Warning: This article contains spoilers for season 1 of Carnival Row.
Cara Delevingne has inhabited several otherworldly universes in her day — the superhero-scape of Suicide Squad, the intergalactic slice of insanity that is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets — but nothing quite like Carnival Row. The first season of Amazon’s fantasy-noir-drama took Delevingne’s Vignette Stonemoss from her war-torn homeland to the seedy underworld of the Burgue, as the resourceful faerie joined up with the criminal organization Black Raven and reunited with her lost love Philo (Orlando Bloom).
But as the pair were poised to depart the city at the season’s end, they found themselves ensnared by a harsh government crackdown on the fae folk, with the Burgue’s population of mythical creatures confined to the ghetto of Carnival Row. It wasn’t quite all bad, though, as Philo elected to embrace his identity as one of the fae, joining Vignette behind the barriers. They’re trapped, but at least they’re trapped together.
EW spoke with Delevingne about what’s next for Vignette and Philo, the show’s real-world resonance, and the challenges of creating such a fully realized world.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What is it like making a show with such a rich mythology? Is it challenging to put yourself in that world?
CARA DELEVINGNE: I mean, all humans have an imagination. That is something we all are blessed with. But in this case it’s definitely harder. You have to really know everything you possibly can to really be able to immerse yourself in a world. And I guess I may be a child like this, but when I’m in it, I really just don’t think of anything. And in terms of the set, and the costume, and how detailed [it was], and all the actors, it was just so well realized. You could really just escape into this world. And I think, when people say the fantasy escapism thing, it’s not an escape for people because I think it is mirroring the real world. But for us, we really escaped into this world, as [actors]. Especially for something that has never been a book, again, all these lists of names and things that we use, and terminology and stuff, it’s incredible how in-depth it is. But it’s still easy enough to pick up from people, I think, in the first season. And get fans to really get behind.
Can you talk about bringing Philo and Vignette’s relationship, and their dynamic to life?
I just love how it starts off in the beginning, and you kind of don’t know exactly where they’ve left off or what the deal is. But you know there’s a history between Philo and Vignette, you know that there’s obviously a massive connection or past, but just that there’s some sort of sour taste. You can tell there’s something wrong. And then obviously you grow to understand what that really means, having a fae-and-human relationship, whether it was just sex, whether it was love.
I mean, obviously the whole thing of it being a love story is kind of shocking. Especially with the crime thriller and everything else, the commentary going on, the love story is just a whole ’nother element to it. But I think it is that kind of star-crossed lovers type thing, where it’s like, people who just aren’t meant to be together who just find this connection. If you’re a human you’re not meant to connect with faes or have that kind of deep connection, whereas it’s the same thing with humans. Everyone has a connection no matter where you’re from, what age, what language you speak, we all connect somehow.
And where do you see that relationship going now that they’re on the same side at the end of the season?
I always think that the way relationships start kind of mirror how it’s going to be for the whole relationship. Because the whole relationship, they’ve always been in chaos and chaotic circumstances. So I always imagine, what if it wasn’t chaos? Would they really be together? Or are they just together because of the circumstance? So I don’t know. I mean, always, it infuriated me a little bit that my character went back to his because she was so hurt by him. It seemed like he was just like, “Hi, I’m alive.” And she was like, “Okay, you’re my boyfriend again.” Kind of annoyed me. So we’ll see.
On that note, season 1 hints a lot at a past romance between Vignette and her friend Tourmaline [Karla Crome]. Will that be explored more in the future?
I mean, I hope so. Whether it’s her and Philo or her and Tourmaline, you’ve got to explore both relationships. And to me, her and Tourmaline have that kind of relationship where it’s like, they’ve been best friends forever. Whether they’ve had sex or not, or loved each other or not, doesn’t take away from the fact that they are each other’s best friends. So that to me is always going to be stronger than someone you love.
More broadly, how do you feel about the way the season ends up, with things taking that much worse turn for the fae?
I think it’s great, with the commentary on things like the wall, and I just think, obviously you hate that for the show and for the creatures and stuff. I think that people will be shocked, but then obviously like, of course that’s what’s going to happen. It’s f—ed up. It’s crazy.
What did it mean to you to play a character who’s an immigrant and a refugee, with all the real-world resonance that has?
It put me in a position of having to really think of myself — because I am, as an actor, you’re a vessel, right? And everyone can understand being the other, or feeling like the other. And if you’re talking about suppression or rights being taken away, I mean, women have had it for years, but it comes across every generation, every culture in so many different ways. And I think it doesn’t matter where the conversation happens. I’m just very glad to be paying such an incredible part.
What are some things about her that you hope to explore more in future seasons?
I want to know more about — I mean, I know, but I want the audience to learn more about her past, learn more about what makes her who she is, what she’s lost, what she’s gone through. But also, I think, just her trajectory and where she’s going will be interesting enough.
How much of her backstory did they reveal to you up front?
Not much, to be honest. Because this whole season, the first season, is mostly about Philo and his past. So I kind of had to make it up, or discover it myself.
You’re no stranger to effects-driven projects, but were there any scenes or episodes that were particularly challenging from that perspective?
Well, no. I mean, some of the fight scenes when I was flying were quite difficult, because we had to do all of them in stunts. But you know, in terms of flying, obviously I had to be CGI, but with other stuff they really tried to use as little CGI as possible. So it was mostly with the big, big flying scenes. I really only had to do a couple of days of me just being on a wire, flying against a greenscreen, not that much, which was really amazing considering the rest of the time it was pretty much all just on wires. Probably the most challenging though… just flying, wet. Cold. It’s never fun. It’s challenging enough.
And the more emotional side of things, what were some of the more challenging ones?
When we were doing reshoots, there was a day that was like, okay, you’re just trying to defend someone who’s being killed. You’re screaming at someone, begging them not to kill you, you’re opening up about all these girls being killed. The jumping from emotional extremities was so much. Like, f—ing ferocious anger, to fear-based sadness, to then, like, childlike. I just started feeling a bit like a sociopath. That was the most exhausting part, was the emotional stuff. By the end of it I became this open chasm of, like, just poke me and I’ll just cry. It was just a nightmare. Literally anything you see, I was just a mess.
Is there anything else you can tease about what’s to come on the show?
If you have seen the end of season 1, I think you’ll be interested enough, without me telling you anything, to see what happens in season 2. But I can promise you that you will be shocked. Or not, depending on what you think. [Laughs]