From Casino Royale to Dark Shadows to 300: Rise of an Empire, Eva Green has cornered the market on exotically sexy femmes fatale, and her run continues in Showtime’s new series Penny Dreadful, an explicitly gory and sexual slice of period horror set in murder-plagued Victorian London.
Green plays a mysterious clairvoyant named Vanessa Ives, who teams up with an American sharpshooter from a traveling Wild West show (Josh Hartnett) and explorer Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) to search for Murray’s missing daughter. Premiering Sunday at 10/9c, the series features familiar literary characters including Dorian Gray, Dr. Frankenstein and Van Helsing.
For Paris-born Green, who’ll be back on the big screen in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For in August, Penny Dreadful marks her first television role since the 2011 Starz miniseries Camelot. We asked her about TV, foreign languages and why it’s fun to play evil.
“I think we all have a bit of madness inside of us. It’s nice to be able to be a bit different. I like weird things.”
What brought you back to TV? What drew you to this role?
It’s such a magnificent story and all the characters are very complex. It’s such a gift to have such a meaty role—you don’t get that very often. She’s such a beautiful heroine. Vanessa Ives is kind of rebel. She is a non-conformist and she’s a spiritualist so she can read tarot cards, she has visions. She can connect with the world beyond. She’s very hungry for life. All her five senses are very much alive, tingling all the time. But it’s a very repressed time so there’s always conflict inside her. She has to wear that corset and seems very much in control but we all have our demons. Vanessa is kind of innocent and at the same time has these forces inside her that she has to deal with and control all the time and that’s the conflict. In those days for women, it was hard to express oneself and she goes all the way. She’s just a very cool woman in this crazy Victorian era. All the characters are very flawed, complicated and conflicted and just great to sink your teeth into. Yeah, it’s scary, but not just scary for the sake of it. It’s also thrilling at the same time when you get to explore such darkness.
You’re no stranger to playing dark, even evil and bitchy characters.
I hope I won’t play that all my life, but it is always fun to play evil, I have to say, but evil that still has some kind of humanity. The first role I did in drama school was Lady Macbeth. I like playing extremes and that’s definitely an extreme. I think we all have a bit of madness inside of us. It’s nice to be able to be a bit different. I like weird things. Maybe it’s because I’m not like these characters in real life. Maybe that’s why I’m an actor. It’s kind of great to play somebody else. I’m quite shy so I always liked roles that were conflicted and cracked, not normal people. In Sin City I play a bitch, but it’s fun to play bitches.
You’ve got a few other movies coming up.
Yeah, I’m very excited about White Bird in a Blizzard. It’s about a relationship between a mother and her daughter and it’s kind of a trashy American Beauty. The challenge was to play someone from the age of 20 to 46. It’s a very beautiful, cracked character.
You were born in Paris. Are you fluent in French?
Yes, my mother used to be a very famous French actress, Marlene Jobert. But I’m also Swedish, Turkish, Spanish, Algerian. In this series I have to speak several languages—French, Arabic and German. It’s a challenge but I’m kind of a geek so I love doing homework, but that’s still a big challenge for me to pull off.
How do you like working in Dublin?
This is my third project there. I think I was Irish in another life. I know all the food very well and the people are great, the landscapes are magical. I love it.