The last time we saw Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) in the Season 2 finale of Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful,” he was having his wits scared out of him.
Romantically obsessed with his beautiful new Creature, Lily (Billie Piper), Victor had interrupted a liaison between her and eternally youthful Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney). When Lily dashed his romantic delusions, Victor shot her and Dorian, only to discover that they both are immortal — and have very dark designs on the human race, including him.
Small wonder, then, that as this stylish Victorian monster mash opens Season 3 on Sunday (May 1), Victor is self-medicating like mad and turning to an old classmate and friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll (guest star Shazad Latif), for support and advice.
“I’ve always thought of him as somewhat similar to someone who creates an atomic bomb,” Treadaway says to Zap2it. “The scientist behind the bomb doesn’t necessarily want to drop it and cause any human harm, but he has been involved in a process that can do that. Frankenstein is very scared that he may have created something a lot more powerful and potentially dangerous than what he had hoped for.”
That something, the lethal Lily, also is having a dark effect on Dorian, Carney explains.
“Lily is enticing Dorian to join her in this mission to kill for thrills,” the actor says. “You’ll basically see Lily and Dorian building an army of fallen women, taking these discarded members of society and bringing them together to wreak revenge on all of those who would defile women like these. You got a hint of that in Season 2, but there are going to be several twists and turns.”
While Dorian sold his soul to remain young and handsome, the character up to now has been somewhat passive, taking his sensual indulgences as they come along. That starts to change in Season 3.
“One of my favorite things about my particular journey this season is that for the first time you see the cracks in the painting, by which I mean cracks in Dorian’s own placid demeanor,” Carney says. “That’s exciting for me. … You can look at Dorian as someone who is selfish or a bad guy, and there are elements of that. There are moments when you might see Dorian as a predatory animal, but I try to look for the side of him that evokes pathos.”
Treadaway jokes that playing someone as “hyper-intelligent” as Victor Frankenstein occasionally leaves him feeling a bit inadequate in his own life.
“Not really, of course, because emotionally Frankenstein is just so [screwed up],” he explains. “So I will take [having] no amazing achievements but a healthy life over what he has done.”
He also has learned to leave Frankenstein’s chronic brooding on the set at the end of a workday.
“It’s funny, usually I go home literally with red eyes and track marks [on my arms], so when I go to the local swimming pool after work, it can be pretty daunting for small kids,” Treadaway says. “So visibly he stays with me.
“One of the goals of this craft is to get better at being someone else when you’re [at work] and being yourself when you’re not there. I’m sure it hangs around, but I’m not taking drugs or robbing graves for body parts after hours. I am telling you that on the record: I have never taken heroin or dug up a grave to try and recreate life.”