Penny Dreadful is a British-American horror TV series created for Showtime and Sky by John Logan who also acts as executive producer alongside Sam Mendes (Call the Midwife).
The show was originally pitched to several US and UK channels, and eventually landed with Showtime, with Sky Atlantic as co-producer. It premiered at the South by Southwest film festival on March 9 and began airing on television on April 28, 2014 on Showtime OnDemand. The show premiered on the Showtime channel on May 11, 2014. The first two episodes of the series were both available on demand before the respective episodes were broadcast over the air.
The title refers to the penny dreadfuls, a type of 19th-century cheap British fiction publication with lurid and sensational subject matter. The series draws upon many public domain characters from 19th-century Irish and British fiction, including Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mina Harker and Abraham Van Helsing from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Victor Frankenstein and his monster from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
The main cast is made of:
- Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray, a confident, entrancing, yet lonely, self-isolating man.
- Timothy Dalton (Doctor Who) as Sir Malcolm Murray, a hardened explorer of the African continent, on a deeply personal quest to find his kidnapped daughter Mina.
- Eva Green (Camelot) as Vanessa Ives, an enigmatic, composed, driven heroine who ignores zeitgeist and proves herself a force to be reckoned with.
- Rory Kinnear (Count Arthur Strong, Black Mirror) as Caliban, a reanimated corpse brought to life and abandoned by Frankenstein who tracks down his creator and demands that Frankenstein create a mate for him.
- Billie Piper (Doctor Who, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, True Love) as Brona Croft, an Irish immigrant seeking to escape her brutal past.
- Danny Sapani (Misfits) as Sembene, a long-time ally of Sir Malcolm with a mysterious persona.
- Harry Treadaway (Cape Wrath, Flight of the Storks) as Victor Frankenstein, an arrogant young man whose whole life revolves around his research.
- Josh Hartnett (Cracker, T Takes) as Ethan Chandler, a charming, brash, daring American man of action with uncanny marksmanship, who detests violence and is more complicated than he likes to admit.
- Simon Russell Beale (Spooks) as Ferdinand Lyle, an eccentric Egyptologist.
- Helen McCrory (North Square, Peaky Blinders) as Madame Kali, a spiritualist.