“There’s a turmoil that lives inside him,” says Daniel Zovatto of his character Tiago Vega on Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels.” This spiritual successor to the original “Penny Dreadful” series brings its focus to Los Angeles of 1938. The trauma Tiago endures is central to the story’s conflict. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
Tiago has a terrifying encounter with Santa Muerte, a deity of holy death in some sects of Meixan Catholicism, at a young age. The scar he carries with him from this event propels Tiago on a never ending quest for answers that often places him at odds with his family. “He tries to run away as far as he can from his family to find his identity,” explains Zovatto, “when you see such a thing, you question everything.” Tiago becomes the first chicano detective in Los Angeles, finding himself at the center of brewing racial tensions and a supernatural battle of good versus evil.
Zovatto is enjoying learning everything he can from his co-stars. Three-time Tony winner Nathan Lane plays his grizzled partner Lewis and Oscar nominee Adriana Barraza portrays his mother Maria. “I’ve always wanted to play among the best,” admits Zovatto. With a cast that also includes Rory Kinnear, Kerry Bishe, and a shape-shifting Natalie Dormer, he is grateful for the dynamic on set. “Scenes get elevated” just by having this high caliber of creatives on set according to the actor.
The talent extends to behind the camera as well, with Oscar nominee and Tony winner John Logan serving as creator and writer of the series. Logan was a major factor in getting Zovatto excited for the project. The actor recalls that even during the audition process, “I felt like I was in the room working with someone who wanted to make me better.”
Logan described the character of Tiago “in relation to playing Hamlet” and the theater influences didn’t stop there. Scene rehearsals would last for hours. “It felt like doing a play” exclaims Zovatto. “Usually with TV it’s really fast,” but Logan “was adamant that we were going to have time to discover it.” That ability to play with the text certainly aided the thespian in delivering on a tough role that explores racial tensions of the time period. Of course Zovatto notes that the themes explored in 1938 haven’t all disappeared. “This show has a lot of parallels to what’s going on still today,” he notes of the racism and corruption that Tiago unearths. “It’s universal.”
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