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Penny Dreadful – Josh Hartnett on the chance to work with John Logan

John Logan’s (Skyfall, Jersey Boys) love of monsters as a kid has developed into Showtime’s new series Penny Dreadful starring Josh Hartnett.

The Penny Dreadful was a fiction publication sold in the 1800’s that told tales of lurid crimes and the supernatural. Set in Victorian era, Josh Hartnett  portrays Ethan Chandler, a member of a Wild West show that travels to England – and because of the secrecy surrounding this horror thriller, all I can say is … there will be monsters, including Frankenstein’s monster (Rory Kinnear) and Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney). So, as Josh Hartnett said himself at the TV Critics tour, to find out more, ‘you have to watch it!’ And you can on Showtime starting May 11th.

What appealed to you about doing this series?

Penny Dreadful, 101 - Josh Hartnett and Eva Green
Penny Dreadful, 101 – Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) ©2014 Showtime, photo by Jonathan Hession

For me, the entire interest in doing the project was based on the people that were involved.

Being able to work with John Logan, who’s created so [many] interesting stories over the years in film, and knowing that this was his first television project, and I really felt like the people at Showtime would be interesting partners to work with over a long period of time.

They were supportive of the process and allowed us to do things that are a little bit different.

It didn’t have anything to do for me with the subject matter, as it usually doesn’t when I  choose anything else to work on. It has more to do with the people involve, and the quality of the scripts.

What about the concept for the series?

Penny Dreadful, 101 - Timothy Dalton and Josh Hartnett
Penny Dreadful, 101 – Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) and Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) ©2014 Showtime, photo by Jonathan Hession

The interweaving of the historic horror characters and our characters is seamless. You won’t watch the film and say, ‘Oh, well, there’s a character we’ve all seen before.’ I think that even the people that are playing characters that you’ve seen before are playing them in a different way.

So it just feels unique from beginning to end when you’re on the set. You’re not seeing an interpretation that’s been [seen] before.

Tell us a little about your character when we first meet him.

Ethan has been working in a Wild West show. It’s not necessarily the top Wild West show. It’s kind of a second-tier Wild West show. But back in the 1800s, since Buffalo Bill created the concept of the chivalrous cowboy and the nefarious Native American, it was the biggest show on earth, and it traveled.

[Ethan] finds himself in London in the middle of  this intriguing situation, and he decides to stick around and see what happens, we don’t know why really and that’s why you have to watch the show.

Can you tell us more about the concept?

Penny Dreadful, 104 - Danny Sapani, Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Harry Treadaway and Timothy Dalton
Penny Dreadful, 104 – Sembene (Danny Sapani), Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), Dr Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) and Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) ©2014 Showtime, photo by Jonathan Hession

There’s not much that we can say about where the characters go, but there’s a sleight of hand trick with most characters. There’s an intriguing side of them that probably isn’t shown initially.

I want to stress this is an ensemble show. A lot of the actors can’t be here, but these other actors are all fantastic, and really this world is just so completely realized that it makes our job a lot easier. None of us is carrying the whole thing.

What’s it like venturing into TV now?

The long form of television is something that’s new to me, and I like what we discussed early on, which is that the future is not written entirely for Ethan yet, and what we do in these first few episodes is going to determine how he proceeds and how he’s viewed. It’s much more like life that way.

Josh was asked what his favorite horror movie is – click here for his answer.

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