A Discovery of Witches finally premieres in the U.S. next week! In interviews with Teresa Palmer and Matthew Goode, they introduce us to this world and give us a glimpse of what fans can look forward to.
Friends, there are several reasons to be glad that 2019 is here; believe me when I tell you that A Discovery of Witches should be one of them!
The TV series is finally coming across the pond, and the entire first season of will premiere simultaneously on Sundance Now (AMC Networks’ direct-to-consumer SVOD service) and SHUDDER (premium streaming service for thriller, suspense, and horror) next Thursday, January 17, 2019 in the U.S. and Canada.
Thanks to our friends at AMC/Sundance TV, we were honored to be able to screen the full season of A Discovery of Witches, and I assure you that it’s the quality television we deserve. Teresa Palmer and Matthew Goode are a *MAJOR* reason why. These two *ARE* Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont. From the instant they’re are on-screen together, the chemistry sizzles. The tension and UST, the romance and obsession… you can’t help but be drawn in. Their individual storylines are also quite compelling, with Diana struggling with her identity as a witch and Clairmont’s concerns that vampires and other supernatural creatures are in danger of extinction. Book readers, as well as those experiencing A Discovery of Witches for the first time will definitely be satisfied.
To help get ready for the show, we have a series of interviews to share (courtesy of AMC/Sundance TV), starting with Teresa Palmer and Matthew Goode! [Over the next several days, we’ll also have interviews with Owen Teale (Peter Knox), Elarica Johnson (Juliette Durand), Greg McHugh (Hamish Osborne), Tanya Moodie (Agatha Wilson), and Alex Kingston (Sarah Bishop).]
In the interviews below, Teresa and Matthew walk us through the world of A Discovery of Witches, introducing us to their characters and stories, discussing the process of filming the series, and sharing why fans should be so excited.
***WARNING: The interviews get a bit spoiler-y, so beware!***
First of all, tell us what you admire about your character, Diana.
I’ve really fallen in love with Diana, she’s such a dynamic character. You really see her go on quite a beautiful journey throughout the show. She is a hyper-intellectual woman, an academic, a historian. She is very focused on that. Diana is an incredibly powerful witch, and when we first meet her she is running away from her true self. As the series progresses, you see her start to really embrace and embody her own spirit and she just grows so much. She becomes really proud of being a witch and proud of having these powers. It’s such a beautiful message for everyone watching because it is all about celebrating who you are. That is what made me want to do the show.
Can you explain why Diana is a reluctant witch when we meet her in the first episode?
Diana has had a pretty traumatic childhood. She was raised by her aunties Sarah and Em because her parents were killed. They were both very powerful witches and her mother was descended from the Bridget Bishop, one of the first witches who was hung following the Salem Witch Trials, so her roots run very deep. Diana denies the powers associated with her bloodline because she was led to believe her parents were killed by ignorant humans who were afraid of witches. So, naturally, she is afraid to show any signs of being a witch to the outside world. I think that’s why she is so focused on her studies; it’s the one thing that keeps her grounded to a human-like quality and everything else is too scary for her.
What was it like stepping on to the set for the first time?
When I first walked into the Bodleian Library set it took my breath away. I really felt like I was truly there. The attention to detail that our designer James North has is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on a production I have been on. Gosh, it makes my job so much easier because I really believe I am in the library. I remember trying to hush people when we were in there before I thought,‘Oh yeah, this isn’t an actual library!’ It was just so easy to be in the skin of this person, and truly believe that I had spent every day in this library.
Do you enjoy doing stunts?
I have been in a lot of action films so I’ve done a lot of stunts in the past. I was in a film called Number Four where I was either flipping upside- down on wires or training with a stunt team for three months of a shoot. I was all excited to be up there and flipping around! I love being physical with a role.
How does your character first feel when she sees Matthew?
I think there is something between Diana and Matthew that is otherworldly. It is in the subconscious. They are supposed to be together. She knows immediately that he is a vampire. The first few meetings between them are probably my favourite, because there is this funny dynamic between them where he is really annoying to her and he is amused that he is annoying her. He is charismatic and handsome but there is something she can’t explain in words. She is drawn to him; they’re like two magnets for each other, it’s that really rare quality that you find in your soulmate. There are these twin flames that just have to be together.
How was filming with Lindsay Duncan?
Yes, so Ysabeau, is a tough lady. She is very cold at the start, the mother-in-law from hell. She is not accepting of Diana at all. But Lindsay is a dreamboat! I love her, she is so elegant and regal but loving and very committed to her craft. I instantly felt comfortable with her and I just loved being around her, which is so funny because it is such a polar opposite experience to that Diana has when she first meets Ysabeau.
What was it like to work with Matthew?
The best. I just love him, I adore him. He is funny and crazy and kooky and always up for a good laugh. One day on set we had a scene where we are talking about time-walking. We have this problem, Matthew and I, we get the giggles and when we have the giggles we can’t stop giggling. So, we ruined take after take. We would almost get there, he had one line to say, we almost made it through and then he lost it! He was on the ground laughing. He is like my brother; he is so cheeky and charming. We just have so much fun together.
What was it like to work with Alex Kingston and Valarie Pettiford?
I love those ladies so much! I actually said to Alex and Valarie that I really wish they were my real aunts. I would have loved to have grown up with those guys. We would have had so much fun and tea and hot chocolate at night time; they are just super loving, joyful women. They really are Sarah and Em to me – I see them as these characters and they have brought so much to them. I love the dynamic between Diana and Sarah, it’s a bit angsty, they rub up against each other but it’s really because they love each other. It’s really fun to get in there with Alex Kingston and play that up. I mean what a blessing – truly it’s been so lovely working with them both.
Owen Teale’s character Peter Knox is a witch. He is the head of the Congregation, but what kind of witch is he?
It’s interesting, you know when you think about witches a lot of the time you think about darkness and what I don’t think has been explored as much in film and TV is the idea of the light in witches. I think witches can choose one way or the other, and Peter Knox is very enticed by the dark side. You can see it in his eyes and the way Owen plays it – it’s quite frightening because he is very still and quiet, but the way he pushes emotion through his eyes is petrifying. Ultimately, Diana finds out that Knox wants to use her to get to the Book of Life/Ashmole 782, so he can wipe out the other species. Diana doesn’t want any part of that, and it becomes this horrible game of cat and mouse when he is trying to pursue her and pressure her into giving him Ashmole 782.
What can you tell us about Malin Buska’s character?
Malin is so brilliant as Satu, the intensity that comes through her eyes and just the way she is completely
in the skin of who that character is. I don’t think Satu is inherently evil in any way, she is just very focused on her life as a witch and developing and nurturing her powers. But there are probably seeds of jealousy in there too. Satu has always been known as one of the most powerful witches, yet she doesn’t have the instinctual power Diana has. She’s had to work a lot harder at it than Diana.
What was your favourite location to film in?
The house that is Matthew Clairmont’s home is this big beautiful place called The Old Lodge. They had peacocks walking around in the front yard and a big fireplace as you walked in. It was just kooky, and I completely fell in love with it. Very romantic and magical and perfectly Matthew Clairmont.
Did you enjoy filming in Wales?
I’ve really become accustomed to living here, and I have made it my home now. My whole family came over, I have my sons here with my husband. My husband is actually shooting his own film right now called Freakerica up in Northern Wales, so he has really made it his home as well. My son’s school is here, we have our favourite vegan restaurant here. I have just made friends, I am really sad to leave. Fingers crossed we are coming back for another season because I have really fallen in love with Cardiff.
How would you sum up A Discovery of Witches?
It is a fantasy love story, it’s dramatic, and funny, and adventurous. It’s enticing and sexy and inspiring.
It’s many things. It’s an incredibly magical adventure with very lovable characters.
Why did you want to be a part of this project?
I met Jane Tranter, who is a force of nature. I have never met anyone do a better take on a book that is 750 pages in absolute detail. By the end of that meeting I wanted to be a part of it because it sounded like an incredible world to inhabit. I’d never played a vampire before and there is a kind of a dark mythology to it. The whole point of A Discovery of Witches was that it was going to turn that on its head, it’s more about his involvement with this human woman. So, it has a love story and notions about equality. It has a lot to say about the politics of our time.
When people think of vampires and witches they think of Hammer horror and Twilight. What makes A Discovery of Witches different?
There have been many degrees of how people wanted to portray this extraordinary figure. Some of it is like Gary Oldman; the Count Dracula thing, which is great, but that is very Machiavellian and seems a lot darker. What I think is great about Deborah Harkness’s work is that it takes the nuances of that to a greater degree and sees them living in a modern society.
Tell us about your character and what attracted you to him?
Matthew Clairmont is a professor of biochemistry and an expert in genealogy. At the start, he is searching for the ancient manuscript, Ashmole 782. It talks about how vampires, daemons and witches came to be, and he’s been looking for it for hundreds of years. Matthew is so many different things: a chemist, a poet and he is also lethal. He is multi-faceted, but he is without love. So Matthew’s past and his involvement with Diana are confusing for him because he wants the manuscript but then he starts falling in love with her. Matthew doesn’t have all the answers yet and he is an intriguing figure – that’s what attracted me to him. He’s mysterious and charming but at the same time he’s deadly. It’s a lot to play.
Matthew is very guarded when it comes to love. How does he feel about Diana?
When he first meets her his only consideration is that he wants to find the Book of Life. Then, obviously, his opinion of witches is not great because of the wars that have been fought over many centuries. So, he first finds her quite intriguing. I think given the chance he would like to eat her because they are obsessed with witch blood, as witch blood sings to them. That’s how he talks about it: “I can hear your witches’ blood singing in your veins”. He has been training himself not to fall in love again but there is just something about her. When they first met there was a frisson between them. She, like him, does not judge other species. Her mind is also hugely important to
him as it is what intrigues him. She is accepting of him and believes in him. And she is also going through her own journey of being attracted to someone that she isn’t supposed to be, being a witch and all that jazz.
What is the Congregation?
Over time, when humans started to be the ruling class, witches, vampires and daemons realised that if they were going to survive they had to keep the species separate and this council made up the rules of how they should live. Kind of like the Houses of Parliament for creatures. If anybody stepped out of line they’d be punished and have to be dealt with by this council. That is not to say that some of the people on the Congregation aren’t out for their own good. Gerbert, played by the wonderful Trevor Eve, and the de Clermonts have been warring forever despite both being vampires. So a power struggle exists not only between the daemons, witches and vampires but also between many of the families within each species.
On the subject of the de Clermont family: tell us about working with Lindsay Duncan.
She was everything I had hoped. She is one of the greatest human beings I have ever met, she is brilliant, but she is also hilarious. She brings a real gravitas and depth. Ysabeau is quite cold, I mean she is incredibly warm and fun in real life, but on this she is ice cold. She is such a pro, and it is just great to be in scenes with her.
Can you tell us a bit about the dance scene with Teresa?
So we didn’t actually have a lot of rehearsals which was a bit nerve racking. Teresa is a natural. I, on the other hand, have two left feet. She helped me get through it and we had a wonderful choreographer. It ended up being one of my favourite scenes in the entire series. Teresa is really fun to work with, we are like an old married couple now.
What’s the significance of that scene for your characters?
For Matthew, there is a fulfilment of duty as the head of the house, because he loves his mother (Ysabeau) dearly, not to mention wanting to protect her. He is not quite himself when he is there; he is quite reserved and polite because Ysabeau holds a deep wound. The reason he dances with Diana is to try to show to his mother that she isn’t just any old witch and she is special to him.
Could you describe the set?
Two words: James North. I think he is going to be one of the greatest set designers of our time. This is a fantastic set! The Bodleian Library was how we started – James built it and it was staggering, the Witches’ Archive is magnificent. I wanted it to be my office. My favourite set is Sarah and Em’s house. It feels like the house you’ve always wanted to live in in the countryside. It’s just beautiful, the detail is amazing.