The Fun Of An Alternative Fair
by Erica Thompson, Courier Mail - Queensland,
Australia (December 23, 2004)
Carnivale is not a conventional television
series, writes Erica Thompson.
Clancy Brown has a helpful tip for watching
the ABC's epic new drama series Carnivale.
"You gotta watch
it with two eyeballs, not one eyeball,"
"It's not a show
that lends itself to stereotypes and to the
usual language of television."
With its combination
of circus freaks, magic and evangelism, Carnivale
is certainly not standard Sunday night viewing.
Set during America's
dust bowl era, the Emmy Award-winning series
has been described as Grapes of Wrath meets
The show follows the
dual stories of 18-year-old fugitive Ben Hawkins
(Nick Stahl), who is picked up by a 1930s travelling
carnival, and that of charistmatic preacher
Brother Justin (Brown).
Both men share strange
apocalyptic dreams and appear to have supernatural
While the nature of their
connection is unclear, creator Daniel Knauf
has hinted at an impending battle between good
Produced by HBO, the
same cable network behind The Sopranos and Six
Feet Under, Brown calls Carnivale "alternative
"I got a script
and read it and was astounded by it and thought
this is either going to work in a way that no
TV has ever worked or it's going to flop terribly,"
exceeded expectations and it's a beautiful,
beautiful show. I love the whole iconoclastic
feel of it."
Traditionally, the 1.95m
actor has landed the latter role in projects
about "good and evil".
Remember the sadistic
prison guard in The Shawshank Redemption?
The sword-wielding barbarian
The 45-year-old even
voices Superman's nemesis Lex Luthor in the
One cannot help but wonder
if Brother Justin also turns out to be the bad
"Ooooh, I don't
know," Brown says. "I don't think
it will be very clear right away.
"The story itself
is a bit more complex than just black and white
and good and evil. It really has to do with
the nature of both.
"(Justin) is a very
petulant character, sort of overly dramatic
and trying to make sense of things. He's not
at all at ease with what he suspects to be true,
which is that he is growing up."
IT IS demanding television,
but Brown says the pay-off is worth it.
obvious about this show," he says. "There's
not a banner hung on the clues and exposition,
but you will realise later what is important
if you keep watching."
Born in Ohio, Brown is
the son of a former congressman and spent much
of his childhood living in Washington D.C. He
won a track scholarship to a US university,
but ended up graduating with a degree in speech.
"My parents thought
the same thing I did. He'll try (acting) for
a few years and get tired and come back and
make a living in a sensible way. They're still
waiting for that and so am I," he laughs.
"I feel like I'm
at the circus without paying and nobody knows
Carnivale, ABC, Sundays