The new Amazon Prime series Carnival Row may not be every critic’s favorite, but it’s a big hit with fantasy fans. It’s gotten a blah score of 55% from critics on the Tomatometer, but the Average Audience Score is 88%. We’re reviewing the first season of the steampunk/gothic/noir fantasy thriller episode by episode here at WiC, and so far we’re enjoying it.
Likely powered by the enthusiasm of early preview audiences, Amazon Prime preemptively ordered season 2 before the series officially premiered, and executive producers Travis Beacham and Marc Guggenheim have already mapped out seasons to come. While on the Television Critics Association summer press tour, the two of them talked to Collider about the show’s genesis, its teeming fantasy world, the unique characters, and seasons 3 and 4; yes, they’re thinking that far ahead.
Carnival Row series evolved from a movie screenplay written by Beacham titled A Killing on Carnival Row, and for a long time, he never thought he’d ever get his story produced. How things change.
From the very, very beginning, this is what I hoped it would be, if it could be anything. I’d like to say that I never gave up hope on it … because everybody loved it, but it was too big to ever get made. To be here right now, talking about … this thing that I wrote in film school, in my wildest dreams, I would have never imagined it. It’s really crazy.
Neither producer can now imagine developing Row as a feature film, because TV gives them a much bigger canvas. “So much of this show lives in the quiet moments, which is not what you would expect from a big, sprawling, epic fantasy,” Guggenheim said. ” We have those elements, obviously, but the thing that Travis and I oftentimes get the most excited about, when we’re talking in the writers’ room, is those quiet moments, where it’s just two characters and you’re peeling back layers of character and story.”
Beacham and Guggenheim both agree that while the talented heads of their creative departments can make their mythological creatures appear insanely realistic, the audience has to be able to relate to the characters or all the special effects are for naught. They’re thrilled with their cast, from superstar Orlando Bloom (Rycroft Philostrate) all the way through to their minor players. “I love our cast. I adore them,” Beacham said. “First of all, they’re such kind and generous people, and they’re just a genuine pleasure to be around. Especially when you’re living across the ocean in Prague, and you’re far away from everything that you know, it’s just nice to be around people who are pleasant. But also, they’re incredibly talented. We have actors who you could give garbage, and they could make it look like art.”
Beacham also touched on all those wonderfully steampunk character names. “It’s fun to come up with those. I actually like have lists of when I see interesting names in the world and I’ll write them down … It’s fun, finding those names that feel right. If you say names, like Han Solo or Ebenezer Scrooge, just feeling them on your lips, you know who the character is.”
The epic scale of Carnival Row is not daunting to the producers. Guggenheim thinks it’s “fun” to have “such a big landscape and a broad canvas to play around in. It’s not a lot of invention, so much as it is writing within a certain space that feels very specific and feels like it has a real history.”
It’s one of those situations where if you stopped to look around and think about the amount of money that’s being put to this and the stakes, it would be terrifying. Fortunately, I never took the time to do that.
Beacham and Guggenheim are also happy that their two lead actors, Bloom and Cara Delevingne, can vanish into their characters despite being recognizable stars. “Both of them are doing things that are so different from anything they’ve done before,” Beacham said. “The baggage that they bring – and baggage, in a good way – with Orlando having played Legolas and Cara having the faery, Tinkerbell look about her, it’s nice that they bring that to it. Orlando comes with this very baritone voice that you’ve never seen him do.”
And what about the future of the show? “We talked a lot about where Season 2 would go, on set, and in talking about season 2, we’ve already outlined and talked about Seasons 3 and 4,” Guggenheim reports. “It gives you an opportunity to lay in these little seeds that can eventually come to fruition.”
“We have quite a long wishlist of things that we wanna see, in future seasons,” Beacham says. “It’s just a matter of figuring out what order they happen in, really.”
“People have to watch,” Guggenheim states, “so that we can actually get to do these seasons.”
We do hope people watch. Carnival Row is a fun show. You can catch the entire first season currently streaming on Amazon Prime.