The anthology series pilot is a passion project of up-and-coming filmmaker Che Grayson.
In the film industry, new minds are necessary to keep the ball rolling and to foster innovation in storytelling. Magic Hour, the first installment in a new sci-fi anthology series in the vein of Twilight Zone, is a perfect example. The production’s website describes it as such:
On the 200th year anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein,’ ‘Magic Hour’ is a gender-bending retelling of the classic story with a modern twist; in this psychedelic-macabre portrait of a mysterious young woman who wakes up one morning without a soul, and roams the streets of Tokyo in search of one.
This intriguing story comes from the mind of a young, black filmmaker who already has award-winning shorts and a comic book series under her belt. Brooklyn-based writer, director, and TED Talk speaker Che Grayson is delivering exciting new approaches to familiar ideas, as Magic Hour, her NYU thesis project, promises to be. This is the most ambitious production of her career so far and hopefully will be the first of many ingenious stories coming from her.
Grayson provided me with further clarification on the nature of the project by phone, saying the thesis project comes from a 30-page script meant to serve as a concept for a television show. Magic Hour is the intended pilot for this anthology series, which she says will center around the “strange and magical things that happen” during what is known as the “Golden Hour” in her universe. Each episode will feature its own contained story, meaning the events and characters seen in Magic Hour will be the only ones based on “Frankenstein.”
In recent news, Magic Hour added Indya Moore from the FX series Pose to its cast and crew. Moore will play the character Bella as well as serve as executive producer. She is another on-the-rise talent, and as a trans actress of color could be an especially inspiring force in the industry. Future roles in film could help open the door for Moore’s career as well as the careers of other LGBTQ entertainers.
Grayson confirms that Moore’s character is meant to parallel the pseudo-Frankenstein’s monster of the story, but not in the way one would think based on Mary Shelley’s source material. When asked how true to the novel the short would be, Grayson explains how her feelings towards the dynamic between monster and creator affected her adaptation.
She says Magic Hour has a great deal of respect for both the story and for Shelley, describing it as “a huge, pivotal piece of literature.” At the same time, she’s always found the plight of Frankenstein’s monster sad and says she believes the monster to be more human than the doctor, in fact. Grayson wants the monster to finally get that chance to show this side, and firmly says that “humanity comes from not being born a human but through actions.” A powerful sentiment indeed, and one which appears to be the guiding principle throughout the project.
By saying Moore’s character will be discovering her soul, Grayson actually means that she will be discovering her humanity. Bella, in the shoes of Frankenstein’s monster, will set out to “break free of the man who created her” and will thus become empowered throughout the tale. Grayson hints at Bella’s fateful meeting with another woman, and the love she will find with her.
Another actress credited alongside Moore is Yuka Taga, who will play a character named Eiko. She is likely the mysterious woman Grayson mentions — a source of salvation and life-changing romance for the wayward Bella. Of course, the filmmaker didn’t want to give away too much concerning the plot, but Bella’s journey feels as if it will be a beautiful look at self-discovery and first love.
Besides wanting to give a voice and humanity to Shelley’s creature, Grayson says she also wanted to avoid the trope of making the woman a monster in the horror sense. Frankenstein’s creation’s 200-year-old existential crisis feels still-appropriate in a modern film setting as well, made all the more inviting with the added supernatural elements. Moore’s Bella searching for purpose in Magic Hour perfectly reflects the confused and tortured journey of the original creature. As for the mad scientist trying to control their creation, and later reconcile their actions, this would also play out uniquely against the neon background of Tokyo’s city streets.
For years we’ve seen the original, infamous gothic horror replicated and extrapolated upon in film and television. Now, based on what Grayson was able to tell us, Magic Hour seems to be playing just loose enough with the source material to create something that is still able to feel new and engaging.
This first installment in Grayson’s expected anthology is shaping up to be a real knockout of contemporary sci-fi, and it sounds as if we can expect great things to come of the series should it get picked up. Netflix seems like a great place for the series. Or FX, home of Pose. No matter where the project takes Grayson’s career, she describes Magic Hour as a labor of love. “A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into this,” she says.
Magic Hour was set to finish filming in Tokyo last week. Once we know, we’ll be sure to tell you how to check it out.