A Discovery of Witches hit Comic-Con big with a fantastic panel for the upcoming series. The adaptation of Deborah Harkness’ bestselling book series has been picked up by both Sundance Now and Shudder for its U.S. release.
During an interview following the panel, Harkness spoke about the news and the process of getting the show made. One of the main concerns in any adaptation is how to translate settings and moments from the books onto the screen. Harkness said they were conscious always of what they could do well and what they needed to leave to readers’ imaginations. Some deviations from the books are necessary.
For example, executive producer Lachlan MacKinnon said they wanted to “remain faithful to the novel but also wanted to include characters that the audience will love.” He’s referring primarily to Sarah Bishop (played by Alex Kingston) and Emily Mather (played by Valarie Pettiford), who don’t appear in the second book but would appear in the second season if the show is picked up. Without going into spoilers, the couple would be in a parallel timeline to the other characters.
MacKinnon and Harkness also both stated that the themes of the story (acceptance, the power of women, strength in diversity) are even more relevant now than they were nearly a decade ago when Harkness wrote the first novel.
Overall, Harkness was blown away by the attention to detail shown by the production team, especially in the recreation of the Bodleian Library, literally down the woodgrain. The Bishop House was also built and styled in a way that Harkness called “breathtaking.” The set design helped the cast immerse themselves in their characters during the six-month shoot.
Both Kingston and Pettiford became emotional when talking about the thought they put into their characters, a lesbian married couple.
“You’re my wife, my TV wife,” Kingston said sweetly.
Owen Teale (Ser Allister from Game of Thrones) is once again playing an antagonist. Like his role on GOT, Teale feels that Peter Knox has motivations and end goals that the audience will understand, even if they don’t agree. Plus, “we need a negative person for the drama,” Teale teased.
Peter is a wizard and will often face off with series lead Teresa Palmer, who plays Diana Bishop. Teale loved that Diana was obviously far more powerful the Peter and seemed to like doing the scenes where she kicks his ass with superior magic. Speaking about those scenes, Palmer said many of the VFX were practically or mechanically done, which added a challenge as well as a bit more fun to the role.
Palmer also enjoyed discovering the intricacies of her character and representing that on screen.
“I think females can be everything,” she said. “They can be strong and vulnerable, they don’t have to be black and white. We are many colors, we have lots of complexity to us, so I loved that she was brave and brilliant. She was so determined and yet she had this vulnerability to her and she was fearful to open up to this whole other side of herself that she’d been denying for so long. It just made her feel very human.”
A Discovery of Witches premieres on September 14th, 2018 on Sky One and Now TV in the UK.
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