Try as he might, Orlando Bloom just can't seem to get away from fantasy, a genre he has enjoyed a bountiful association with ever since coming to fame as the ninja elf Legolas in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy almost 20 years ago.
Bloom's latest dip into the fantasy waters is the ambitious new mystery drama series Carnival Row, which takes place in a steampunk-esque world not entirely unlike Victorian England, except that fairies and fauns exist and are subject to harsh societal disadvantages.
Shot on gargantuan sets built in Prague, the scale and artistry of the production impressed even Bloom, who could be considered something of an authority on the subject.
"I've been on some amazing sets over the years," Bloom tells TimeOut in Beverly Hills. "Lord of the Rings was always talked about for its authenticity and nothing has really come close to it until I worked on Carnival Row. It was completely otherworldly. The touch and the feel, it was incredibly detailed."
His Carnival Row co-star, Cara Delevingne, says, "I wanted people to come to visit me all the time because just walking through those sets, no matter how cold it was in Prague, was just … visceral. You could smell and hear every room and every corner of everything had something."
In a role she was clearly born to play, Delevingne (Suicide Squad) stars as a fairy ("fae") named Vignette Stonemoss, who arrives in a city called The Burgue as an indentured refugee from her occupied homeland, where seven years previously she enjoyed a wartime romance with Bloom's human soldier, Rycroft Philostrate.
"It was the fire that drew me to her," says Delevingne of her character. "It was the fire that ignited my fire for her. Because it's quite hard to play a character that is so strong, but not ruthless."
Philo, as Bloom's character is known, is now a police detective investigating a series of attacks on fairies. Fairies and fauns are a subjugated underclass in The Burgue, a city rife with political unrest over the increasing presence of these magical immigrants.
That's right, in addition to some of the luvviest character names this side of Harry Potter, Carnival Row has plenty to say about the contemporary world, most pointedly the hot button topic of immigration. Delevingne wouldn't have it any other way.
"That's the whole vibe of the show," Delevingne tells TimeOut. "That's why we're here."
"There are a lot of parallels," says Bloom. "I think there's so much fear in the world today about the idea of refugees, migrants coming into society. And while it's a fantasy world and the characters are fantastical, it's so human, it's so real, it's so tangible you can't look at it and not take something away from it. That's the gift."
Carnival Row began life as a super-hot feature film script 17 years ago. It launched writer Travis Beacham's career as screenwriter but his passion project never got out of development hell until he reconceived it as a television series.
"It was a little more about race than immigration when I first wrote it," Beacham tells TimeOut.
"And in developing it, it had become more specifically about: they're from over there and they've come over here."
As is probably evident by now, despite the presence of fairies and fauns (referred to as "pucks" in the show), Carnival Row is most definitely not for kids. These pucks say the F-word, which has plenty of organic usage, going by the interactions of the characters.
"I don't wanna be objectifying anyone," says Beacham. "But part of what was interesting about it was using these tropes from fantasy in a more adult context but without it being too gimmicky, in a way that felt organic and lived in and real. Because I think one of the things that makes it more difficult for more cinematic-style fantasy to really comment on the world that we live in, is when it becomes too whimsical and it becomes too removed. And then the things that it's trying to say I think, as a consequence, become sort of simpler."
Adds Delevingne: "The subject matter is so serious and very real and there's death and there's a lot of things going on ... violence. So if you miss the sexy element, then where's the light in? And it's not sexy where it's like, he just has to add that in there, it's very necessary to the storylines. And again, it's not objectifying at all. It's beautiful and amazing so I think it's important."
Bloom says: "There's a whole conversation to be had. You connect with Vignette in the fae world and with my character in the human world. And then you're introduced to both those worlds and how they collide."
Who: Orlando Bloom, Cara Delevingne and Travis Beacham
What: Carnival Row
When: Available on Amazon Prime from tomorrow