by Roslyn Sulcas
As Vanessa Ives in the Showtime series “Penny Dreadful,” the French actress Eva Green has been possessed by demons, spoken in tongues, fallen in love with a werewolf and defied the Devil. What on earth can happen to her character next? Something scarier: therapy.
Yes, in Season 3, now underway, the impenetrable Miss Ives visits a “mentalist,” who bears a strange resemblance to a character from Season 2. “I always think, no, it can’t get darker,” said Ms. Green, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for the role. “But, well, you don’t know with this character whether it’s all in her head.”
The show, set in Victorian England, incorporates characters from classic British novels of the era — Dr. Frankenstein and his monsters, Dorian Gray and Dracula — to creepy, head-spinning ends. “I love playing a character from those repressed times who is so nonconformist, it’s very jubilating,” Ms. Green said. “Being possessed, sometimes, it’s very freeing.”
Ms. Green, 35, grew up in Paris and worked in theater before making her screen debut in 2003 in Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers,” later appearing as the double agent Vesper Lynd in the 2006 James Bond movie, “Casino Royale.” Later this year, she will appear in Tim Burton’s “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.”
In an interview at a hotel in London, Ms. Green, dressed all in black, was warm and, unlike Vanessa, smiled a lot. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
When you were cast as Vanessa, did you know you’d have epic sequences of demonic possession — projectile vomiting and mowing down men and furniture?
I love all that! I prefer doing it to light stuff. There is something very physical about it, which is fun. But it’s true that it’s really intense, like a drug, or a sport. Sometimes, after shooting, I go home and lie on the sofa with a glass of red wine and can’t move.
Is it hard to speak in tongues in that scarily deep voice?
The first season, I was very serious about it. I learned some Latin, Arabic, German and Lingala, a Congolese dialect. But then some linguists created the Verbis Diablo for Season 2. I was very good for an episode. Then I just made it all up and took my voice down an octave or two.
French is your first language, but you’ve mostly worked in English.
I have only done one movie in French, and it was terrible. I’d love to do another, but I’m scared. Playing in another language means you get out of yourself somehow. I worked really crazily to sound British when I did the Bond movie, but I’m a nerd like that.
When did you decide you wanted to act?
I was very shy — I still am actually — and my school forced me to do a theater class when I was 12 because they thought it would be good for me. My mother was an actress, but she stopped when she had children, and she would always tell me it was a cruel business. I went to drama school but thought I wanted to become a director. Then I started to act and really felt alive. And here I am.
What are some of your career goals?
I would love to do something with Jacques Audiard [“Rust and Bone”]. I once wrote him a letter, but perhaps he doesn’t think I’m right. People often see me as sophisticated, or put me in the supernatural box.
What was it like to work with Tim Burton on “Miss Peregrine”?
He was really lovely. The film is about lots of strange children with unique characteristics, and I’m the guardian who protects them from the outside world. There is some darkness, but it’s very fanciful, crazy, with funny moments. It’s very poetic, very Tim.
What’s in store for Vanessa in Season 3?
Vanessa has lost her faith, but deep down there is a longing. She meets Dr. Sweet [a zoologist] in the first episode, and she will fall in love, but it’s weird. It’s a “Penny Dreadful” kind of relationship, what can I say?