtime’s session at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena, says he was destined to take part in, having grown up watching “Groovie Goolies” and eating Frankenberry.
“It’s in my DNA,” said Logan, who penned the eight-episode first season. “I have respect for the genre.”
His mindtrip to 1891 London is a lesson in the wonders of reading. About a decade ago, Logan found himself reading a lot by Romantic poets -- William Wordsworth, among them. That led him to revisit Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” That’s when a TV show idea began percolating.
“I had no interest in writing a horror piece originally,” Logan said, sitting next to Harnett and Eva Green, who plays Vanessa Ives, a woman full of secrets. “I was very disturbed by [“Frankenstein”]. And I started thinking about the themes and why almost 200 years after it was written, we still read “Frankenstein.” I think it’s because the monsters break my heart.”
He added that living as a gay man, he identified with the monsters’ sense of alienation and not feeling like “everyone else.”
In creating the premise for the show, he was inspired by the old Universal Pictures horror movies that paired the Wolf Man with Dracula and Frankenstein: “I wondered if there was a way to do that now and still take the characters seriously.”
The era was a crucial component in achieving that objective. And at a time when period dramas are a dime a dozen, Logan explained his intent with exploring the Victorian era.
“There’s something about the Victorian era that reminds me of right now,” he said. “They were on the cusp of modern world. They were grappling with very elemental questions of what it is to be human. When I sit down at my computer, I feel exactly the same way.”
So don’t be daunted by the verbose dialogue.
“It’s very much a modern show,” Logan said. “I think we all would feel we failed if it feels like a museum piece.”
“Penny Dreadful,” which also boasts Oscar winner Sam Mendes among its executive producers and features Juan Antonio Bayona ("The Orphanage") as a director, will launch May 11 on Showtime.
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