As the popularity of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the Twilight series and Charmed have all shown, there’s a healthy appetite for dramas featuring magic and the blood-sucking creatures of ancient folklore. A Discovery Of Witches is no exception.
Based on Deborah Harkness’s All Souls book trilogy, the first series following the adventures of historian and reluctant witch Diana Bishop and her vampire companion, biochemist Matthew Clairmont, pulled in two million viewers an episode when it aired in 2018, making it Sky One’s most popular drama that year.
Fans have been waiting for the second series ever since, and two years on they’re being rewarded with ten new episodes which see the duo hurled back through time to Elizabethan London.
A Discovery Of Witches is based on Deborah Harkness’s All Souls book trilogy and the first series pulled in two million viewers an episode when it aired in 2018. Pictured: Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer as Matthew and Diana
Part love story, part thriller, part mystery, the series follows them as they endeavour to hunt down a magic text that could save both their peoples from extinction, and according to Matthew Goode, who plays Clairmont, it’s much darker than its predecessor. ‘It’s a very different series because Matthew regresses into his past – and psychologically that changes him,’ he says.
There is certainly plenty of supernatural warfare on show, alongside some nascent ‘blood rage’ (a vampire’s insatiable urge to hunt). The burgeoning romance between our hero and heroine continues to flourish though, albeit with bumps in the road on the way.
‘We do have some things that come between us and some obstacles to overcome,’ says Matthew.
‘Diana’s getting to know him again in this era,’ explains Australian actress Teresa Palmer, who plays Diana. ‘When we go back in time, the Matthew Clairmont she knows seems really different. He shifts into this darker version. It feels like he’s a totally different Matthew at times and this really throws her.’
The first series was named after the opening book in Harkness’s trilogy and set in a world where ‘creatures’ – witches, vampires and daemons – are at odds with each other but are united in keeping their powers hidden from humankind.
We met Diana as she discovered a bewitched manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Forced back into the world of magic to unravel its secrets, she formed an alliance with Clairmont, and despite the usual mistrust between vampires and witches the duo set out to protect the book while dodging threats from other creatures.
Initially reluctant to connect with her witch heritage, by the start of this series Diana has grown more confident in her powers and is on her way to becoming the most powerful witch in the world. ‘She spent so many years denying that part of herself, but her mindset is changing and, in fact, she’s starting to embrace this part of who she is,’ says Teresa.
Ten new episodes see the duo hurled back through time to Elizabethan London. Pictured: Steven Cree as Gallowglass
‘She’s still got a very long way to go and she’s certainly not in control of her magic, but she has to embrace who she is and delve further into it.’
That means lots of captivating magic sequences for viewers. ‘She harnesses all the power she’s discovered so far, like witch-wind that can blow people away and witch-water, the power to control rain.
‘But she builds upon those and she starts to realise that a part of one of her gifts is she can bring life into things,’ she says. ‘So there are sequences like the one where she’s looking at someone’s shoe with a snake embroidered on it and she brings the snake out of the shoe, a live snake.’
With the majority of the action based in 1590 (although there is some time travel back to the present), the cast had to deal with the challenges of full Tudor costume, a particular issue for Teresa who was breastfeeding her daughter Poet during filming.
‘I had to have front-opening corsets, so just the logistics were complex,’ she laughs. ‘But they’re so gorgeous and the intricate detail and the amount of effort put into making these beautiful costumes is unbelievable.’
The Tudor setting also enables the introduction of characters from history, including real-life Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe (played by Victoria’s Tom Hughes) alongside the then 57-year-old Queen Elizabeth (Casualty’s Barbara Marten), whose relatively advanced years do not preclude her from flirting with Clairmont.
‘I’m having it written into all his main scenes that women find him attractive,’ laughs Matthew. ‘Their relationship is quite touching actually, even when she’s being ghastly because there’s something deeper at the centre of it all.
He worked for her father, Henry VIII, and so he was a confidant who probably helped her while she was growing up. I would imagine there was a frisson while she was a teenager and then a young queen, but he does love her very much and respects her hugely.’
Also joining the cast is Outlander’s Steven Cree, playing Clairmont’s nephew Gallowglass, a towering warrior fierce in battle but unafraid of revealing his soft heart around family. Gallowglass accepts Diana as part of his extended family, becoming one of only a handful of people she trusts.
‘He’s incredibly loyal to Matthew and the Clairmonts despite perhaps not necessarily always agreeing with everyone, particularly Matthew’s father Philippe [played by James Purefoy],’ says Steven.
‘He’s quite bombastic yet he can be quite sensitive as well – but when it comes to the crunch he’s a fierce warrior who will destroy anyone or anything that gets in Matthew’s way. Because of his loyalty to Matthew, he then becomes incredibly protective of Diana as well.’
With an intensely loyal fanbase behind the books, all the stars admit they were aware there were high expectations for their transition onto the screen. ‘This show had a huge fan base before we even started, and because of social media I’ve been aware of the expectations for Gallowglass,’ says Steven Cree.
‘When I filmed Outlander I wasn’t on social media and I had no idea – and also the character I played in Outlander was different, whereas Gallowglass seems to be a fan favourite in the books so I’m definitely aware of that.’
It’s a sentiment echoed by Matthew Goode, who says he’s glad that – so far at least – the reception has been incredibly positive even from the most diehard fans of the books.
‘They’re incredibly difficult to adapt and so there are always going to be huge fans of the books who are, if not disappointed, wondering why things have been missed out,’ he says. ‘But we think so far we’ve made something that’s going to appease both sides.’
A Discovery Of Witches, Friday, 9pm, Sky One.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk