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Harry Treadaway of Showtime's 'Penny Dreadful' Breathes Life Into Dr. Frankenstein Not with Joy Division, Brothers of the Head or Lizardsun...But Glenn Gould?

By K. Young k.young@classicalite.com on May 09, 2015 07:57 PM EDT

Harry Treadaway stars as the fabled Mary Shelley character Dr. Victor Frankenstein in Showtime's Penny Dreadful, alongside big Black Hawk heartthrob Josh Hartnett as the Victorian-American Ethan Chandler. Classicalites, surely you've heard that famous shriek by Dr. Frankenstein when his masterpiece comes to life, but what you may not know is that the actor who plays the young doctor on premium cable, Britain's own Mr. Treadaway, likes to compile playlists of classical music to help him get into character. Treadaway says, "If I need to connect with the conversations I had initially, I can go back and listen to the music. It helps."

For all the monster mashups that make up the Penny Dreadful universe, Treadaway finds it helpful to listen to the classics. Particularly, he (like Apple Corp. in Cupertino) finds pianist Glenn Gould's work "so inspiring," especially since he's playing someone "who's a genius."

In addition to listening to Gould's legendary keyboard stylings--to say nothing of his equally important radio plays--Treadaway did a few other things to bring a new, fresh perspective to the iconic role. While he read Shelley's original text, upon which Dreadful writer John Logan bases many of his own story lines, Treadaway says he remains focused on Logan's screenplay, avoiding most other iterations as rendered throughout the decades.

Yes, even Gene Wilder's...

All the same, Treadaway claims he interviewed several professors who specialize in late 19th-century medicine, considering that's the era from which the proto-Frankenstein character originates.

The 30-year-old actor was initially drawn to music by his twin brother Luke--who, as it happens, won an Olivier Award for his role in the literal house-brought-down The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. And together, they formed a Pearl Jam-esque quartet called Lizardsun with Matt Conyngham and Seth Campbell. Which may (or may not?) explain why their "joint" mockumentary, Brothers of the Head, was something of an, err, flop.

Of course, post-punks of a certain vintage will remember his filmic redemption behind the throne as Stephen Paul David Morris in Anton Corbijn's Control.

According to Madison, in order to play the most foward-thinking doctor, Treadaway needed to listen to music that was even older. And he claims Gould's music allowed him to, well, create life. "I'm stitching together characters," he says, much in the same way Gould, himself, would splice tape later on. 

In the new season of Penny Dreadful, which premieres this Sunday on Showtime at 9:00 p.m., Dr. Frankenstein's mission is to make sure his new creation has the opportunity to love, as that is what his creation demands of him.

Indeed, check out the trailer for Season 2.

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TagsHarry Treadaway, Showtime, Penny Dreadful, Joy Division, Brothers of the Head, Glenn Gould


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