(Warning: This post contains minor spoilers for “Carnival Row” through Episode 3)
Amazon Prime Video’s new fantasy series “Carnival Row” launches today, exposing viewers to a fictional world full of magical creatures and the humans who detest them. Right in the thick of this increasingly intolerant society’s issues with interspecies coupling are human detective Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom) and refugee fairy Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne), who resume a love affair. A very, very steamy love affair that involves some deeply intimate sex scenes between them that serve as important plot points, not just fan service.
So how did the team behind the drama pull off making these special moments and other less-so-romantic ones between fairy prostitutes and humans — which sometimes include glowing wings and flying — more than fantastical lust-filled bits of eye candy?
“It’s funny, ’cause in talking about that a little bit, you have to talk about how part of conceiving the divide between the humans and the fairies is conceiving them as humans are kind of a puritanical society and fairies are a bit more liberated and don’t have quite the shame that humans do,” creator Travis Beacham told TheWrap during the Television Critics Association press tour earlier this month. “And that’s a cultural, I think, divide that plays an importance in the series. So the idea of the appeal of encountering one of them like this is that they’re just freer and more liberated and it will be a different experience.”
“So in thinking about how we shoot that and what it’s going to be, it’s a lot of thinking about, OK, this has to be interesting, like, it can’t just be ‘Game of Thrones’ or whatever,” he continued. “There has to be an element to it where we’re recognizing these are fairies. So we have to think about the wings and that sort of thing. In the first episode, you get the whole scene with Jonah [a human, played by Arty Froushan] and Tourmaline [a fairy refugee working as a prostitute, played by Karla Crome] on top of him and lifting him up with her wings. But then in the flashback episode, you see a whole different thing. And it depends on a few things, like when Vignette’s wings glow [with Philo], there’s a sense that it has more to do with the emotionality of it and the love than it’s like something that’s just raw and titillating, which I think is more of the brothel experience.”
Showrunner Marc Guggenheim added: “It’s interesting that you establish that when a fairy climaxes, their wings glow. And the second time, later in the episode when she and Philo sleep together, her wings don’t glow. And it’s a way into this very critical scene where Philo is basically asking Vignette, essentially, why weren’t you mentally present? And it’s a great example for me of how the mythology that has been built into the show allows us to get to certain character moments and certain character-revealing instances. And that’s what keeps it from being crass.”
Beacham notes “we never wanted it to be, like, this is the show where, ‘And here they’re gonna do the fairy sex scene for this episode.’”
“But at the same it’s like, you want to acknowledge it and you don’t want to tell people it’s a show for kids when it’s not,” he said. “So you want to acknowledge human sexuality in a way without being too tawdry about it. It’s an interesting tightrope to walk.”
See below where Bloom and Delevingne broke it down even further for TheWrap.
Orlando Bloom: I think it’s something you’ve never seen before on camera. So when we see Tourmaline in the hotel…
Cara Delevingne: But what is interesting about her having sex with a human — she’s obviously in there working — is, I think she flies because that’s what human men ask for, it’s not necessarily what fairies do. But that’s because they want a show. Because when [Philo and Vignette] do it, I’m not taking off in the air because it’s not like, ‘Hey you paid for this, so I’ll give you a bit of a fun time.’ Like, that’s something where they probably come and the fairies go, ‘Ugh, I gotta fly this f–king human again.’ So I think that’s a really interesting element to that…. I like the bit how the wings color, the elements of it are very interesting.”
Check back with TheWrap for more of our coverage on “Carnival Row,” which was already renewed for Season 2 ahead of its series debut.
“Carnival Row” Season 1 is available for streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.