Carnival Row is a unique fantasy series, combining the thrill of a noir mystery with the aesthetic of steampunk in a Victorian England full of mythological creatures. Immigrants from war-torn kingdoms find their way to the city of Burgue, where their human colonizers live among them in an uneasy peace. Inspector Rycroft "Philo" Philostrate (Orlando Bloom) is tasked with solving a string of murders that have started on Carnival Row, where the city's mythological immigrants call home.
Murders are the least of his worries, as he reunites with his old fae flame Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) who he thought perished in a conflict long ago. Their story is but one of dozens in the city. However convoluted the plot can be, it's the layered players that inhabit Carnival Row that make us drawn to its subject matter. Below you'll find 10 details most people don't know about them!
9 THEY'RE INSPIRED BY SHAKESPEARE AND DICKENS
He's long felt, that the sound of a name implied as much about a character's history or personality as their wardrobe choices or dialect. Just consider the surname "Spurnrose" for a haughty aristocrat like Imogen.
8 HUGH JACKMAN ALMOST PLAYED PHILO
Carnival Row is based on a film script that's been in development for over a decade. From the time it was penned by Travis Beacham during film school to its premier on Amazon Prime, it went through several potential directors and actors while languishing on Hollywood's black list.
When it was instead developed for a streaming service, it lost one of its biggest stars: Hugh Jackman. Perhaps as a nod to the man famous for playing rough-and-tumble Theodore Logan, Philo is a much more rugged hero than we've seen Orlando Bloom play on screen.
7 PHILO HAD SPECIFIC REASONS FOR JOINING THE ARMY
The city of the Burgue had a lot to do with shaping the main characters' personalities and narratives. Both citizens and immigrants find themselves changed by simply trying to make their way, a concept which Rycroft Philostrate straddles due to his heritage.
Growing up in an orphanage in Burgue, it wasn't simply a lack of prospects that made him join the Burguish Army. He wanted a chance to repay the city for what it had done to raise him and protect him, especially given the mysterious circumstances of his birth and his bloodline.
6 PHILO AND VIGNETTE ARE BASED ON SCREWBALL COMEDY DUOS
The rapid fire banter between the two leads, Rycroft Philostrate and Vignette Stonemoss, is important. It's not just about having chemistry, it's about having a sense of humor despite absurd circumstances. Travis Beacham had a very specific foundation in mind for their interactions, especially when they first meet.
He likened it to the leads in a screwball comedy of the '30s and '40s, where stars like Katherine Hepburn and Gary Cooper would antagonize each other in the midst of a chaotic plot, ending up with one another in the end despite everything that's thrown at them.
5 CHANCELLOR BREAKSPEAR ISN'T THE GOOD GUY
While on the surface it may seem like Chancellor Absalom Breakspear is a friend to the fae and other mythical creatures that are forced to immigrate to the Republic of the Burgue, the reasons for his conciliatory nature are steeped in avarice.
Like during the Industrial Revolution, when cheap labor meant more profits, what began as an earnest measure from a more compassionate young politician turned into opportunism and greed. But it suits his purposes to foist the villainy onto his rival Ritter Longerbane, who feels the immigrants take the resources that belong to struggling Burguish humans.
4 PIETY BREAKSPEAR IS DESCENDED FROM ROYALTY
The relationship between Piety and Absalom Breakspear is one of advantageous political efficacy. While he could have married a poor faerish woman in his youth and abdicated his destiny as Chancellor, he elected to pursue Piety instead, the daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh.
While not much detail is given about her heritage, it wasn't uncommon for dynasties to preserve their familial bloodlines by engaging in incest, which occurs in Carnival Row to some extent and is explained away with a pharaonic reference.
3 FAIRIES HAVE NO MAGIC POWERS
For all the mythical creatures featured in Carnival Row, there isn't a lot of magic incorporated into the series. What "magic" we see comes from the inclusion of the Haruspex, the witch-doctor/augur entity that can divine the future from reading a being's entrails.
Fairies are thought to have magic because they have wings, but their power of flight is simply attributed to their unique physiology, not "pixie dust" or any special powers to speak of. More about their abilities, including heightened senses, is expected to be revealed in Season 2.
2 VIGNETTE HAS BEEN THROUGH A LOT OF TRAGEDY
For all its imaginative splendor, tragedy is at the heart of Carnival Row. The love story between Philo and Vignette is scarred by it, and the trust the lovers have to rebuild between each other provides of the series' most fundamentally soulful moments.
Much of Vignette's backstory, the intervening years between Philo and the Burguish army's departure from Tirnanoc, and her arrival to the Burgue has yet to be explained. What we do know is that Vinny lost her family, the details around which will be explained in Season 2.
1 VIGNETTE WAS PURPOSEFULLY MADE IRISH
Cara Delevingne was involved with nearly every aspect of the character building process for Vignette Stonemoss, right down to her hairstyle. While Delevingne wore her hair short at the time of filming, she urged producers to let her have a "pixie cut".
She also specifically wanted Vignette to be Irish, as she felt the political connotations were important. Historically, the Irish were persecuted as immigrants to England, and regarded as second class citizens on their own lands when part of the United Kingdom. The fae are also specifically from Celtic mythology, known to inspire much Irish folklore.