Something smells a bit off in the world of The Nevers. Why is The Touched’s benefactor Lavinia Bidlow, played by Rushmore’s Olivia Williams, cavorting below ground with Denis O’Hare’s evil Dr. Edmund Hague? Is she actually a true supporter of The Touched as they are, or is she seeking to capture and harness their special powers? And what is Pip Torrens’ Lord Gilbert Massen up to in Parliament and behind closed doors? His assault on The Touched might seem more forthright, but something feels off there too.
Only a handful of episodes remain in the first half of HBO’s period fantasy The Nevers and it looks like the show plans to end, not with a whisper, but with a gun-powder-fueled, opium-spewing, orgy-hosting bang.
During a virtual junket for the new show, Collider got the opportunity to chat with The Nevers’ pair of doctors, Zackary Momoh (who plays orphanage doctor Horatio Cousens, a man touched with healing powers) and Denis O’Hare (who plays deranged doctor Edmund Hague, a man searching for the source of the powers), and what most attracted them to this project, the similarities and differences between their characters, how little they knew in the beginning about who their characters would become, and the dynamic between Hague and Lavinia (Olivia Williams)
How do you dress characters for a period drama when it takes place in a period like none we’ve ever seen before? That was the challenge when it came to The Nevers, the new fantasy series that premiered April 11 on HBO. While the series – about a group of Victorian women blessed (or, perhaps, cursed) with uncanny abilities – takes place in the mid-1890s, it also has to contend with the kind of action (among heroes, villains, and every type in between) that might not always have a true-to-life historical precedent. For costume designer Michele Clapton, a veteran of The Crown and Game of Thrones, that was part of the appeal.
Amalia, gifted with foresight, has a shadowy past, a legendary right hook and a habit of ditching her walking dresses mid-brawl, because a long skirt can really spoil a roundhouse kick. “You throw yourself at danger like you think it’s going to propose,” a colleague tells her/
Donnelly lives more quietly, though she did quit drinking early in the pandemic, which must qualify as an unusual ability. Production on “The Nevers” won’t resume for a few months, so she is currently locked down in London – in the home that she and Butterworth share with their two daughters, 3 and 4 – mothering, batch cooking, trying to get a decent night’s sleep with the help of some meditation apps.
Set in Victorian London, The Nevers explores a world where few individuals — mostly women — awaken supernatural abilities, ranging from visions to annihilating power. However, these gifts leave them vulnerable to a white male-run society determined to eliminate their kind. Under the guidance and protection of seer Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and steampunk inventor Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), the Touched form a collective to protect each other. But not all Touched ones find a benevolent way to process society’s persecution of them.
It’s a great show. It’s beautiful, expensive, in the great HBO tradition, in Victorian England with girls with superpowers. I play a sort of mad scientist. He’s not really crazy, but definitely got some interesting sadistic streaks. It’s a a great character, and an amazing look. Michele Clapton, who did Game of Thrones, did our clothes. I’m happy to get to shoot six more episodes in June.
When you’ve got close female friends it always feels very much like a sisterhood. [The show] was pitched to me very early on that this was like a female Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and I just loved that. I do think that there’s so much about Ann that is actually similar to Penance and the same with me and Amalia, so I think that our relationship with each other is not entirely dissimilar to the one that Penance and Amalia have – there’s genuine support, genuine love there, and we have a hell of a lot of fun together. Hopefully, that reads. The chemistry of these two characters together was kind of the most important element of starting off the show.
I would not have gotten this far if I wasn’t game. I’ve played a witch. I’ve played an assassin. How do you say “no” to Ryan Murphy? You just know it’s gonna be good.
“It was very intended to have me show up in that fashion,” she explains. “Calculate is not the right word but it’s purposeful. You’re not going to have me show up, and immediately think there’s nothing to my being there. It’s obviously going to pull in a similar fan bas [to Buffy]. That was intended.” Part of that plan required keeping Caulfield’s casting a complete secret until she emerged as queen bee of the neighborhood in Episode 2.