The enchanting world of Carnival Row is one of the most immersive environments in a television series today. Not since Game of Thrones has there been such a unique blend of fantasy and history, but with enough of its own eccentricities to distinguish itself entirely. It combines the aesthetic of steampunk and neo-noir, with the high fantasy concepts of mythological creatures living alongside humans in a gritty world reminiscent of Victorian England.
Much time and care were taken by costume designers, set technicians, and the makeup and FX departments to bring this elaborate series to life. From constructing entire sets to asking the cast to brave subzero temperatures, it was a labor of love that resulted in one of the most magical shows available to stream. Below you'll find 10 behind the scenes facts about Carnival Row, currently available to stream on Amazon Prime, with the second season in development.
10 It Was Based On The Killing On Carnival Row
Unlike most science fiction and fantasy television series or movies today, Carnival Row doesn't have any source material. It wasn't inspired by an epic series of novels like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings but comes straight from the mind of Travis Beacham.
Beacham wrote the series initially as a film script back when he was in film school. He'd been to London and spent time watching the Royal Shakespeare Company do a moody rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which inspired him to write a tale that combined fantasy, Victorian steampunk, and the Jack the Ripper murders into one intriguing story.
9 FILMING TOOK PLACE IN FREEZING PRAGUE
One of the ways that the magic of Carnival Row comes alive is by the settings its characters inhabit. The location for filming happened to be in Prague, where the cast had to withstand subzero temperatures while they filmed scenes in the streets of the city of Burgue.
The actors often had to wear layers of thermal underwear underneath their normal costumes, which was easier to accomplish if they were female and wearing copious petticoats. The advantageous aspect of filming in Prague in the winter was that the snow and rain were completely authentic in every shot.
8 The World Is Divided Into Two Hemispheres
What isn't explicitly explained or alluded in the series is that the world of Carnival Row, at least on a map is divided into two hemispheres. The continents of humankind are on one hemisphere, and on the other hemisphere are all the other mythical creatures.
Humakind's main continent is Mesogia, while the other hemisphere has Tirnanoc (where the majority of the fae reside), and Ignota (Latin for 'unknown") where the fauns ("pucks") and other creatures dwell. For the majority of the series, viewers spend a lot of time in the city-state of the Burgue, which is based on late Victorian London as well as Venice, and even the concept of the Vatican.
7 Humans Are The Only Beings With Western Influences
It's not just that the people of the Burgue are humans, and therefore need their own distinguishing wardrobe and culture, but that they're supposed to specifically represent Western ideologies. From colonization to capitalism, they convey what was more important to Victorian England.
Joanna Eatwell and her creative team of costume designers felt it therefore necessary to make all the mythical creatures have influences from all the places England might have tried to colonize or desired resources and trade from. They drew inspiration from the Middle East, Africa, as well as Eastern Europe for their clothing and their religion.
6 Many Of The Sets Were Built For The Show
While filming in Europe can mean access to some of the most amazing historical locations on Earth, chances are it's difficult to find them without a slew of modern anachronisms. Telephone wires, satellite dishes, are just a few of the things that might pull viewers out of the immersion of the environment.
Jiri Matura, the production designer for Carnival Row, felt it imperative to build sets modeled after Victorian London, Paris, and medieval European cities. He wanted to mimic the juxtaposition between the old world and the new world that occurred with the onset of industrialization. It made European cities look as uniquely cobbled together as the city of Burgue.
5 The Ads In The City Of Burgue Were Hand-Written
To create and add to the bustling chaos of city life in the Burgue, production design teams had to look to London and Paris at the dawn of the 20th century. With the rise of industrialization and mass-produced items, advertisements became the single most influential way to communicate to consumers.
All of the advertisements in the streets, from the sandwich boards, to the marquees, to the signs on the side of trucks were all hand-written and incorporate both human and Critch products and services.
4 Each Of The Stores On Carnival Row Have A History
Great care was taken with the set dressing crew to communicate an intimate story with each shopfront in the Burgue. From the faun-owned candle shop with rows of hand-made candles dangling in the windows, to the fae owned bakeries making fae treats and pies, every merchant and their family had a history.
Set dressers were often tasked with switching the decor in a certain shop front to make it double for another location further down Carnival Row. This helped create the illusion it was bigger than it was.
3 Costumes Establish Each Character Distinctively
Joanna Eatwell, the lead costume designer behind the series felt it was important that each character have a distinct costume that not only made them stand apart from the rest of the cast but also indicate the transition of their narrative through the larger plot.
For instance, for Piety Breakspear, buttons were placed going down her back to look like a spine. She begins the series in warm hues like yellow and green, then shifts to slightly more aggressive hues like red and brown, and by the end she's in shimmering fabrics that shift between violet and black, imitating her mercurial and nebulous alignment.
2 Pucks Have The Most Complicated Costumes
Of all the fantasy creatures featured in Carnival Row, Pucks are not only some of the most instantly recognizable, with their prominent ram horns and cloven hooves, they also have the most difficult costumes for the actors to function in. Shortcuts had to be created by designers, such as using magnets to clip the horns to the skull caps, in order to make the process as efficient as possible.
Actors slip on leggings with built in foam portions that make their thighs look massive, as well as foam to bulk up their calves so that they can seamlessly align with the furry hoof-heels. Since these don't have a heel in the technical sense, actors are balancing perpetually on the balls of their feet.
1 Faeries Have Heightened Senses
When preparing for the role of Vignette Stonemoss, Cara Delevingne had the added benefit of being completely transformed by her makeup and wardrobe. The props (such as wings) and prosthetics used to turn her into a fae (including uniquely shaped ears!) were monumental in helping her inhabit the part.
She explained that to "think like a fairy" is to reach out with your feelings. Fairies are said to be highly emotional creatures with heightened senses. Their bodies are more in tune with their natural surroundings, which gives them a strong sense of empathy and compassion.