‘It’s about ambition and desire’

Harriet Warner, creator of “Dangerous Liaisons,” said that she was initially wary about the show. 

“Because I thought in terms of an adaptation, it has [already] been done… So, I really wanted to be sure there was something new to say, or a new way to bring the novel through,” she told The Post.

Warner, who is also known for “Tell me Your Secrets” and “The Alienist,” found a new approach to “Dangerous Liaisons” after revisiting the 1782 novel of the same name by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.

Airing Sundays (8 p.m. on Starz), “Dangerous Liaisons,” which has already been renewed for a Season 2, is a drama set in 1783 Paris, following young lovers Pascal Valmont (Nicholas Denton), an impoverished mapmaker who’s been cut off from his inheritance, and sex worker Camille (Alice Englert). The book it’s based on follows the characters when Camille is a Marquise and and Valmont is a Viscount, as the former lovers turned rivals find amusement in ruining others around them. 

Camille (Alice Englert) and Valmont (Nicholas Denton) in "Dangerous Liaisons" almost kiss while wearing white wigs from the 1800s.
Camille (Alice Englert) and Valmont (Nicholas Denton) in “Dangerous Liaisons.”
Dusan Martincek
Pascal Valmont (Nicholas Denton) in "Dangerous Liaisons" looking at a map.
Pascal Valmont (Nicholas Denton) in “Dangerous Liaisons.”
Dusan Martincek

“They are amoral and wonderfully corrupt, but I would love to go on that journey to see how we got these two people who were once such passionate lovers as enemies, and also how they got into that world [of the elite],” said Warner. “So going through the character of Camille to understand how she becomes this extraordinary iconic Marquis de Merteuil of the novel and the [1988] movie, I thought, ‘Yeah, we’ve got something here.’”

“Dangerous Liaisons” has also been adapted into a 1988 movie starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Uma Thurman, as well as “Cruel Intentions,” the infamous 1999 modernized version of the story starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Philippe, and Reese Witherspoon. 

Valmont (Nicholas Denton) in "Dangerous Liaisons."
Valmont (Nicholas Denton) in “Dangerous Liaisons.”
Dusan Martincek
Camille (Alice Englert) in eighteenth century Paris in "Dangerous Liaisons"  walking up steps.
Camille (Alice Englert) in eighteenth century Paris in “Dangerous Liaisons.”
Martin Mlaka

“I did [re-watch them]. I went to the novel first and then I went to Christopher Hampton’s movie, because I do think that’s the seminal adaptation,” said Warner. “And I wanted to stay true to that period. I’m very aware of ‘Cruel Intentions’ and other iterations, but I didn’t want to get too close to any of them…really, it was trying to find that essence [of the story] within the book.”

Warner said she also looked to history for inspiration, since the French Revolution happened in 1789, just a few years after the novel came out. 

Camille (Alice Englert) in "Dangerous Liaisons."
Camille (Alice Englert) in “Dangerous Liaisons.”
Dusan Martincek
Pascal Valmont (Nicholas Denton) holds a large scroll in "Dangerous Liaisons."
Pascal Valmont (Nicholas Denton) is a mapmaker in “Dangerous Liaisons.”
Martin Mlaka

“I wanted to read the novel, but also read what it meant when it was published…it’s always cited as one of the reasons France had its revolution. People read about what they thought was the true behavior of the Ancien Regime,” she said.

“I was very interested in the world of sex workers of Paris in the eighteenth century. I was interested in the way the early formation of what will go on to become the police, and how there was so much that was forbidden and censored…All of this bleeds out into a greatly divided society. Paris at that time was so fascinating. This is a story which will always be this oscillating relationship with Camille and Valmont. We are following their ride, and we are in a world we know historically is moving towards huge change. So, there’s a natural propulsion and structure. In Season 2, everything gets bigger – the stakes, the world. It’s about ambition and desire turned up even hotter.” 

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