‘Penny Dreadful: City of Angels’ Allows ‘Game of Thrones’ Star Natalie Dormer to Play More Than One Monster

On Game of Thrones, Natalie Dormer played Margaery Tyrell, a woman who tried many different ways to become queen. On Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, she plays Magda, a character with many different incarnations. Magda is a supernatural force in the Penny Dreadful spinoff, and she appears in many different forms in the first episode alone. 

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels - Natalie Dormer
Natalie Dormer | Justin Lubin/SHOWTIME

Dormer was on a Television Critics Association panel for Penny Dreadful: City of Angels on Jan. 13. She and series creator John Logan discussed the many different version of Magda Dormer plays. Penny Dreadful: City of Angels premieres Sunday, April 26 at 10 p.m. on Showtime.

The premiere of ‘Penny Dreadful: City of Angels’ only scratches the surface of Natalie Dormer’s characters

The first episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels introduces Magda’s central form, and some other twists. Dormer teased there’s much more to come. 

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels - Magda #2
Natalie Dormer | Justin Lubin/SHOWTIME

“John Logan has given me such a gift here,” Dormer said. “This is the actor’s dream, to play countless iterations and countless characterizations. You see, in the first episode, two of Magda’s iterations. There are more. You’ll have to wait to see how many there are.” 

John Logan was impressed how Natalie Dormer brought Magda to life

Logan wrote that Magda changed appearance. Even he wasn’t sure an actor could pull it off. Dormer set him straight. 

Natalie Dormer and Rory Kinnear | Justin Lubin/SHOWTIME

Natalie has worked so hard to shape these characters. My fear, when I wrote Magda with all these iterations, was we’re going to have a vaudeville turn or we’ll be winking at the audience. But Natalie’s been able to truly invest each one of them with complete backstory, a complete physicality, complete vocal energy that is extraordinary to watch. And, frankly, your personality changes on the set, depending on who you’re playing.

John Logan, Television Critics Association panel, 1/13/2020

Magda represents the human evils of ‘Penny Dreadful: City of Angels’

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels is set in 1938 Los Angeles. The city is trying to drive out immigrant communities by building a freeway through their neighborhood. Two detectives (Nathan Lane and Daniel Zovatto) investigate a murder and racial tensions flare throughout. Magda is there to instigate more.

“That’s the beauty of what my role brings to the show,” Dormer said. “By adding the supernatural element to it, you have this catalyst, you have this metaphor that can lift the story in that way that illustrates John’s themes even more emphatically.”

Natalie Dormer had to catch up on ‘Penny Dreadful’

Penny Dreadful ran from 2014-2016. Dormer was a little busy on Game of Thrones during those years. When she got the job, she caught up.

“As soon as I knew that I was doing this, I went back and I watched the entirety of Penny Dreadful,” Dormer said. “I binge watched it in about two weeks, and it just made me extraordinarily excited to be working with John.”

Natalie Dormer as Magda
Natalie Dormer | Justin Lubin/SHOWTIME

Once she knew what she was getting into, she got even more excited for City of Angels.

He has an incredible capacity of interweaving incredible ensemble casts in a way that all of you, because you watch so much content, would normally be often two steps ahead of the game, of knowing where a second act or third act is going to be within a season over the course of a number of seasons. I’ve watched enough TV and read enough scripts in my time, and I would count myself as able to do the same. That doesn’t happen with John Logan. You can’t predict. He has this amazing capacity at coming from left field when you’re not expecting it, interweaving characters. And he has this extraordinary element of surprise and interweaving that I think is very rare. And so I look forward to what that will mean for Season 2, because I know that this man’s head works that far in advance.

Natalie Dormer, Television Critics Association panel, 1/13/2020