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Life In A Freak Show
by Elissa Doherty, The Sunday Telegraph (December 19, 2004)

You could say he's almost famous. Actor Nick Stahl rose to prominence as a teenager in the early'90s after being hand-picked by Mel Gibson to star opposite him in The Man Without A Face. Since then he's had roles in the critically acclaimed The Thin Red Line and, more recently, Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines.

Still, you wouldn't exactly describe him as a household name. And that's just the way the 25-year-old likes it. "I try to avoid the sweet-ass roles," he says.

He's certainly done that in the ABC's stunning new 12-part series Carnivale, a dark, eerie and complex period drama set in the Oklahoma dust bowl during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Carnivale, which aired in the US in 2003, opens with Stahl's character, Ben Hawkins, witnessing the death of his mother, and burying her in a shallow grave. Then, after being taken under the wing of an odd collection of freaks in a travelling carnival, Hawkins realises his supernatural powers and becomes embroiled in a battle of good versus evil.

While likely to have niche, rather than widespread appeal, Carnivale is being touted as one of the ABC's top shows this summer, with a berth in the all-important 8.30pm Sunday slot. It will screen in six two-hour blocks.

The beautifully shot series won five Emmys, including awards for cinematography and art direction, but in many ways defies description.

Stahl says he was drawn to its darkness. "I thought it was really unique," he says.

Series creator and executive producer Daniel Knauf admits it was a tough series to pitch.

"It's sort of a joke, when people would come up to you and ask what you were working on," he says.

"How do you describe this show? I guess the flip answer is, it's the Grapes Of Wrath meets David Lynch."