From show creator/writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the Netflix original series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina follows Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka), the magical 16-year-old half-witch/half-mortal who feels conflicted about both sides of her nature. While Sabrina is on her own personal journey of discovering what she stands for and where she belongs, her aunts Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto), warlock cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), high priest Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle), the Devil’s handmaiden Madam Satan (Michelle Gomez), human boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch), and even her familiar, Salem the cat, are each trying to influence her, in their own way.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with actress Lucy Davis, she talked about how she came to be a part of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, what she was told about the series, in the beginning, what gets them to say “Hail Satan!” on set, the horror movies that have made a big impression on her, the fun girl vibe on set, what she tried to do in each scene that she had with Michelle Gomez, and what she’d still like to see from Hilda.
How did you come to be a part of this, and how was this series pitched to you?
DAVIS: In December of last year, I was sent only a Hilda scene, and not a script or anything. I really liked the scene on its own, which I always think is a good sign of anything, if you can just read a few lines and already like how something is written. Obviously, that doesn’t always happen. So, I went in, and I didn’t read with (showrunner) Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa]. I met with Lee Toland Krieger, who directed the two first episodes, and he’s our executive producer. Then, honestly, I put it out of my head because I never, in a million years, thought that I would be right for the role. I don’t know why I didn’t. I’m exactly like Hilda, but for some reason, and I don’t know why, I just thought that I wasn’t.
You go in and you do your best thing, but then I came out and let it go, which is probably the key to getting things that you want. And then, about the second week of January, my manager called and said, “You’re still their choice for Hilda.” I went, “I’m their choice?!” I didn’t expect that, in a million years, but then, of course, I suddenly started really wanting it. I went back in to meet Roberto because he wanted to meet before anyone was offered a role. I think they wanted to wait and see who they were going to get for Zelda because it’s so important that Hilda and Zelda have good chemistry and gel with each other.
So, I waited quite awhile, but then I was offered it and I was excited, to be honest with you. I was excited to see what Vancouver was like. I was excited to get to do two seasons. I was excited because it was Netflix. I was excited to spend nine months of the year going to work, every day. You don’t get that often, as an actor. I certainly haven’t. I was really honored, on a lot of accounts, to be a part of this.
Had you been aware of the original series and how very different that was from this, and were they pretty clear about what the tone of this would be?
DAVIS: Yes, they were. When I did my audition, they weren’t really saying much about it, but they said, “This isn’t like the 90s show,” which I had watched and enjoyed. They also said, “This is different and darker.” Otherwise, no one really spoke about it, so I just did whatever I needed to do to read that scene. I read a scene in Episode 1, where I’m talking to Sabrina. She’s in bed and I start talking about when I signed the Book of the Beast when I was a girl, and how there weren’t really options. So, I wasn’t told much about the series ahead of time, but the words themselves seemed quite dramatic. The words were so great, and Roberto is such a wonderful wordsmith, and of course, as you probably know, a playwright. The words speak for themselves. You don’t have to add bells and whistles to them. There was just so much I loved about it, truly.
When you’re doing scenes and talking about things like the Book of the Beast and the Dark Lord, and you’re saying, “Praise Satan!,” do you ever have to keep from having a little a bit of a laugh about all of it?
DAVIS: Sometimes, for sure, yeah. We’ve got a great crew, as well, and whenever someone sneezes on set, everyone yells, “Hail Satan!” That’s second nature now that we do it. We forget that there might be some people out there who don’t particularly use the word Satan. Though, as I say, I’m a vegetarian and Seitan is my preferred choices of non-meat. Really, I’m just saying, “Hail soy protein!” I’m not religious, so I don’t have any connotations with the word Satan. I just find it all fun.
You’ve talked about loving and being a fan of horror. What are the horror movies that you love, that you go to for comfort scares, and what are the horror movies that really just scare the hell out of you?
DAVIS: Horror is my favorite genre, but there have been a few horror movies that have properly scared me and that I don’t jump back in to watch, over and over. There’s The Entity, which was based on a true story about a woman in a normal home in America, who was being physically and sexually attacked by a non-physical being. In horror movies, sometimes there’s just the person experiencing things, and no one else does, so they feel crazy, but in The Entity, the family does see it. When the family goes to protect the mother, they get thrown against the wall. For some reason, maybe because I was very young when I watched it, but something about it makes me not want to be on my own. I’ll watch something like Paranormal Activity, The Shining, or Rosemary’s Baby, and I love them, but then I watch The People Under the Stairs or Candyman, and they freak me out. It’s weird because I don’t where the line is. I don’t know what that means. I don’t know what I should watch, and what I shouldn’t. You know a movie is good when things that are unreal have gotten into your head, and now your day is not the same.
This show has that perfect blend of some good scares and scary moments, and also some really funny, twisted moments.
DAVIS: Thank you! I’m glad you said that because I love it when things can do that. When you don’t have to feel confined by being only comedy, or only horror, or a courtroom drama. I like it when things don’t have to fit into a box.
I also love the moments when we get to see Hilda, Zelda and Sabrina all together, and when Madam Satan is thrown into that mix. How much fun is that girl vibe on set?
DAVIS: I have to say that it’s so much fun. Michelle [Gomez] would make me roar. We had a thing where, in every scene that she and I are in, I tried to get in a push. I would push her somehow. Sometimes it got cut, and sometimes you just don’t see it. I did a scene in Episode 10, where I had to walk past her, behind the school, and there were lots of people. As I walked past, unseen by the camera, I managed to get her back and push her forward a bit. We did the exorcism scene in Episode 6, where Miranda [Otto] and I were sitting on the couch in the living room at the Spellman House. Sabrina walks in, and what you don’t see because the scene cut before it, was that, as I got up off the sofa, I managed to lean on Michelle and push her back down, and then I threw my pillow in her face. We thought we’d put that out there, so that people could see if they see it.
I love Hilda and Madam Satan together. It seems like they’d have so much fun, if they just ditched Zelda.
DAVIS: I would think so. Just from doing that scene in Episode 6, I said to her, “Do you feel like Madam Satan and Hilda would get on?” I appreciate that she’s putting on an act, as Madam Satan, but I so feel that Hilda and Madam Satan would get on as mates.
What do you most enjoy about the bond that Hilda and Sabrina share?
DAVIS: I think she provides a place where Sabrina can say anything and not be judged. Even though, to some degree, Zelda actually is that person, it probably doesn’t come across like it. Sabrina can say all of her fears and her dreams, and she doesn’t have to worry that any of them might not to be do with the Church of Night, and Hilda will probably support Sabrina.
What would you still like to learn about or see from Hilda? Are there things that you still really want to know about her?
DAVIS: I would love to see what really properly pushes her to her edge. I have already done scenes where you see her get pissed, where you see her be super hurt, and where you see her be angry. I would love to see if there’s anything that pushes you to go, “Wow, I didn’t know that, deep down, she had that in her.” I think that would be fun.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is available to stream at Netflix.
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