David Gyasi, Andrew Gower: 'Carnival Row' mirrors real-world troubles

"Carnival Row" Season 2 premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Prime Video
"Carnival Row" Season 2 premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Prime Video

NEW YORK, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- David Gyasi and Andrew Gower say their British fantasy drama, Carnival Row , reflects real contemporary issues despite that many of its characters are mythological creatures.

"The fantasy element could be a mirror sometimes to our actual world, and there's an opportunity to lean into that," Gyasi told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.


"You can almost be one removed from it because, suddenly, this character has wings or hooves, but what they are experiencing is very similar to what is going on here."

Gower agreed that fantasy can "really shine a light on big subjects."

"The great thing about this series is it may tap into whatever is going on in the world. It may tap into how people are feeling, the fear of the other, whatever the other is. But, ultimately, it is in a digestible, entertaining way, which is what I love about fantasy," Gower said.


The second and final season premieres Friday on Prime Video. It explores themes of racism and immigration through the conflicts that arise between magical creatures driven from their rural homes by war and the human citizens of the titular, Victorian-era city.

Gyasi plays the half-man, half-goat faun Agreus; Tamzin Merchant plays his wealthy human girlfriend, Imogen; and Gower plays her disapproving brother, Ezra.

The cast includes Orlando Bloom , Cara Delevingne , Simon McBurney, Jared Harris and Jamie Harris.

While the show may feature gorgeous imagery and thrilling action sequences, Merchant emphasized that "the beating heart of our story is the characters."

"In Season 1, there was a lot of drawing room drama, a lot of fighting over the tea table, and we see them fighting for their lives this season, so that is a big contrast," the actress said.

"I'm really excited for the audience just to see these familiar characters in a really unfamiliar setting."

First released in 2019, the show, which has a large ensemble, went on a long hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"All of us, for three years, have had people daily asking: 'When's the show coming back? What are you doing with it?' So it's nice to be able to say, 'Here you go!'" Gyasi recalled.


"We only hope and pray that we've managed to serve the show, the characters and the audience well."

The final episodes will add depth to the mythology and answer some long-simmering questions viewers have been debating.

"Season 2's artist palette has definitely added a load more colors in there, maybe some darker colors, which is always fun to explore," Gower said. "We definitely get to see more of the history of these characters and a lot of Season 1 is explained."

Gower said the detailed costumes and sets did "99%" of the work when it came to immersing himself in this world and character.

Merchant also applauded the show's hair, makeup, costume, visual effects and set design "artisans."

"What their amazing skill does is allow me to be the character and to really inhabit the body, to feel constrained by the clothes," she said.

"Imogen is very uptight and because her clothes are very tight. It is easy to feel uncomfortable and kind of aggravated by the situation," Merchant laughed. "When you are in a corset, it's really hard to take a deep breath."

Acting opposite Gyasi when he is fully made up as Agreus also made her job easier than it might have been if his look were achieved with digital effects in a studio after filming was over.


"He looks incredibly handsome with horns, as well as without them," Merchant said. "The prosthetics make him Agreus. He is transformed every day before he comes onto set. It's quite amazing."

The town created for the series also added to the illusion.

"It didn't feel like there was much that we had to imagine within the fantasy," Merchant said. "It was built to life around us and makes it like a playground."

Gyasi admitted he felt "a slight melancholic effect" when he took his horns off after filming Season 1.

"I remember the first time I put them back on and then the mustache went back on and I was able to go, 'There he is!'" he said.

"Often, actors will talk about when you've got the right shoes for a character. Of course, Agreus had these hooves that made me stand in and feel a certain way. It was quite empowering. He has a lot of power in those hooves and those horns."

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