Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels season one comes to an end this Sunday, June 28th at 10:00PM ET/PT on SHOWTIME. A “spiritual descendant” of the original Penny Dreadful series, City Of Angels is set in 1938 Los Angeles and explores the building of the city’s first freeways and its deep traditions of Mexican-American folklore, the dangerous espionage actions of the Third Reich and the rise of radio evangelism.
CBS‘ Matt Weiss spoke to series stars Natalie Dormer and Nathan Lane about quarantine, this weekend’s finale and nailing multiple roles.
MW: Natalie, Nathan, good morning. Super excited talk to both of you today about Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels, but before we jump into that I just want to know how quarantine’s been going? Any new hobbies or anything fun going on to pass the time?
NL: I’m out in East Hampton, on Long Island fighting it out with the over privileged for toilet paper but making the best of it. The important thing is trying to structure your days because really, you’re having coffee and you’re thinking I’m going to do some vacuuming today and the next thing you know it’s six o’clock. Then you’re thinking well what’s for dinner? You really have to plan your day.
Also my dog who was 14, she’s been having many health issues and we had to make that terrible decision to say goodbye. It’s just, it’s not been a good time.
MW: I’m so sorry!
NL: I can’t believe I’m trying to sell this show and I told you my dog died. That’s a good reason to tune in.
MW: Yeah, you deserve it, clearly.
NL: Yes, yes, I do!
MW: Natalie, what about you? I hope your quarantine has been going at least a little bit better…
ND: Just a little bit better than Nathan’s. I’m so sorry about your dog Nathan! I’m in London and Nathan is a New Yorker, so even though we enjoy being in LA, there’s something I think that we were both simpatico as like big cosmopolitan city types who were like hankering after our big smokes. After being in LA for eight months then coming home and getting locked down announced was kind of beneficial for the first few weeks because I did a lot of sleeping and cleaning out my house that I haven’t been in for over half a year.
It’s been an extraordinary time it really has, and my heart just goes out to everyone in the world. It’s extraordinary and a very different landscape to when Nathan and I signed up with Penny Dreadful. John Logan says the show is set in ‘38 but, it’s about today. When it came about in 2019 when Nathan and I first took this job, we could recognize the polarization of the political spectrum and demonization of other people and who are these things that we thought were highly relevant. There were all these things that we were desperate to explore. Who knew that fate would go and throw even more icing on top of that cake as it has in the last four, five months and analyzing our humanity. It really is an extraordinary time.
MW: It’s been wild. Now we will actually jump into Penny Dreadful. Jumping back to when this show was first pitched to each of you, was it the script or the cast, or the director – what was it that made each of you want to be a part of this show?
ND: Basically, following on from what I was just saying. I think the themes really spoke to me that John Logan wanted to explore. As I said about demonization of communities and nationalities and this polarization that seems to be happening in our political landscape where right and left can’t seem to have decent conversation anymore. We’re missing that neutral territory where people can speak halfway reasonably to each other.
I think sometimes with actors, consciously or subconsciously, you pick jobs because you’re trying to process something for yourself. I think John’s very strong in voicing about that stuff. Also, for me it’s a no-brainer in so far as when else are you going to be asked to play four roles for the price of one? It was really a combination of those two factors for me that had me saying, “Absolutely!”
MW: Nathan, what about you?
NL: They asked me.
MW: That simple, huh?
NL: John Logan, I’ve known a bit over the years, and he sent me an email and he told me he wrote this part for me and hoped I’d do it. I just thought the writing was exceptional and it’s a surprising role for me. He knew my work from the theater. I think that’s why he thought about me for this particular character. It was a great opportunity. I just feel very lucky and grateful that he thought of me because it’s a remarkable character.
As I’ve said before this is certainly the most emotionally complex character I’ve gotten to put on film. That really drew me in and then it just turned out that we have all of these extraordinary actors. The whole thing has been a great joy to work on.
MW: Fantastic. Natalie you touched on this earlier, you’re playing Magda but really, you’re playing four different characters on the show. How much extra preparation, extra work is it to not nail one character, but you have to nail four?
ND: I mean yes, in simple man hours of dialects, class and hours in costume fitting, camera tests for looks, it is literally four times the work. I have to say cast and crew were exceedingly supportive of me going through that. I really didn’t quite know what it was going to be like. I think the adrenaline and the challenge…I’m a masochist that way that as most actors are. If you give me a gambit I’m like OK let’s see how far I can push myself. I really enjoyed the process to be honest.
It ended up being four different characterizations. We sort of work that out in the pre-production and early in you shooting days. We realized that I couldn’t play those iterations of Magda just sort of winking at the camera and still being in that psyche. We really did have to create three other separate characters psychologically. Otherwise it would have undermined the scene, undermined my costars performance, the truth of the moment. So yeah it was a great challenge and a lot of fun in that respect.
NL: And she nails it as you said!
MW: Of course, she does.
NL: She has to nail all four and she nails them. At the end of every day she would turn and say, nailed it! [laughs]
MW: [Laughs] Is that the signal it’s time to go home for the day?
NL: Nailed it!
ND: I got that from you babe!
MW: So Nathan, other than Natalie nailing her roles what else can viewers expect from this weekend’s season one finale?
NL: They will see a lot of the story is all tied up,t here’s a lot of action, there’s a riot. There’s martial law in Santa Monica with soldiers with machine guns. It might seem a little familiar. There’s some very, very difficult decisions made in the last episode. It sort of all leads you to hopefully what will be a second season.
MW: Absolutely I think we’re all hoping to see that. This shows been amazing. It’s been a pleasure talking to both of you today. All the best and stay safe!
ND: Thanks, Matt!
NL: Yes, you too, thank you.
Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels wait air it’s season finale Sunday, June 28th at 10:00PM ET/PT on SHOWTIME. Check your local listings for more information.