From creator Travis Beacham (whose 2005 Blacklist film script A Killing on Carnival Row evolved into this project), the Amazon Prime original drama series Carnival Row is set in a Victorian fantasy world filled with mythological creatures who have become immigrants after their homelands were invaded by man and now must struggle to co-exist. When faerie Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) crosses paths with former flame Detective Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom), secrets become a very dangerous thing, as a string of gruesome murders threatens to tear apart the uneasy peace of the Row.
While at the Amazon portion of the Television Critics Association Press Tour, Collider got the opportunity to sit down and chat 1-on-1 with actress Cara Delevingne about the appeal of playing this character, the questions she had after reading the first script, the experience of walking onto these sets, what she grew to appreciate about Vignette, seeing herself with wings, how relevant this story is to current times, and her excitement for Season 2, which has already been picked up.
Collider: It seems as though, when a character like this comes your way, there’s no way you can pass on it. Was that the reaction, or did you want more information?
CARA DELEVINGNE: I definitely wanted more information. I was intrigued by Vignette because she’s so mysterious and the fire within her was just scorching, but I didn’t know why she had that fire. So, the intrigue was huge, but also, the premise of the show was so incredible. I knew of it because of the script being on the Black List and Guillermo del Toro having been involved, which he’s my hero, so someone like that wanting to be involved, even just at one point, how could I say no?
When you read this, what were the immediate questions that you had?
DELEVINGNE: Why did Vignette end up with Philo? Why did she go back to him, after he lied and hurt her? No, I don’t know. That’s my personal choice, and not just because of my character. I was like, “Oh, really? Of course, the tortured woman wants to go back to the man, like all cliche things.” No. What other questions did I have? I guess my only question was, “How are they gonna pull this off?” It just seemed like a huge undertaking, even with how far CGI and prosthetics and stuff have come. I’m really amazed by the fact that it was done so well.
What’s it like to be on these sets?
DELEVINGNE: It’s just unlike thing else that I’ll ever experience in my whole life. It really was a pinch me moment, at every moment, because no matter how good at acting you are, you can’t help but go, “This is not real. This isn’t my life. This is fucking crazy!” And all of these creatures were real. I was just so impressed by the extras because they were sitting in these whole outfits, all day, outside. The crew and everyone worked so hard on this show, and you can really tell because there’s so much love that goes into it. The people in set design didn’t need to go to the extent that they went to, but they did it because of their love for it, or wanting to make this world real for us, and it showed. It really helped set it up for us, when we just had to lose it in there. There are a lot of emotional scenes and a lot of heavy things that we go through, and when everything is already made for you, it’s so easy to just lose it in there and feel safe by the surroundings. After doing something like Valerian, when nothing was real, this was the opposite of that. It’s amazing.
When you read this, were you able to visualize what it would look like?
DELEVINGNE: I definitely saw this Victorian London life. It’s not London, but there’s an element of old Victorian London that’s just messy and dirty, with mud everywhere and crime. There’s an element of that in there, and I definitely saw it more like it was just England because that’s what I had seen in images that I knew of, in terms of history. But I couldn’t even imagine what it would have been like, in real life. It’s weird. I just didn’t know. I honestly read it and I was like, “How the hell are they gonna do this?” It’s going to be one of those things that, if I do get it, and it would be really weird if I do, we’ll get there, and then it will probably fall through, just because it seemed so big. Sometimes when I watch it, or I see the scenes I had to look at on my phone, I’m like, “I wanna watch this on a huge screen.” I guess Game of Thrones is the same way. When we were at Comic-Con and we watched it on this big screen, I was crying because I was like, “Oh, my god, it’s so pretty.” I just hope people can somehow watch it on bigger screens than their computers, but we’ll see.
What did you love about this character, from day one, and what did you grow to appreciate about her, the more you got to know her?
DELEVINGNE: She’s definitely stronger than I am. There are things you don’t know about, which aren’t in this season, but are things I grew to learn about like her and her family, and what she’s lost. She’s been through more than anyone in the show, in my opinion. Maybe not everyone, but she’s been through so much, yet she still has this strength left in her. Her strength has been taken away by everyone, but she still has it left. She still picks herself up off the floor, even if everyone’s feet are on top of her, pushing her down, further and further. The thing that I grew to understand is that she’s strong and she’s tough, but she’s also so compassionate and forgiving. I’m not like that. If someone hurts me like that, I’ll be like, “Bye, see you fuckin’ later!” She’s like, “He loves me and he made a mistake.” She’s a bigger person than I am, I’ll tell you that. She has no pride, whereas I do. If someone hurts me, I’m like, “You made me look like an idiot. Screw you!” She doesn’t care about looking like an idiot or not. She has no ego, either. She just comes from the heart. That’s definitely something I had to grow to understand.
It’s one thing to read descriptions about what the wings will look like, and it’s another to actually have them on. What was it like to see what they would look like, and then to see yourself with them?
DELEVINGNE: Oh, god, yeah! I took so many pictures, while I had the prosthetic wings on when I was naked, because it just looks so crazy. They’re like big, raw bits of bacon on you. That’s what it feels like. Because the riveting is meant to be the veins, it’s like when you get an erection and the blood has to go to them, and then they move and get bigger. Just discovering all of the elements of everything, like how the braids mean how old you are, and of these different things about fairies, that people maybe don’t know when they watch it, but that we got to learn, is just so fucking interesting. How they have babies, and stuff like that, is super cool. And there were the ears, too. They didn’t want to do anything the same as it’s been done before. There was a whole thing about, “Should we have a pixie cut?,” because that’s been done, but my hair was that short, at the time, so they added the braids.