'The Nevers' brings us back to a Victorian London age, but not one that we know it to be. Blending fantasy and mystery, the series follows people who have been "touched" and have manifested abnormal abilities.
HBO series 'The Nevers' has already premiered over in the States to acclaim from viewers, and it's worth noting that two Irish actors lead the series.
Northern Irish actor Laura Donnelly plays the role of Amalia True, a mysterious, quick- fisted widow. Hailing from Belfast, Laura's first on-screen role was in Channel 4's 'Sugar Rush' from the mid-2000s, and she has since gone on to star in 'The Fall', 'Beowolf', 'Outlander', and the movie 'Tolkien'.
Ann Skelly joins Laura as Penance Adair, who is a brilliant young inventor, able to think up new and unique creations which manage to get the pair out of sticky situations. The Dublin actor had a leading role in Virgin Media's 'Red Rock' as Rachel, and also popped up in 'Vikings' a number of times as Lady Ethelfled.
In 'The Nevers', they are both the champions of this new underclass in the universe, making a home for these outcasts and fighting off those who wish them ill will.
We were lucky enough to interview both actors ahead of the series' release on Sky Atlantic and NOW this May, and they were both in flying form, as you can see.
First off, I have to address the elephant in the room - two Irish actors leading an American sci-fi series for HBO - what is that like?
LD: It's pretty crazy! I think it gives us a sense of what Amalia and Penance are going through because there's a sense of the two of us taking on this big thing and not necessarily knowing where it's going to go, and just kind of winging it [laughs].
AK: Yeah, we're trying really hard - slightly lower risk, with the stakes of the world not on our shoulders - but it helped us bond a lot quicker. In the chemistry read, in my second audition, I was called in to read with Laura and I was pacing around outside before I went in. And then I went in and saw there was an Irish woman standing on the other side and I was like 'Ah, grand!'. It was a relief actually.
LD: It certainly was a relief for me, because I had read that Penance was Irish and I was like, 'Oh God, am I going to have to spend the next five years acting across some girl doing a bloody awful Irish accent? [Both laugh].
Why do you think there's been such a revival of period dramas, and female-centred ones, in particular, these days?
LD: I think in terms of female-led, we've come to a watershed moment, so there is just a recognition that there hasn't been roles like these available for women at all. And now that's what people are interested in. We've had the courage to ask for more, and we're receiving a bit more - still a way to go but we're getting there. In terms of period drama, I think when the world is in a bit of upheaval, people want that escapism and they want to feel that they're going back to a time that was perhaps simpler. But I think that 'The Nevers' is a show that people might not have come across before. In the first few episodes, people might think they know the world we're creating, but that gets flipped on it's head later on. There's no box that our series fits into.
AK: I feel like it's a slight reclamation of these women that we've seen in the Victorian show maybe - the straight-laced or prudish or whatever the word is - and we're claiming them as actual people who have a laugh and have a bit of craic because that's what you do in life. This year especially, I've just had to laugh at the worst moments because it's the only way I think you get through it. So it's nice to be able to work in an extreme time period and there's a lovely hope in looking back at period dramas as well to see how far we've actually come. And we can get some motivation from looking back at history and use it in the present day, maybe.
The way your two characters bounce off each other is so natural - how did you both manage to create this connection between you?
AK: There was lots of tea and gin drank, let's just say that! Laura is an easy person to get along with, she's not hard work at all, luckily for me. Me personally though, I make life very difficult in that I'm very clingy and I want to hang out with her all of the time! [Both laugh]. But no, we got on from the get-go, and it's down to the writing as well, because you get their dynamic in a very quick and to the point way, to know that there's history between these two people. They also wrote in some things that we said to each other from time to time.
LD: Yeah definitely, I think the writers were just constantly listening out for bits and to start working it into the script. That's what's so good about a job like this that's very collaborative and you do get more references from the outside world making an appearance in this one that we're building.
And finally, are you both worried/excited about the series' release here in Ireland?
LD: Yeah of course, hundreds of people have put their blood, sweat and tears into this production for two years, and it's been a long process to even just get this first half of the season out! And we all truly believe in it and are really proud of it. And I want people to like it because I want to play this role for as long as I'll be allowed to!
AK: I'm really excited about playing an Irish person and actually keeping my accent, and I still can't believe there are two Irish women leading a massive HBO show. I hope that people in Ireland respond well to it as well... I know my mam and dad like it!
LD: And they're the hardest to please!
All episodes of 'The Nevers' will be available from May 17 on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW.