The program was at first pitched to a variety of United States in addition to UK networks, in addition to eventually landed with Showtime, with Sky Atlantic as co-producer. It premiered at the South by Southwest motion picture party on March 9 in addition to begun transmitting on television on April 28, 2014, on Showtime on Demand. The collection premiered on Showtime in the United States on May 11, 2014, as well as on Sky Atlantic in the United Kingdom on May 20, 2014. After the third-season upright June 19, 2016, collection designer John Logan exposed that Penny Dreadful had actually ended up as the primary story had actually reached its decision.
The title explains the cent dreadfuls, a type of 19th-century British fiction magazine with lurid in addition to marvelous topic. The collection brings into play several public domain name personalities from 19th-century British in addition to Irish Gothic fiction, consisting of Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray; Mina Harker, Abraham Van Helsing, John Seward, Renfield, as well as Count Dracula from Bram Stoker's Dracula; Victor Frankenstein as well as his beast from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; as well as Henry Jekyll from Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll as well as Mr. Hyde. Justine from Justine or The Misfortunes of Virtue by the Marquis de Sade likewise shows up.
A spin-off collection, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, premiered on April 26, 2020.
- Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray, a charming male that is eternal as well as never-ceasing.
- Timothy Dalton as Malcolm Murray, a hardened explorer of the African continent, on a deeply personal quest to save the remaining members of his family.
- Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, an enigmatic, quietly driven heroine who proves herself a force to be reckoned with as she battles powerful, relentless forces from the underworld.
- Rory Kinnear as the Creature, a creation Frankenstein abruptly abandoned, who, not given a name, variously uses the aliases Caliban as well as John Clare.
- Billie Piper as Brona Croft / Lily Frankenstein, an Irish immigrant seeking to escape her brutal, violent past.
- Danny Sapani as Sembene, a mysterious, long-time ally of Malcolm (seasons 1–2).
- Harry Treadaway as Victor Frankenstein, an arrogant, reclusive young doctor whose ambition as well as research involves transcending the barrier between life and death.
- Josh Hartnett as Ethan Chandler (born Ethan Lawrence Talbot), a charming, brash and daring American man of action with uncanny marksmanship, who detests violence, and is more complicated than he likes to admit.
- Helen McCrory as Evelyn Poole, a professional spiritualist known by the alias Madame Kali who is secretly the leader of a powerful coven of witches called “Nightcomers” (season 2, recurring season 1).
- Simon Russell Beale as Ferdinand Lyle, an eccentric Egyptologist (season 2, recurring seasons 1 and 3).
- Patti LuPone as Florence Seward, an alienist or early psychotherapist treating Vanessa's depression (season 3; LuPone previously guest-starred as Joan Clayton in season 2)
- Wes Studi as Kaetenay, an Apache with a connection to Ethan, who becomes an ally to Malcolm (season 3).
Introduced in season 1
- Olivia Llewellyn as Mina Harker, Malcolm's daughter and Vanessa's childhood friend who has been abducted (seasons 1–2).
- Alex Price as Proteus, a new creation of Dr. Frankenstein's, named after the literary character of the same name, who was killed by the Creature (seasons 1–2).
- Lorcan Cranitch as Inspector Goldsworthy, of the London police (season 1).
- Robert Nairne as the Vampire, an evil creature who leads a cabal of undead and who abducted Mina Harker (season 1).
- Olly Alexander as Fenton, a vampire minion (season 1).
- Graham Butler as Peter Murray, Malcolm's son, who died accompanying his father on one of his expeditions (seasons 1–2).
- Noni Stapleton as Gladys Murray, Malcolm's estranged wife and mother of Mina and Peter (seasons 1–2).
- Alun Armstrong as Vincent Brand, the leader of a troupe of actors in residence at the Grand Guignol (season 1).
- Hannah Tointon as Maud Gunneson, an actress at the Grand Guignol, and object of the Creature's affection (season 1).
- Gavin Fowler as Simon, Maud's partner who mistreats the Creature (season 1).
- David Warner as Abraham Van Helsing, a hematologist and colleague of Frankenstein (season 1).
- Stephen Lord as Warren Roper, a Pinkerton agent hired to bring Ethan back to the United States (seasons 1–2).
Introduced in season 2
- Sarah Greene as Hecate Poole, Evelyn's eldest daughter (seasons 2–3).
- Nicole O'Neill, Olivia Chenery and Charlotte Beckett as minor witches of Evelyn's coven. (season 2)
- Douglas Hodge as Bartholomew Rusk, a Scotland Yard police inspector investigating the grisly Mariner's Inn Massacre (seasons 2–3).
- Jack Hickey as the junior inspector working with Rusk (seasons 2–3).
- Jonny Beauchamp as Angelique, a mysterious transgender woman who gains Dorian's attention (season 2).
- David Haig as Oscar Putney, the owner of a struggling wax museum who employs the Creature for his own nefarious reasons (season 2).
- Ruth Gemmell as Octavia Putney, Oscar's wife who is uneasy about the Creature and treats him cruelly (season 2).
- Tamsin Topolski as Lavinia Putney, the blind daughter of the Creature's new employers, with whom he develops a specious friendship (season 2).
- Ronan Vibert as Geoffrey Hawkes, a rich landowner who fell under Evelyn's sway (season 2).
Introduced in season 3
- Shazad Latif as Henry Jekyll, a chemist and college friend of Victor Frankenstein.
- Christian Camargo as Dracula, the brother of Lucifer who fell to Earth to feed on the blood of the living as the first vampire. In London, he takes the guise of kindly zoologist Alexander Sweet to captivate Vanessa.
- Samuel Barnett as Renfield, Florence Seward's secretary who becomes involved with Dracula.
- Sebastian Croft and Jack Greenlees as minor vampires serving Dracula.
- Casper Allpress and Pandora Colin as Jack and Marjorie, the Creature's son and wife from when still alive.
- Cokey Falkow as Scarman, a gunman in the service of Ethan's father.
- Jessica Barden as Justine, a homeless, brutalized young prostitute who becomes an acolyte to Lily.
- Sean Gilder as Franklin Ostow, a marshal in the American West aiding Rusk in the hunt for Ethan.
- Brian Cox as Jared Talbot, a ruthless, powerful American rancher and the estranged father of Ethan.
- Perdita Weeks as Catriona Hartdegen, a thanatologist scholar with expert knowledge of the supernatural.
Notable non-recurring cast includes Mary Stockley as Victor Frankenstein's mother Caroline, Anna Chancellor as Vanessa's mother Claire, and Frank McCusker as Christopher Banning, a doctor overseeing Vanessa's treatment while institutionalized, all appearing in flashbacks during the first season, as well as Oliver Cotton as Father Matthew, having been requested to perform an exorcism on Vanessa in the first season's penultimate episode.
In January 2013, it was announced that Showtime had made a series commitment for the project. Logan and Mendes previously wrote and directed Skyfall, respectively. Production began in London in the second half of 2013. Showtime president David Nevins stated that the tone of the ensemble series will be “very realistic and very grounded, not Bela Lugosi. All exist in human form in turn-of-century London.” This was also reflected during the production of the sound for the show, where Logan often pulled things back towards more realism. Logan, a lifelong fan of literary monsters, wrote the project on spec and scripts the majority of episodes of the series. It was intended that Mendes would direct episodes, but scheduling prevented this.
Juan Antonio Bayona was announced as director for the first two episodes. The continuing to be episodes of the first season were directed by Dearbhla Walsh, Coky Giedroyc, as well as James Hawes.
In March 2013, it was announced that the series would be filmed in the United Kingdom; eyeing the new UK tax credit for high-end TV productions that offers a 25% rebate. However, it was reported in August that production would instead take place in Bray's Ardmore Studios and other locations around Dublin, Ireland, because of the country's section 481 tax incentives. Filming began on October 7 and lasted 5 months. Reports indicate that the change was made as no stage space of a sufficient calibre was available due to the filming of major motion pictures in London.
In December 2013, Showtime announced its first production blog for a series with the launch of The Penny Dreadful Production Blog. The venue gives viewers an online, behind-the-scenes look at the series' production from its early stages of filming in Ireland through the end of the first season, featuring interviews with actors and crew. In February 2014, Showtime released a full-length trailer for the series.
Logan revealed at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International panel that one of the texts he thought about while planning the series that he would like to use in a future season is The Island of Doctor Moreau. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly prior to the premiere of the third season, Logan stated that the addition of Dr. Henry Jekyll was implemented because the rights to Doctor Moreau were not available.
Showtime announced shortly before the end of the first and second periods that another season (of 10 in addition to 9 episodes, respectively) would debut the following May. However, Logan had decided during the middle of the second season that the third season should be the last, as well as he pitched the third period to Showtime president David Nevins accordingly. They did not release this information until after the final period had actually completed, as Nevins mentioned, “given what I knew the ending of Penny Dreadful was going to be felt like a massive spoiler and it felt disrespectful to the experience that people were having with the show.” Logan said regarding not releasing the info: “That's what the ending of this series is, it is meant to be a strong, bold, theatrical ending because I think that's what our fans like and to water that down with an announcement or having them know I think would be an act of bad faith.”