We talked to Deborah Harkness and the cast and creators of the upcoming A Discovery of Witches TV adaptation! We’ve got new details about the series, including what fans can expect and where we’ll be able to watch in the USA.
Anyone who has talked to me over the last month knows that A Discovery of Witches was at the tip-top of my San Diego Comic-Con mustsee/mustdo list! As soon as I found out that the series would have a panel at SDCC, I knew I had to find my way to that panel and pressroom. Mostly, I was anticipating news about a U.S. home for the series… information that we did get! A Discovery of Witches will stream on Sundance Now, AMC Networks’ direct-to-consumer SVOD service curated with high quality dramas, comedies and crime thrillers, and Shudder, the leading premium streaming service for thriller, suspense and horror.
A Discovery of Witches will have eight episodes in the first season, and when it makes its debut in the U.S. and Canada (on a date to be confirmed later), all episodes available simultaneously on both Sundance Now and Shudder.
While our UK friends will get to enjoy the series starting Friday, September 14 on Sky One, for now, us U.S. fans will be rewatching the fabulous teaser trailer.
To help tide us over, I also suggest checking out the interviews we did with Deborah Harkness and the A Discovery of Witches cast at SDCC! Teresa Palmer (Diana Bishop), Alex Kingston (Sarah Bishop), Valarie Pettiford (Emily Mather), Owen Teale (Peter Knox), and Lachlan MacKinnon (EP) were on-hand to tell us more about adapting this series to TV and what fans can expect.
According to Deb Harkness, she was only interested in having A Discovery of Witches adapted as long as it was possible to maintain the integrity of the story. It was a difficult process to find the right collaborators for the project. Similarly, the actual work of adaptation was fun, but ambitious, especially in terms of blowing up the world and expanding beyond Diana Bishop’s POV and experiences.
Deb also shares her thoughts on casting the series–how the casting of Teresa Palmer as Diana was perfect, in terms of her physical appearance and spirit. In fact, Deb thinks that in the series casting as a whole, all of the actors have been on point, and this has translated to their authentic portrayal of the characters. Owen Teale agrees, and discusses the ways in which he’s taken on the role of Peter Knox and advocated for his character.
As a viewer, I especially appreciate Deb’s and Owen’s discussion of wanting to have a story that appeals to women in their 30s and addressing women at various stages of life. This also couples with the LGBTQ representation embedded in the series and the broader ways A Discovery of Witches encourages inclusion and empathy in entertainment and the real world.
In our interview with Teresa Palmer she tells us that she wasn’t familiar with the book series when it came out. Rather it was the script that really caught her attention and Teresa instantly felt connected to Diana Bishop. (And we know that Deb feels the exact same about Teresa!) Tez shares how she loves Diana’s passion and vulnerability and the journey Diana takes to come to terms with who she is as a witch. I ask Teresa a little more about the tension within Diana, between the academic and the supernatural being, and she discusses how the magic literally bubbles out of Diana, as she wrestles with suppress that side of herself.
Lachlan jumps in before we can get too spoiler-y, but tells us about the technical elements of filming magic scenes, especially as Diana’s magic grows over the series. Teresa also discusses the chemistry test with Matthew Goode and how organic their interactions felt from day one. At about 8:00, Teresa tells a story about how she and Matthew would goof around on set, to the point that a serious scene had to be transitioned to a comedic one. But ultimately, the series is a love story with a strong element of thriller, based as much as possible in the real world.
Both Teresa and Lachlan talk about adapting a series with such a dedicated fanbase. Teresa says this helps her want to do her best with the series and how they all appreciate the love of the fans: “I also have found it just thrilling to have this kind of energy behind the series.”
Finally, we chatted with Alex Kingston and Valarie Pettiford, who play Sarah Bishop and Emily Mather, Diana’s aunts who raise her after her parents’ deaths. Valarie and Alex speak about the ways in which their romantic relationship onscreen normalize LGBTQ relationships, especially in this world where being Queer isn’t what sets them apart. Rather, it’s one’s distinction as a witch, vampire, or daemon that they have to hide, not their love. Alex shares an interesting story about a photo at the Bishop house of Sarah and Emily wearing pussy-hats at their local Women’s March. Whereas one producer was concerned about being too political, Alex, Valarie, and Deb perceived it as being realistic. Sarah and Emily would have been at that march! Piggy-backing off of that, Alex and Valarie discuss how the key creative decision-makers on the series are women.
I follow with a question about the theme of family in the series and both Alex and Valarie talk about the tension between Sarah and Diana, motivated by deep care and concern for her niece. This also expands to a discussion of recognizing one’s ancestry and they ways in which the Bishop and Mather families have been connected for centuries.
Alex and Valarie also talk about seeing the first four episodes of the series and how impressed they are with they way the episodes have been shot, which helps to ground the story in a realism reminiscent of our world.
What do you think? Which scenes are you hoping will make it from the book to screen? Check out 20+ images from the panel below, and make sure to stay tuned to WSN for your A Discovery of Witches updates!
Filmed in the UK at Wolf Studios Wales and on location in Oxford, “A Discovery of Witches” is a contemporary love story that begins against the backdrop of Oxford academic life, in a world where small numbers of witches, vampires and daemons live and work, unseen amongst humans, hiding in plain sight. Teresa Palmer is the brilliant historian Diana Bishop, a reluctant witch denying her heritage. The discovery of a bewitched manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library throws her into the heart of a dangerous mystery – and into the path of the enigmatic vampire and geneticist, Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode), who hides a dark family secret. As Diana and Matthew embark on a journey to understand the secrets of the ancient manuscript, their relationship develops, and events threaten to unravel the fragile peace that has long existed between witches, vampires, daemons and humans. Alex Kingston plays Sarah Bishop – Diana’s aunt, Valarie Pettiford plays her partner Emily Mather, and Owen Teale plays Peter Knox, a member of the Congregation. “A Discovery of Witches” was adapted for screen by writer Kate Brooke (“Mr. Selfridge”). Co-founder of Bad Wolf, Jane Tranter is the executive producer and Juan Carlos Medina (“Painless”) directs.