San Diego is about to get a Gothic horror visit from Victorian England today and John Logan is about to let Penny Dreadful get truly uninhibited. “A lot of Season 1, for me, was actually putting the playing pieces on the board,” says the Oscar nominated scribe of the Showtime series of 19th century iconic supernatural misfits he created. “Now I feel we’ve had 8 hours to do that, to establish the landscape and so now I really get to play,” the first time showrunner adds with a laugh. “I can create more and more complex patterns of the relationships of the characters and of the supernatural element as well,” the Gladiator and Skyfall writer says. “In terms of the second season, I’ve written all but two of the episodes. So, the last two are yet to be written. So I’m well ahead of the game there, and the actors will all be getting it the end of this month.
In just over a month since Dreadful’s rather spectacularly blood soaked Season 1 finale, Logan will be taking the stage in Ballroom 20 of the San Diego Convention Center this evening with cast members Harry Treadaway, Reeve Carney and Josh Hartnett. If he returns next year, he may be bringing a few more people with him and not just absent leads Timothy Dalton and Eva Green. “I’m teasing out from the characters I really love from last season, who had smaller parts, and adding a whole new set of new characters as well,” the playwright and Oscar nominee admits for Season 2. Careful to keep the poetic mystery that embodied the series since it’s May 11th debut, Logan is economical with his words about who those additions will be – though he does admit there will be more supernatural creatures and the main characters will leave London in Season 2.
The writer is less circumspect with Penny Dreadful’s new threat. “The biggest change for me in the second season, beyond the fact that it’s ten hours as opposed to eight hours, is we have a human antagonist,” he says. “Last season, we sort of had the vampire, the generic monster, Now we have a human villain played by Helen McCrory, who is Madam Kali in the, I hope memorable, séance episode earlier in the season.” What evil the new Dreadful villain will enact was scarcely hinted at in Madam Kali brief but preying appearance at the end of Season 1.
While Logan won’t reveal more of Penny Dreadful’s next season nor talk about the follow up to 2012’s Skyfall except to say the script for the next James Bond movie is done, he will speak in detail about the challenges of creating and running his first TV show. “One of the reasons I love it so much and find it so different that films or even theater is that I’m there every day on the set and obsessively writing it, working with the actors and editing,” the big screen vet says. “It’s a brand new challenge, and I am learning every single day. “Thankfully, my boss, David Nevins, is just an amazing sort of educator as well as supporting the more outlandish parts of my vision, which he certainly does next season,” Logan laughs.
Not that he didn’t plan Penny Dreadful out when the idea came to him several years ago and he spoke to his Skyfall director and now TV producing partner Sam Mendes about the idea. Showtime picked up the project from the frequent collaborators in January 2013 “Because this is my first TV show and I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it, I spent years thinking about it and charting out the cosmology, all the various forces of play around those characters,” Logan says. “I charted it up to the third season in terms of where I wanted to take the story, where I wanted to align to some of the classic novels that inspired it and some of the ways I wanted to variant those things.” Where that will be, we will have to discover, however for Logan that is part of the fun for himself.
“The second season, for me, is, in a way, more joyous to write because I know the voices in my head, and I know where I want to challenge the actors, and I know where I want to play to their sweet spots,” he says with a laugh. Indeed.