By Rick Bentley / Tribune News Service
Actors prepare for roles in a variety of ways. It’s not common to find someone like Cara Delevingne, whose preparations to star in the new Amazon Prime Video series “Carnival Row” included hours and hours of wearing a heavy backpack. No, she’s not playing a college student with a massive course load, but rather a refugee faerie named Vignette Stonemoss whose most prominent feature is a set of wings.
“I want to be the female Tom Cruise and do all my own stunts,” Delevingne says with a smile. “That helps with this character because you fly in, you fly out. It’s part of the energy of the character. I couldn’t take the wings home and practice with them so I just got backpacks and carried heavy books on my back to understand what it would be like to have wings all the time.
“Even her balance would not be normal.”
Delevingne’s faerie lives in a Victorian fantasy world that has become a haven for mythological immigrant creatures forced to find sanctuary after their exotic homelands were invaded by the empires of man. Living with humans is a struggle as the creatures are forbidden to do everything from flying to falling in love.
There is a source of hope, however. A human detective, Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom) rekindles a forbidden affair with Vignette. They must work together in a rabidly intolerant society to deal with a series of gruesome murders on Carnival Row.
Taking on a character in a fantasy world is nothing new for the model turned actress. Along with portraying the Enchantress in the comic book film “Suicide Squad,” she played Sergeant Laureline in Luc Besson’s “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” Her continued work in the genre is not by design.
“I love fantasy and sci-fi, but I’m not the biggest fan,” Delevingne says. “I really don’t have a favorite genre of movies. I love them all. It’s interesting why fantasy has come into my life more. I suppose the reason behind all of these fantasy roles is the fact they have all been these incredibly strong female roles.
“I think in most real-life stories, women are not made to be so strong, but in the fantasy element they really are.”
All three of the big fantasy projects gave the London-born Delevingne the opportunity to take on strong roles, but the new series for the streaming service has given her far more room to play. Both “Suicide Squad” and “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” were much heavier in terms of action than “Carnival Row.” While the series has plenty of big action moments, Delevingne has been more excited because of how much depth there is to the characters and how the storyline about immigrants resonates with what is happening in the real world.
Additionally, Delevingne loves that her character can be strong and determined while also dealing with a broken heart. Vignette is a character who picks herself up no matter how many times she gets knocked down and will do whatever is necessary to survive.
“She’s a realist,” Delevingne says. “With the amount of horrible things she has seen, she’s not tainted. She still wants to see the best in people and trying to make things better, which is kind of crazy when you have lost all hope in the world. She had every reason to give up but still has these morals in her that to me are generational — that’s just who faeries are.”
Connecting with the elements in her character was easy for Delevingne as she spent years working in the modeling world where rejection and disappointment are constant. Her response to those elements was to be named Model of the Year at British Fashion Awards in 2012 and 2014. She made the move to acting in 2012 with a role in “Anna Karenina” because she was looking to have more creative outlets.
As for how her work as a model prepared her for acting, Delevingne says, “It’s not the modeling part of the job that’s hard. It’s the scheduling and the time. What helped me was that it gave me a thicker skin in terms of rejection.
“Modeling when you are literally half naked outside in England all day, I have (expletive) thick skin at this point. I also have a high tolerance for pain because you get stuck with pins all the time and get pushed around. I’m pretty good with that now.”
That means training with a backpack full of books was never a problem.
The first season of “Carnival Row” is scheduled to debut Aug. 30 on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries, and executives have already ordered a second season of the show.