Carnival Row has all the ingredients to become our new TV obsession: a Victorian setting, fantasy elements, timely narrative issues, and two stars we love – Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne. In this upcoming show from Amazon Prime Video, a human detective and a fairy rekindle a dangerous affair in a city where uneasy peace collapses when a string of murders reveals an unimaginable monster.
HNS attended the press conference with Bloom (Rycroft Philostrate), Tamzin Merchant (Imogen Spurnose), David Gyasi (Mr. Agreus), and Executive Producers Travis Beacham and Marc Guggenheim at San Diego Comic-Con. Here are a few of the must-know reveals about the upcoming Carnival Row.
1. The show has some serious parallels to our world today – especially on issues of immigration and discrimination.
Carnival Row deals with some heavy issues – and we’re not just talking murder. In the world of the show, the fae folk immigrating to The Burgue for shelter from their war-torn homeland are heavily discriminated against by humans. They are perceived as stealing jobs from humans, among other issues. Sound familiar?
The cast spoke passionately about becoming part of a show dealing with such timely issues. “The great gift and opportunity of stepping into this show was because it was so timely and it did feel relevant to a lot of the issues that are happening in the world today,” Orlando Bloom explained. “Alongside that, because we’re in this fantastical world […], we’re able to examine with real humanity some of the really tragic and desperate situations that are happening in the world with an objective and empathetic view because we are looking at fauns or at the fae folk, as we call them, and it enables us to sort of step outside of ourselves and look at the situation and think around it. It was so beautifully handled by both Travis and Marc in the writing that it was a gift, I think, for all of us.”
2. Despite these parallels, don’t expect to see a “who’s who” of American politics or any recognizable public figures.
As recognizable and relevant as many of the themes of the show are, Carnival Row is far from a direct reflection of America’s top politicians. The show will stand on its own with a unique narrative we’re excited to see unfold.
“We try not to hit things too firmly on the head – where it’s like it’s Animal Farm and you can pick out who represents who,” Executive Producer Travis Beacham said. “For us, we wanted to talk about issues but without becoming an allegory or a parody. We wanted to create a world that feels real in and of itself that has things in common with everywhere in the world. It’s a show that lives in a lot of different worlds – it lives on the street, but equally it lives in the drawing rooms and upper-class households and the people in power. The perspective of the show is that one affects the other and that everything affects everything.”
3. This is Orlando Bloom’s first foray into TV, and it’s a journey he was excited to take.
It’s hard to believe that Orlando Bloom hasn’t been part of a TV series before now, but it’s the truth. All we have to say is thank you, Amazon. While it might seem like a big change to jump from film to television, Orlando had nothing but positive things to say about the transition.
TV has previously been viewed as something of a “little brother” to film, in Orlando’s words, but the landscape has changed to the point where that point of view has become pretty much obsolete. “[The production] was so expensive and big – it felt like an eight-hour movie, like we were on a movie set. It was my first time in the TV space but I think that idea is sort of gone now, and as an actor it’s just so fun to get to go deep into character like that,” he said.
4. Keep your eyes open for some incredible details – large and small.
One of the most delightful parts of watching a new fantasy show or movie is keeping an eye out for all the incredible details – whether it’s someone with special powers, an unbelievable set, or something hidden in a corner or on a garment that feels like a discovery all your own. The cast of Carnival Row was blown away by these types of details on set, and they teased a few that you can keep an eye out for when the show premieres.
“I was so excited when I first walked down The Row,” Bloom said. “I’m blessed. [Being on] the set of The Lord of the Rings was a mind-blowing experience, and the bar has been set so high. But I was so overjoyed to walk down Carnival Row and see the level of detail.”
Orlando described a shop owned by a witch-like creature that he was especially amazed by. “She’s got these potions and there are these creatures in jars… You couldn’t imagine that, and that [kind of thing] was what was so exciting when I first read the script. I was like, Wow – I don’t think I’ve seen that before. I love this fantasy world because I feel like you can explore and go places with it. To see it physicalized and created – I geek out over stuff like that.”
While the shop Orlando described will probably be hard to miss, Travis Beacham teased a detail that might take some more eagle-eyed viewing. The Row is also home to a barber shop at the end of the street, which used to be a human shop. “Part of the billboard on the wall illustrates all these different styles of haircuts that you could get there. Whatever fae immigrant that had moved in painted over horns on the haircuts,” he said.
“[The world] is so big and vast and expansive, but then you could be walking down the street and you’d see a bit of graffiti that is just amazing,” David Gyasi added.
Tamzin Merchant was also excited by all of the mythological creatures and how they came to life. “I’ve done a lot of period dramas – lots of corsets and bustles and all that – but I’d never done one where I’m having a full-blown tea party with a man with horns and hooves,” she said. “It felt like this fully formed playground that had come right out of Travis’s head that all of us actors got to dive right into – this world that we all got to play in with its own conventions, traditions, mythology, and history.”
5. Get ready for some unexpected character moments.
Fantasy is known for many a trope, but it sounds like the occupants of Carnival Row are in for some perhaps more unexpected character arcs. Merchant teased that one of the most satisfying parts of playing her character Imogen was her unexpectedly blunt personality. “She just comes out with this stuff that is maybe not okay to say, and that’s such a treat. I’m excited for people to see Imogen being kind of awkward in her skin and not this conventional period drama ice queen or anything like that,” she said.
Tamzin added that viewers can look forward to a variety of female characters beyond Imogen who are complicated and fun to explore. “The women that we have in the show are all amazing and performed beautifully,” she said. “I’m really excited for people to see very complex, multifaceted female characters.”
The show will also delve into issues of class in interesting ways. Gyasi explained that this is an area he is interested in due to assumptions about one’s education and a lack of societal mobility around class and accents in England. The fae folk face similar issues in Carnival Row – something his character will face head-on. “My character [Mr. Agreus] arrives in The Row, and he is a faun,” David said. “There’s a ceiling to how far you can rise as a faun. And my character arrives and buys the biggest house in the richest area in cash over the phone in an auction.” Agreus will have to face survival and try to make a success of himself in this hostile environment. “You go on that journey with him, and I’m fascinated in exploring that.”
Orlando Bloom’s human detective Rycroft Philostrate is facing his own issues and hit close to home for Bloom in how he differs from the actor himself. “I kind of wear my heart on my sleeve quite a lot and sometimes can be guilty of over-communicating,” he said. “It was really wonderful to have a character that is guarded, that holds secrets, that has an immense amount of empathy for his environment which we don’t explain away – and to embrace that masculinity that is really well-balanced with a sort of feminine quality to it. It was [also] really special to have that shadow self explored a little bit – the darker side to a character and why he’s behaving that way.”
Carnival Row releases August 30 on Amazon Prime Video.