"I just want to be taken seriously outside of my looks," the 35-year-old quipped, referring to the pause-worthy scene. "But really, it was an interesting thing. The show is so much about what people have hidden, and so for my character to be introduced on stage, in such an extravagant costume, made it all the more stirring."
Seventeen years after making his breakthrough in the short-lived
After coveting an under-the-radar existence by appearing in a string of indie films — no doubt contributing to
Since epitomizing the cool suburban teen in 1999's "The Virgin Suicides" and later the hero in box-office hit and critical lemon "Pearl Harbor," the Minnesota native racked up credits in teen-targeted fare and critical hits such as "O" and "Black Hawk Down." But the careening journey from video store clerk to Hollywood "It" boy left him disillusioned.
"Basically I grew and learned," he said at Malibu Seafood as fish and chips orders blared out over a loudspeaker. "For me, when people ask what happened to me, it's a little weird, because I have been working this whole time. And the thing is, I feel like I spent a lot of time doing work that was worthy and good, but it's a little frustrating when the stuff you care about isn't seen because it isn't high-profile."
"Penny Dreadful" is at least poised to be a looker. A departure from Showtime's roster of pill-popping nurses and mentally ill
Hartnett wasn't lured by the intricate world concocted so much as he was seduced by Logan's pitch. In particular, "collaboration" and "partnership" caught his attention at their initial meeting.
"It was important to find an actor who you would believe was a man of action — a man who could use firearms and hold his own in a fight — but more importantly find an actor who behind their eyes had a certain amount of suffering," Logan said. "And a certain amount of lived-in intensity. That is Josh."
Hartnett is among an ever-expanding list of film actors jumping onto the television bandwagon. The transition hasn't been without its challenges.
"I kept asking John where the character was coming from," he said, catching himself on more than one occasion referring to the series as a film. "I needed to know. He was like, 'I don't know yet. You kind of have to leave your options open or just choose something.' It was something I couldn't wrap my brain around. What if I choose the wrong thing? It's been a learning experience."
In other ways, it's been a surreal experience, he added. Hartnett said the cast of horror characters roaming the Dublin, Ireland, set made for plenty of unusual sights.
"The poor guy who plays a vampire, his name is Robert [Nairne], I just feel so bad for him," Hartnett said. "It's not warm in Dublin in the wintertime, and they try to keep heaters around whenever possible, and there is poor Robert — super skinny and super tall, in a girly silk robe in full vampire makeup and teeth just shaking because all his paint will come off his body if he isn't careful. I don't know if I could handle a gig like that."
Hartnett's Ethan Chandler is enlisted by a seductive clairvoyant (
"They've been advertising my face on the billboard, which is surprising," Hartnett said. "Really in the first few episodes, you won't see me that much … and that's OK. Ethan is a slow burn. I like that."