The 2019 Emmy Awards are still a few months away, but Netflix is getting an early start on the campaign by introducing voters to some of their signature programmings.
One such series is “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” which debuted in October. Kiernan Shipka stars as Sabrina Spellman in this updated tale about the character first introduced in the Archie comics in 1962. The character was given the sitcom treatment when Melissa Joan Hart played her in “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” in the 1990s.
For Netflix, Sabrina’s adventures take a dark turn that involves dark magic, mysterious deaths, and Satan worship. And yet it plays like a darker, edgier version of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” with a deep cast of characters, quippy dialogue, and intelligent storytelling.
You can read our review of Season 1 here.
To introduce Emmy voters to the show, and get fans ready for the upcoming second season, Netflix held an FYC event in Beverly Hills. Sabrina herself, Kiernan Shipka, brought along a few of her chilling castmates to discuss themes like feminism, family, and free will.
Entertainment Tonight’s Leanne Aguilera moderated a panel that included Shipka, plus co-stars Miranda Otto, Lucy Davis, Michelle Gomez, Chance Perdomo, and Jaz Sinclair. Creator and showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was also on hand to share his perspective on bringing Sabrina from the page to the screen.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa started out by talking about the origin of bringing “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” to the screen:
“I grew up reading the ‘Archie’ comics and loved them. One of my favorite characters was actually Sabrina, and I knew there was a Sabrina sitcom, which I’d seen when it aired. But I love horror and I love elevated horror, so this had kind of been a secret project that I had been cultivating. And I thought, well, maybe if I do it as a comic book first, people will see that it could work.
“So I kind of wrote this graphic novel as an homage to movies that I love like ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Omen’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘The Shining.’ And it really just took the idea that rather than be a fun, light, comedic character, that Sabrina might be born into a much darker mythology. Always been obsessed with witches and witchcraft and things like that, so it felt like a secret passion project for many years.”
Aguilera asked the cast to share their initial thoughts about walking into their roles in a much darker telling of Sabrina’s story.
Lucy Davis, who plays Hilda Spellman, said:
“Horror is my favorite genre and I always watch it and I’m so excited to watch horror and then at the end of it I’m petrified and I’m like, ‘I think we’ve learned our lesson for the next time,’ and then I do it again.” She went on to say that she was excited to take on the role of one of Sabrina’s aunts. “I was really excited to see that it wasn’t about a comparison to the original one, which I obviously loved.”
Miranda Otto plays Sabrina’s other aunt, Zelda Spellman. She shared her introduction to the project:
“I was invited to come in by Roberto, to see him about the role, and I was blown away by everything he showed me. Particularly the design of the production, that they were so committed to such a detailed kind of gothic look. Because although I hadn’t seen the television show, I was aware of the look of it and I was trying to work out how would this show look. That was really the clincher to me, apart from meeting the wonderful Roberto, was seeing the gothicness of it and the world.”
Kiernan Shipka explained her goal for approaching Sabrina:
“I kind of wanted to make her my own as much as I possibly could. I’m lucky that I got the project maybe December of last year and we didn’t start filming until March, so I had three months of finding my own voice. And I really just wanted to make her believable and lovable, but at the same time not focus on making her a particular thing too much…That’s my favorite thing about TV is you can really grow and learn about your character consistently.”
Madame Satan was also first introduced in the Archie comics and had a different story in the “Chilling Adventures” graphic novel. Michelle Gomez takes on the role for TV. When asked about her goals in bringing this dark character to life, she said her first reaction was:
“Give me it. Give me the role now, please. My reaction was just ecstatic joy when it did come my way… It’s also not lost on me that I look quite like Madam Satan in the Archie comic books. So I think that helped… I was absolutely thrilled. What an amazing character and a phenomenal show to be in with this lot. It’s just a dream come true.”
Chance Perdomo said he looked at different actors while trying to decide how to interpret his view of Ambrose Spellman, a confidante, friend, and co-conspirator for Sabrina:
“Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow for like his mannerisms and the way he kind of goes about his day. As far as cheekiness and playfulness, Robert Downey Jr. And Jimi Hendrix. That was basically what I had to go on. I wasn’t sure how dark this was going to be. I was kind of focused on the character. But it’s dark and I’m glad Ambrose fits in there because I wasn’t sure how cartoony he was going to be.”
Speaking about her character, Roz, one of Sabrina’s mortal best friends, Jaz Sinclair shared her biggest hope:
“I wanted her to be psychic, for sure! I showed up day one whispering in everyone’s ear that I wanted some kind of supernatural ability… I really liked Roz when I first heard about Sabrina and read the script, i was just like ‘wow, this is so cool!’ I really, first of all, love witches and feminism so I was like, ‘that’s really cool, I get to do two of those things at the same time!'”
Feminism is an important topic and theme in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.” Gomez said, “Things have changed so much, so quickly even in the last couple of years. I mean, we’re living in a world where even Nancy Pelosi is hot!”
“I really think just the idea of witch power in general people are really into as the idea of female empowerment becomes more popular, the idea of women having magical powers is really appealing right now, so I feel like having a show about feminism and witches is so perfectly timely because it’s teaching you about the power inside of yourself and with nature… I just love it.”
“It’s funny because if you take away all the witch stuff, it’s a very current contemporary young woman growing up in society. It mirrors a real teenage experience and then it kind of layers on this aspect of witchcraft and all this fun, magical stuff, but it’s so analagous to so many regular teenage things, it’s more relatable than I ever even realized and I think it manages to be an escape from reality while also mirroring reality at the same time, which I also love.”
Netflix wrapped up the event by revealing the trailer for Season 2, which fans can look for on Monday morning.