If you’re craving a bit of magical escapism right now, A Discovery of Witches‘ return is perfectly timed. Based on Deborah Harkness’ All Souls novels, this infectious fantasy series centres on Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer), a historian forced to embrace her magical powers after she finds a bewitched manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. When it premiered in 2018, season one certainly cast a spell on viewers as it tracked Diana’s blossoming relationship with brooding vampire Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode).
Season two introduces a clutch of new characters including Gallowglass, a statuesque vampire played by COBRA and Outlander actor Steven Cree. Here, he and Palmer explain why A Discovery of Witches is just the thing for these grim winter months.
It’s the perfect lockdown escape
“You’re going to be transported to an entirely different world with this show – it’s fantasy,” Cree says. “So I think right now, with everything that’s going on in the real world, people are going to really respond to that.”
Everything has been cranked up a notch since season one
“The character development is really strong. The set pieces are epic. We have an amazing production designer who built this incredible backlot,” Palmer says. “And I think the stories are just more complex, adventurous, romantic, dark and thrilling. I think, in every aspect of the show, the audience is going to be really excited to see how elevated it is.”
The action unfolds in an entirely different era
“The majority of season two takes place in Elizabethan times, so we’re a full 400 years back in history,” Cree says. “It’s a perfect fit for the show in a way because I think people associate magic and werewolves and witches with that era, so it just looks right.”
Cree also points out that the new setting “means there are lots of new characters, including mine” and reassures fans of season one that “we do have some episodes set in the current time period, too”.
You’ll see a new side to Diana
“I just love Diana’s journey,” Palmer says. “You know, she started season one as this unwilling witch who has absolutely no control over her powers and her abilities. But then in season two, she really starts to hone in her abilities and develop them. She actually becomes quite competent with her magic.”
Palmer also says that because A Discovery of Witches was renewed for a second and third season before season two went into production, the show has “really been able to marinate with these characters”.
“Knowing we had two seasons was really such a safety blanket in a way,” she adds. “We knew that the story didn’t end with this season so there was just more opportunity to delve into different and interesting [story] arcs.”
Cree’s character will add a dash of levity
“I think it’s evident from his very first scene that Gallowglass is a fun character,” Cree says. “I think he also brings out the fun side in [Goode’s character] Matthew. Gallowglass is intensely loyal to Matthew and the Clairmont family generally, but at the same time, he very much marches to the beat of his own drum. So although Matthew is his uncle, Gallowglass doesn’t have any problem telling him some home truths.”
Overall, Cree describes Gallowglass as “kind of a lighthearted foil to Matthew’s more intense darkness and, well, blood rage”.
Oh, and look out for the rowing scene, which was tricky to film
“I nearly shat myself,” Cree recalls matter-of-factly. “Yes: he almost pooped his Elizabethan outfit one day,” Palmer adds. “He got quite sick on set and I saw his face go white and I was like, ‘Guys, I really think there’s something wrong with him, he’s not making this up!’”
“It was very, very, very hot and I was dressed all in leather on a rowboat,” Cree continues. “It was such a busy day and there were like 200 extras around and I had a sudden attack of the shits. There were a couple of times where literally as they shouted ‘action!’, I had to run around the corner to projectile vomit, then come back to finish the scene off. It couldn’t have been any worse. But in spite of this, I think the scene came out really strong!”
‘A Discovery of Witches’ airs on Sky One and NOW TV from January 8