Ann Skelly (‘The Nevers’) on the mashup of sci-fi and period drama: ‘The whole world feels cohesive’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“Our characters were sold to us as Butch and Sundance in corsets,” explains Ann Skelly of her role in HBO’s “The Nevers.” The series takes place in Victorian-era London and follows a large cast of characters who are granted mysterious new powers, or “turns” as they are referred to in the show. The actress enjoyed the mashup of science fiction and period drama for the human elements she had the opportunity to explore. Watch the exclusive video interview above.

Skelly plays the kind-hearted inventor Penance opposite Laura Donnelly’s steely Amalia. She notes that there was immediately a “natural ease” with one another. “I get such an openness from her,” Skelly says of her co-star. “There’s nothing precious about what she’s doing. She’ll very much want to facilitate any idea that you have.” That sense of collaboration served both women well, as their chemistry forms the beating heart at the center of a larger sci-fi tale.

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Though the series is epic in scope, Skelly appreciates that the otherworldly elements mesh naturally with the setting. In some cases it even helps expand the storytelling. “The sci-fi element really opens up the period genre because it expands these women’s lives far further than they could have gone,” explains the actress. “It gives them so much agency.” Instead of getting bogged down in technical jargon, the series pulls viewers into the relationships between characters, especially the dynamic between Penance and Amalia. “There’s a massive ensemble cast,” Skelly explains, “yet the whole world feels cohesive.”

One of the greatest joys for the actress to explore is the ways in which her character stands apart from the battle hardened Amalia. Penance is on a journey to find her own path and her own definition of success, which involves making sure “you don’t lose yourself” and that you “uphold a certain level of goodness,” according to Skelly. “She sees the optimism in life,” the actress suggests with a smile.

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