Latest From Chris King on PENNY DREADFUL Season Finale
Lily’s a monster, Ethan and Vanessa are off again, Sir Malcolm is in dire straits, and the witches are preparing a final assault on Vanessa’s battered psyche.
Penny Dreadful is “barreling down the track” towards an explosive finale, as Supervising Producer Chris King puts it, in a new ScreenSpy interview.
We sat down with King, a creative force behind the show, to discuss what’s ahead for our heroes and villains in the final two episodes of the season.
Have we seen the last of the romantic side of Ethan and Vanessa’s relationship? What bigger and badder ambitions has Lily got planned (and does Dorian truly not recognize her as Brona 2.0)? Who’s about to take the fight to the enemy, and what has showrunner John Logan already planned for season 3?
Read on for exclusive Penny Dreadful scoop.
ScreenSpy: Congratulations on the pickup. How does it feel to be coming back for season 3?
Chris King: It’s exciting. We always felt that Penny Dreadful could go on, and there’s a lot of stories that still haven’t been told yet. To have the ability to continue telling those stories is great. I work very closely with [creator and showrunner] John Logan. We never stop thinking about the next season. From the minute we started season 2 we were already thinking about season 3, so for us it really feels like a natural progression. We want to keep telling that story. We’re so thrilled to continue, and see our friends back in Dublin and do it all over again.
ScreenSpy: What goes into the decision on how many episodes we get per season?
Chris King: It’s really just in service of the story. Showtime and Sky Atlantic would love us to do 12 if we could but for us it comes down to what’s the best way for us to tell our story. Sometimes it’s 10 episodes. Sometimes it’s 8 or 9. That’s one of the great things about being on premium cable. We’re not forced into an exact number. We’re able to tell the story the way we want to be able to tell it. It’s more organic to the storytelling.
ScreenSpy: Penny Dreadful has an amazing cast. What I like about the characters is that although some of them are not particularly likeable, we can relate to all of them, and feel for them in their various predicaments, in some way. As a supervising producer who works so closely on the creative aspects of the show, do you find yourself drawn to any particular character?
Chris King: Oh that’s so tough! It’s like asking which child is your favorite! [laughing]. I like each one of them for various reasons, but I think you’ve hit upon something really important, and that’s every character has the duality of good versus evil. Every single one. Whether it’s Ethan Chandler who’s basically dealing with being a werewolf versus trying to just be a regular guy, or Sir Malcolm, who although doesn’t have a monster inside of him has treated people horribly when he was on his expeditions. He’s a brutal man, and violence is part of his life. So all of these characters are suffering with this duality.
When the show first started, I always connected with Ethan because, one, he’s the outsider American which I personally connected with, and secondly, he had this deep brooding temperament. You just knew there was something going on inside of him. There was something behind his eyes which obviously didn’t reveal itself until the end of season one. I love the fact that now he’s trying to cope with and understand what it is. We’ve seen Sembene watch him transform. He’s just trying to cope with the monster inside of him.
I love the Creature as well. He’s such a complex character. Here’s a man whose first entrance on the show was killing poor Proteus back in season one.
ScreenSpy: And what a dramatic entrance!
Chris King: Yes! I think so too. We told Rory Kinnear “You have the most dramatic entrance of any character on the show.” But now in season 2 your heart breaks for this poor man. He’s a brutal murderer. He’s killed Van Helsing. He’s killed Proteus. He’s threatened so many lives, but he’s hurting, he’s sad and he doesn’t fit into this world. I think that’s what John Logan does so well. He makes you feel so sad for some of the most brutal evil people.
Even Evelyn Poole, who we saw last Sunday, although she’s the villain of season 2, and she’s evil and she’s out to get Vanessa she has revealed another side of herself that was unexpected, and we can’t help but feel for her.
Even when these characters are at their most villainous, they’re still human in some way. They have heartache. They’re still lonely. And they still have all of the things that the rest of us deal with on a daily basis. That’s why I love these characters, and why I think John is such a genius for making us care about these characters whether they’re a werewolf, a witch or a dead man brought back to life.
ScreenSpy: Lily has undergone such an amazing transformation. Can you talk about where that change is going to take her over the final two episodes this season?
Chris King: Once you get to the end of this season and look back you’ll realize what an amazing actor Billie Piper is. She has such nuances in her performance. She plays Lily like a child in a way, which is sort of what she is. She’s reborn, she’s innocent, she’s experiencing all of these things for the first time.
Then slowly we begin to see the beauty crack, in a way. When Victor gives her the dress and they’re talking about why women have to wear corsets, and she wonders why women are corseted – or controlled – in this way. She wonders why women are literally and figuratively corseted, or tied up, and prevented from being who they are.
Now we see something more dangerous with Lily. She’s murdered a man. When Lily was born, did she play up this whole ‘I don’t know who I am’ or does she still remember everything Brona had experienced? The answer to that question was quite a shock last Sunday, but we will continue to be shocked by Lily over the remaining episodes this season.
She has become such a phenomenal character, and she only gets better and stronger and more interesting in the last 2 episodes. She’s definitely the character to watch this year.
ScreenSpy: Does Dorian truly not recognize that Lily is Brona?
Chris King: Dorian is a very smart man [laughing]. That’s all I can tell you for now.
ScreenSpy: He’s such a mysterious character. This season his story, with the exception of that spectacular blood rain ball, was largely his own. Are we going to see him drawn into the fold a little bit more at any point?
Chris King: He’s interesting because he’s on the periphery. In season one he was Vanessa’s love interest but we thought he was such an interesting character that we wanted to continue to explore him and see where he took us. We’ll see him get tied in to Lily’s story more as we go on. We could bring him into the fold, but we actually love the idea of separating our stories. Some TV shows feel like they have to bring everyone together – throw them all into the same room all the time.
ScreenSpy: Like the Scooby gang.
Chris King: Exactly. I feel that can weaken a story. We like that these characters come and go in each others’ lives, but be able to bring them together when necessary. We just didn’t feel it was ever necessary to force the Scooby gang together. To do that would run the risk of it becoming a silly comic book versus a much more broader, larger scale, interesting drama.
Right now Dorian is trying to figure Lily out, but things will start to accelerate between the pair of them soon enough.
ScreenSpy: With just 2 episodes remaining, can you tease where and how things will go for our characters?
Chris King: The next 2 episodes? The train has left the station and it is barreling down the track. These final two are the most intense of the season, for sure. Basically, where we take the story is Vanessa has got to come back and face down her enemy. She and her friends have been the hunted all season, but now they have to turn the tables. We’ll learn some new things about Ethan. We discover a whole lot more about Lily. As for the creature? He starts to unravel what’s going on over at the Waxworks, as well as finding a way to cope with the loneliness he’s battling with. All of our characters are headed towards a huge finale. And we’ve got some nice little cliffhangers too as we end the season.
ScreenSpy: Have we seen the last of the romantic side of Ethan and Vanessa’s relationship?
Chris King: I don’t think so. Those are two characters we will always want to see together. The demons that are inside the both of them, both literally and figuratively, are what brings them together and pushes them apart. Their love story is always going to be out there at the forefront of our storytelling. We can only hope they will find happiness together but we’ll have to see as we go along.
ScreenSpy: Does Vanessa Ives have the most haunted bedroom in England?
Chris King: [Laughing] That’s exactly the way John Nolan wanted it. Just that idea that there’s nothing else in that bedroom besides the bed, that little desk and that cross. When you walk into that room on set, it has a very unsettling feeling to it. It’s not warm and inviting, that’s for sure.
ScreenSpy: Season one was a vampire story. This year has really been the season of the witch. What are your plans for season 3?
Chris King: The idea was never to do a monster of the week. In season one, we didn’t really have a villain. We had vampire attacking, and although we mentioned the Master, we never actually got to meet that person. In season 2, what grounded the show even more was a solid villain in Evelyn Poole. Season 3 get bigger. It’s a much larger scale season. I can’t tell you much more. It’s going to be a more challenging season to shoot but I think fans are going to love it.
Penny Dreadful continues Sunday June 28 on Showtime.