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SYFY WIRE Carnival Row

SDCC: Magical creatures are immigrants in Victorian world of Amazon's Carnival Row

By Trent Moore
Carnival Row Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime is looking to blend an immigration story with a Victorian high fantasy world in Carnival Row, an ambitious new high-concept series starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne — and now we have a first look at the alt-reality they're weaving.

The cast and crew were on hand at San Diego Comic-Con to tease the series and talk about what fans can expect, while also showing off some early footage and sneak peeks. Bloom, Delevingne, David Gyasi, Tamzin Merchant, Travis Beacham, and Marc Guggenheim were on hand for the panel, which was moderated by Tim Kash (IMDB).

Carnival Row is set in a Victorian era fantasy world where magical creatures are immigrants in the world of man. Not surprisingly, coexistence isn’t all too easy, though that doesn’t stop Bloom’s Rycroft Philostrate and Delevingne’s faerie Vignette Stonemoss from finding a bit of love and happiness in this dangerous world. Beacham described it as a "fantasy noir" murder mystery wrapped in some immigration analogies.

The streaming service dropped two new featurettes at the panel, focusing on the backgrounds of Philo and Vignette. The first proper trailer also debuted for fans in the room, along with a few episode clips, mostly focused on world-building and establishing how these characters all interact, from the higher society to the slums and street corners.

Check out two of the featurettes below:

Beacham took a look back at the history of Carnival Row, revealing he wrote it years ago as a film script simply as an exercise for himself. It was this script that kickstarted his career, gaining acclaim behind the scenes in Hollywood, even though it took until now to finally get made. When it was picked up and shifted to TV development a few years ago, Beacham said he was thrilled to have a chance to explore the backstory that had only existed up to that point in his own mind.

"I felt I'd imagined so much backstory around the corners, around the streets," Beacham said. "Had I been writing it for the first time now I'd have never written it as a film, I'd have written it as a TV show. To be able to tell this sprawling, Dickensian story over eight episodes, it's just so, so exciting."

Bloom referenced his famed turn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, noting fans are obviously familiar with him in the fantasy genre — but made clear viewers should still find plenty of surprises in Carnival Row: "I felt I hadn't seen this world before, I've been amazed at the detail and the richness of the characters." He added the fantasy setting allows the freedom to dig into meaty real-world topics, providing a lens to translate those stories to a new world that can still shine them back on our own world.

Merchant and Gyasi said they're still blown away by the amount of world-building on display on the screen, with everything from the graffiti in the background not even in the shot, to the idiosyncrasies in the language of the difference creatures and groups, and how it's evolved. Gyasi noted the fur used on his character's legs make for a five-hour make-up chair call, but seeing how his fantasy fur moves and breathes in the wind was well worth it.

Carnival Row is executive produced by Marc Guggenheim (Arrow), René Echevarria (Star Trek), Jon Amiel (Outsiders), Orlando Bloom, and Travis Beacham (Pacific Rim, Clash of the Titans). The project is based on Beacham's long-gestating script A Killing on Carnival Row, which made the inaugural Hollywood Blacklist in 2005.

Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of San Diego Comic-Con 2019, including up-to-the-minute news, exclusive interviews, and videos.