We recently joined 60 “Penny Dreadful” fans at an event that offered food, drink, music, and a screening of the latest episode complete with special guest Reeve Carney, who portrays the iconic Dorian Gray on the show.
The Bryant Park Hotel in Midtown Manhattan was the setting for the reception, held in honor of the winners of a Facebook contest. The announcement that “Penny Dreadful” will return for a second season was met with much fan happiness. More creatures! More of the occult!
As we have seen on both network and cable television, the horror genre has established a stronghold, and it’s great that Showtime is claiming monster status along with the rest.
Our event report follows; just beware if you’re not totally caught up that it does contain a few spoilers.
After libations in the hotel’s art deco bar, we were escorted downstairs, where the gift bags lived (pens, paper, and mirrors for us all) and props from the show were on display, including various knives and timepieces, crafted as artifacts of such quality that one would wonder if they were lost in time, not looking at items from a current cable series.
As the group settled into the screening area, a trivia contest commenced. The super fans knew the answers to most of the questions thrown at them, much to the delight of two Showtime staff members sitting in front of me. Winners were rewarded with prizes (t-shirts, posters, and branded decks of tarot cards) plus the glory of victory.
Next up was the Q&A. Carney was dressed in his “usual” dandy chic. (During the reception he relayed to me that the Wardrobe Dept. bases his on-screen look, in part, on his everyday attire.) His look that day was definably period. But never, and heaven forbid, steampunk. Music critic Brian Ives moderated the Q&A, questions ranging from Carney’s work in the series, being a touring musician, and his time on Broadway in Julie Taymor’s infamous Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. His hand in marriage was, of course, requested when the floor was opened up to the audience. How could one not fall under his spell?
To prepare for his role, Carney read the original Oscar Wilde book, but the production decided to move away from the source material. The painting will indeed be in the series’ future, but Carney still has not seen its design and is very curious about its construction. The character of Dorian Gray allowed Carney an occasion to reflect and learn: “Different characters that you play have an opportunity to teach you something about your own life and to help you grow as a human. So I try to come at it from that perspective, and I think of different lessons that Dorian has to teach me. One of them is fearlessness, being more fearless.”
Working on his English accent is still a work in progress. “I’m still working on it. I worked every day with my dialect coach, Jane Karen, who is amazing, so she’s there on set as well. I was nervous because I felt that that could be the moment that either makes it or breaks it with the character.”
He speaks with high praise of his formidable co-star Eva Green (she portrays Vanessa Ives). “She’s such an intensely professional performer, and so she’s just amazing. Her level of intensity is unlike most things I’ve seen. She makes it easy.” Particularly her performance during this season’s séance: “You get a front-row seat at some pretty genius craftsmanship… that’s what I felt, sitting there, because we had to do that probably about thirty times over the course of that scene because of all the coverage. If you notice, there are so many different angles, all these weird angles; one was through this sort of convex mirror. Eva had to do it over and over and over again. A lot of it was just natural reactions… [what] I thought Dorian’s response to that would be.”
And what was going though his mind after such an intense scene? “…’Curious’ would be a good word for it. I think he has, like 5 percent maybe, some sort of sense of protectiveness as well because I think he realizes it’s something that she might not even be one hundred percent in control of. So a strange combination of curiosity and a sense of… I definitely don’t think he was afraid of it, nor judgmental in any way… From what we all know of the novel The Portrait of Dorian Gray, there is some sort of supernatural quality to this character so I think he’s drawn to that same supernatural quality in Vanessa.”
PLUS PHOTOS FROM THE Q&A AND RECEPTION
When asked about his on-screen kiss with Josh Hartnett (he portrays Ethan Chandler, who gives into the supernatural allure of Dorian Gray), “It helps to have some conversations, and you laugh after a take. It might sound a little surprising, but it helps to laugh. It makes it a lot easier.”
Then there was his nude scene, too, the first of his career. “It’s a freeing experience because if you can do your job in that state of disrobedness, then it makes things a lot easier when you are wearing clothes. It’s like diving into an ice-cold pool—you get used to it eventually.”
Carney equated the bringing together of different themes and literary characters in “Penny Dreadful” to something his favorite singer/songwriter Jon Brion once said “…That there is nothing new. But he said the way to makes things new is to combine things that wouldn’t naturally go together. So I guess… that it happens with this show as well. Bringing these characters together that don’t normally exist together in everyone’s mind. I do sort of agree that there’s maybe nothing new, but at the same time you do create new things; that’s the only way they created things before.”
Along with pursuing acting, Carney also records music at a studio built in his apartment. He is looking to put out an album early next year and to tour during his break from shooting. As someone who has opened up for U2 on their 360 Tour, the crowds have never bothered him. “Honestly, that was one of the least scary things I’ve ever done. I felt sort of at home onstage there. The more people, the merrier I guess. I think we were playing for about 50,000 people at that point, and I just felt great. I loved it. The sound… their sound system that they travel with is just amazing.”
Touring with U2 does not come without its wisdom. “There is a microphone called an SM-58, which is basically the cheapest kind of professional microphone you can get, a $100 microphone. It’s made for the stage, but that’s all he [Bono] uses in the studio. Every time you’ve heard his voice on a record, he was singing through one of those microphones, with the speakers blasting in the control room. As opposed to most of us, who go into the other rooms to record. These studios have ten or twenty thousand-dollar microphones. It’s pretty amazing that he can sound like that. And I realized you don’t have to be as precious as I thought you once did… all the passion and emotion with just that sort of mic.”
From screen to stage and the Great White Way, Spider-Man on Broadway left him with a different challenge. “On the stage you have to be much more expressive. In film and television it’s much more about what you’re thinking. I had a great teacher who told me you have to think loud when you’re in front of the camera. You don’t have to do too much in terms of pushing things out there, and I have quite enjoyed that. I feel if you can get out of you own way and relax, it’s an enjoyable thing. I think the hardest thing for me is reminding myself to relax and just to have fun… just let everything go after you do a take. Whereas, in a Broadway show you get to do it every night so you know if you screw this up, you just say, ‘Ahh, I can do it again tomorrow night.’ In film and TV you don’t have the opportunity to do that. You work and work and work on this thing, and then it’s gone; it’s up there forever, and it’s a little stressful. But you’re allowed to have fun, and that’s what helps me.”
As for his future projects, Carney plans to play the late singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley in a biopic. Who better then a musician-actor to resurrect him through the lens of a camera?
Photos courtesy of Jac Chandross. Big thanks to Showtime for inviting us to the event!
“Penny Dreadful” Episode 1.06 – “What Death Can Join Together” (airs 6/15/14)
Vanessa’s latest vision leads Sir Malcolm, Ethan, and Sembene to explore a plague ship in search of Mina. Meanwhile, Van Helsing reveals to Dr. Frankenstein more details about the creature that has taken Mina. Later, Vanessa’s night with Dorian unlocks something dark within her.
Don’t forget you can still enter DREAD20 when checking out from Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful” store to receive 20% off all “Penny Dreadful” merchandise. The code is valid through December 31, 2014!
Got news? Click here to submit it!
Subscribe to the Dread Central YouTube Channel!
Count your pennies in the comments section below!