Carnival Row maker Travis Beacham never thought he would ever see his story on the screen. The fantasy drama of Amazon Studios began as a spec scenario that he started writing at the university, he said The edge. “And it was really only for an audience of one. I thought everything I put in was insanely cool, but I never thought it would resonate with anyone else. I think this is really the history of this project, but I am constantly surprised by the fact that I am not the only person who likes things like this. "
After years of development The original Blacklist-winning film script from Beacham (originally titled A murder on Carnival Row) has become a series, with an initial season with eight episodes already available on Amazon and a renewal for season 2. The story is set in the Burge – a city reminiscent of Victorian London – and focuses on people and fae whose uncomfortable coexistence leads to violence, political intrigue and romance.
Central to the story are police detective Philo (Orlando Bloom) and rebellious faerie Vignette (Cara Delevingne). Their star-crossed love is one of the many storylines that emphasize a class and racial gap that serve as a clear allegory for modern social dynamics. Carnival Row brings in many elements to create something original, but as Beacham and executive producer Marc Guggenheim explained, they tried to substantiate the story as much as possible – sometimes relying on cop-drama clichés to make the audience feel at ease at their new world.
This interview has been edited slightly for clarity and conciseness.
Where is it from Carnival Row as a title?
Travis Beacham: The easiest way to talk about it would be in relation to the neighborhood itself. In writing alone (the show) has gone through many different names. I can't really remember how we ended up Carnival RowBut what I ended up with was the idea that this neighborhood was once the epicenter of human fascination for these other people from across the ocean, and there were real literal fairs and carnivals. I just liked the mashup for those ideas.
That speaks about how much development this project has gone through.
TB: I have a very difficult time separating the history of the world from the real history of this idea. It all starts to melt together in my mind.
Did you have fixed rules about the technological or fantastic elements when developing the show?
TB: As far as technology is concerned, we try to rely on what was possible in the Victorian era. They don't have a phone or something, but maybe they can have lifts. And if it falls into that historic window, we consider it a fair game. I mean, it's an invented world. So we allow ourselves some room to admit somehow, but if it wasn't something that was possible in real Victorian times, that's not something we're going to do in our show.
As far as magic is concerned, one of the things I like about fantasy stories is a sense of restraint, so that it's not littered with magic. Our fairy characters, for example, fly because they have wings. We try to root it in a physicality. So if you have magic, it feels a bit rare and feels like an invasion of the physical world, rather than something that is commonplace.
Marc Guggenheim: I would even say that, as far as the show goes into magic, it is more like mysticism than magic in the way we normally see it. Again, that is what helps to keep it well founded and interesting. When it appears in the show, it is a special event.
TB: In a normal fantasy show, where you often wave magic wand, magic usually becomes relatively routine and commonplace. But in our show it still has this craziness.
MG: Even a gut that reads signs is taken from real history.
TB: The name for that character (played by Alice Krige) is the Haruspex, that is actually a Latin term. It means that it is someone who reads the entrails of birds.
MG: It's a niche job.
TB: Very niche.
The fact that this is an original world, not based on a book or film, is such a rarity these days.
TB: Oh yeah. It is very unusual. So I think it's always useful to lean to narrative pressure points – anchor points of reality. You have the scene with Philo & # 39; s boss who says, "Give me your badge." It's in that kind of cliché where the public gets the reassurance of: "Yes, many weird things are happening in this world, but I can follow this story. It will tend to be in certain archetypes." I think incorporating that kind of fame helps with its novelty.
It is just like the fairy-tale creatures. Everyone has in mind the idea of fauns as voluptuous forest creatures or fairies as deceptive shape-shifters. So what we have done in this world is to make all those archetypal fairy tale ideas the racist stereotypes that people have. So we don't fight the public. We lean in all the stories they've heard. We have just contextualized them again.
This is a major factor in the context of the storyline of Agreus and Imogen. (Tamzin Merchant plays Imogen Spurnrose, a young woman of the higher class who is fascinated by Agreus (David Gyasi), a rich faun who tries to integrate herself into Burge high society.) When approaching that specific story, you thought: " What if Jane Austen was in our writer's room? & # 39;
TB: (laughs) It would have been great to have Jane, but she was unavailable for several reasons. But one of the things we like about the show is that it takes you to all these different places. They are different shows, and one of these is this Victorian romance. It was never really part of the original script that I wrote, which was very focused on Philo and Vignette. But when expanding the story we had to think about the whole world and what other characters we would meet. That was probably the nicest new thing to add, because it was a corner of the world that I never discovered in the feature version.
Regarding the casting, how was your approach blind?
TB: Of course we want a very diverse cast, so we tried to be blind about it. But in the case of Agreus, given the legitimate nature of his dilemma – a minority that has moved to a higher class neighborhood – we didn't want to put that problem in the mouth of a white man. We wanted to be absolutely diverse with that role.
MG: David (Gyasi) is wonderful. It completely transforms.
TB: I did a pilot with Fox centuries ago, and he actually came about in the breath of playing the lead role in it. I was very impressed by him. And his audition was great. I text & # 39; to everyone: "Oh my god, David Gyasi read. You have to look at it. & # 39; I'm glad I have to work with him.
What kind of feedback did he give on those sequences?
TB: He is a very thoughtful actor about the historical context, as well as the context within the story. So he is enormously helpful, goes into scenes, just gives us feedback and his perspective that he brings based on his own life experiences.
Are the fauns at the technical level the most difficult make-up for the actors?
MG: Yes, the makeup effects on the show were done by a genius named Nick Dudman. He is a legend in this area. He was working on the Harry Potter movies and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. And he designed Jack Nicholson's prosthesis for the Joker sitter. So he is literally the perfect person to do this show, and he is constantly inventive.
In season 2 we literally double the number of fantasy creatures we see in the show. And Nick not only made these creatures, but also went back to think of better ways to do the fairy wings and the application of the puck horns. He constantly comes up with new and different ideas, both in the field of creative and also in the field of delivery.
TB: Nick is our Q. He is an incredible engineer, as well as an artist. He scales all this out for television because the TV is moving at a certain pace. It's very different from movies, and Nick knows that very well.
What do your new fantasy creatures look like?
TB: We look at different types of pucks and fairies – different horn shapes and different wing shapes, races within races. But beyond that you will get some creatures that are our version of eleven, and some creatures that look like goblin, and a host of other things. The menagerie of the world will really expand in season 2, quite a lot.
How is season 2 progressing?
MG: Excellent. We have a very extensive pre-prep period and we are almost done with all eight scripts for the second season, and we don't even start production until the end of September. So we are very, very far ahead of the curve, which is frankly where we like to be and how to do a show of this size.
Do you also stay for season 2 with eight episodes?
MG: Yes, we liked it. We have structured season 1 as a chapter of eight chapters, because we have noticed that some shows are structured in short order like a film with a structure with three actions. Travis and I discovered that the middle of the season tends to lag behind those shows a little. With our approach, in the middle, is when everything really increases and changes. It is therefore permitted to tell a story in which every episode is full of impact and reveals every episode full of great moments and character.
Because of the fantasy elements and the amount of globalization involved, it seems that this is a show designed for an online fandom. Did you have that element in mind?
TB: We are vaguely aware that the buzz and enthusiasm is growing.
MG: I have some experience with fandom and I think that when the tone of the discourse is positive, it is something great. Because it makes television really fun and interactive. We write so far ahead when we drop the episodes that there is simply no way to respond to what the fans like or dislike. But when we started rolling out the show, it became clear to us that this is the kind of show designed for people going to Comic-Con. And the answer was great.
(Warning: spoilers follow for the final of season 1 of Carnival Row.)
The season ends in a dark tone, with the fae limited to a ghetto after the city undergoes a major political upheaval. When you decided to end up that way, what kind of stories do you hope this would make possible for season 2?
TB: At the end of season 1, all of our characters are in completely different circumstances than they started at the show. And that also applies to the Burge itself. The change that the city is going through in the eighth and final episode is so seismic that season 2 really begins. Without that change, the story we tell in season 2 would not be possible.
Will it be a more political season?
MG: The political perspective will be explored in a different way. The only thing we're looking at is never duplicating exactly what is happening in the real world – not doing it Animal farm a kind of analog where it is one-on-one, but creates a situation that seems to speak to the real world. One of the most challenging things about coming up with the political trajectory for season 2 is that we don't just want to do: "Oh, who is our Donald Trump?" Instead, we want to tackle the problems that are currently in the real world, but in our own way, in a way that is true to the characters we have created.
TB: We may have a dubious political leader who is immensely unsuitable for the position he holds. You can draw your own conclusions from that.