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The Nevers Actors On Why The Victorian Era And Superheroes Go Well Together

Looking at the landscape of stories about people with superhuman abilities, one might be inclined to think we've reached the end of our rope in terms of angles of approach. HBO, however, has what it believes to be the answer to this super-powered sugar rush, and it comes dressed in petticoats at the reins of a horse-drawn carriage. The network's new series The Nevers takes themes explored by properties like X-Men and transports it back in time to England's Victorian era, hoping the old-timey setting will bring some new magic to well-worn sci-fi territory.

Film and TV viewers should be no strangers to the milieu, given the popularity of stories set in England during the late 19th century. From Little Women to the various works of Charles Dickens, we've time and again returned to the British Empire in the throes of the Industrial Revolution. Still, we've never quite seen a Victorian story like The Nevers, which posits an extraordinary event that grants a portion of the English population, eventually named the "Touched," superhuman abilities.

So, how do these two popular tropes — super-powered humans and a Victorian setting — mesh? To find out, we talked to The Nevers cast members Rochelle Neil, Vinnie Heaven, and Nick Frost, who all play characters representing the seedier side of the show's London.

A society in flux meets superheroes on The Nevers

Frost, who plays underworld kingpin The Beggar King on the show, believes that throwing the chaos-creating element of sudden superpowers into an already tumultuous time in British history is a recipe for compelling drama. "These new-found superheroes are finding their power, and they're finding their voice and their strength just as industrial Britain is going through a great change," he said. "So, I think there's a geographical change happening. There's a socio-political change happening. And also, these people individually are changing, so I think within that kind of maelstrom of change is coming action and things that people have never seen."

Heaven, who portrays dapper Touched thief Nimble Jack, agreed that the show's sci-fi elements throw Victorian England's socio-political issues into stark relief. "I think the Victorian era is the time where everything is divided by gender and class; that's when that begins," they said. "So, to then add in giving certain people powers, that's a fascinating thing because then you're elevating a large section of society that in its true, realistic form was not going to gain that. So, for me, it's fascinating to see what those types of people do when they're given power, and the power that isn't challenged by your regular understanding of power; politics, or money or whatever."

For Neil, the show's flame-throwing Bonfire Annie, the combination yields a flavor that's uniquely its own. "It's like umami, isn't it?" she said. "It's like the unexpected, and you can't quite describe it. For me, the whole Nevers is umami."

The Nevers premieres on HBO on Sunday, April 11.