It’s been just shy of five years since the last episode of creator/executive producer John Logan’s Penny Dreadful aired. That Victorian set exploration of supernatural monsters became a cult favorite and left audiences wanting more.
Their wish is now granted, albeit with a brand-new story and supernatural framing, with Showtime’s Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, which debuts on Sunday, April 26, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Set in 1938 Los Angeles, the only returning cast member from the first iteration is Rory Kinnear (playing a new character), and he joins Nathan Lane, Natalie Dormer, Daniel Zovatto, and Adriana Barraza, who all were on stage with Logan at the Television Critics Association panel to reveal new details about the series.
Nathan Lane described it best when he said: “It’s Raymond Chandler meets [The Twilight Zone's] Rod Serling. And it’s a refreshing take on the detective genre with supernatural elements.”
Logan told reporters that this new idea was one that came to him after years of research and felt like it was Penny Dreadful-worthy. He said he pitched Showtime clarifying: “It’s not Victorian or gothic. It’s opposite, and it’s about history and politics.” None of it was a deterrent for the network, and Logan got to work.
In particular, the entire narrative spools out of real events that happened in 1938 Los Angeles, which has uncanny parallels to the socioeconomic, cultural, and foreign influence issues facing the United States today. Framed around a murder investigated by new Detective Tiago Vega (Zovatto) and his veteran partner Lewis Michener (Lane), Natalie Dormer enters the story playing Magda, a supernatural entity who projects many iterations, causing havoc in the lives of the ensemble cast of characters.
In the trailer, we see a few of Magda’s interactions, and Natalie Dormer admits there are more to come. “The beauty of what my role brings is with the supernatural element, you have a metaphor to lift the story that illustrates the themes more emphatically," she said. "Every good protagonist needs an antagonist, and I’m playing several.”
Rory Kinnear said he is grateful to play a character who is not in major makeup like his creature in the first version of the series. And while he is back, he confirms there is no direct connection with the creature he played before. “The only spiritual translation is that the first iteration of all the characters were in a state of moral crisis," said Kinnear. "And it’s clear through Natalie’s character that she is putting them in their dilemmas.”
Another character directly connected to the supernatural side of the series is actress Adriana Barraza, who plays Maria, a bruja in Vega’s family. She teased that Maria has the opportunity to open certain doors that not everyone can.
“She is a fantastic woman that allowed me to research Santa Muerte,” Barraza explained. “In this moment, they are most associated with drug dealers. But in that time, Santa Muerte is the holy angel who takes us to God when you die. It’s the meaning for Maria. I researched a lot. As a Mexican, I have a lot of stories in my family of supernatural things. I think my tradition and family is like every Mexican family, we love these stories."
Penny Dreadful: City of Angels will drop new episodes weekly on Showtime. It'll also be the primary genre show on the network of the new year, with the series adaptation of Halo shooting now in Budapest with an anticipated drop in 2021.
Watch the new teaser for the former below: