Interview: Teresa Palmer on A Discovery of Witches Season 2
Season 2 of A Discovery of Witches, adapted from Deborah Harkness’s bestselling All Souls trilogy, continues the vampire-meets-witch saga of forbidden love as the star-crossed lovers time walk from the present back to 1590 to hide from the Congregation while Diana learns to control her magic.
Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey and The Crown) and Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies, I Am Number Four) reprise their roles as Matthew and Diana, with Saturn Award nominee James Purefoy (Rome, The Following), BAFTA nominee Sheila Hancock (Unforgotten) and Tom Hughes (Prince Albert in Victoria) joining the cast this season.
Season 1 was nominated for Best New Drama at the 2019 National Television Awards and as Best Horror Series by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, after becoming Sky One’s most watched series of 2018 and the most successful series in the history of Sundance Now, leading to its renewal for two further seasons.
Season 2 has an 87% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics consensus praises the leads’ “infectious chemistry” and the show’s “visual splendor.”
We chatted to Teresa about Season 2 of A Discovery of Witches.
Where does Diana find herself at the start of Season 2?
At the start of Season 2, we see Diana and Matthew arriving back in time on the crazy streets of Elizabethan London. As a historian, this is Diana’s biggest dream – to finally experience everything she’s studied is mind-blowing.
However, Diana soon discovers that Matthew from Season 1 was very different in Elizabethan times. He’s darker, edgier, more violent and he distances himself from Diana in certain ways, so it’s quite isolating for her. Diana finds herself essentially alone in Elizabethan London, meeting people and finding her way in a land that she has only read about.
What can viewers look forward to this season in terms of spectacle and scale?
What fans loved about the first season was the epic scale of the show. We’ve taken that and expanded on it, so the worlds are bigger, the sets are massive and the attention to detail is amazing! There are also new, fascinating characters to meet, many of whom are based on real historical characters, such as Kit Marlowe, Mary Sidney and Queen Elizabeth.
I think the audience will be enthralled by what they are seeing this season. It’s been the most entertaining season so far, not just in terms of the world we’re navigating but because there’s a lot of adventure, excitement and danger.
What can we expect from Diana in the new season?
Although the main reason why Matthew and Diana decide to go back in time is to go into hiding, Diana also needs to learn to control and perfect her magic. A lot of it is attached to feelings, and she now needs to make her magic more purposeful.
Diana learns in Season 2 that she’s a weaver. She thinks she’s terrible at casting spells until she meets her mentor, Goody Alsop, a powerful and wise witch in 1590, who teaches her to weave knots of magic to cast spells. I got to enjoy working with the legendary Sheila Hancock and a wonderful movement coach who came up with the different movements for each knot. It’s quite intricate to learn all the different movements as they’re very specific, so I feel like I’m learning along the way as Diana does in the show.
As we follow Diana in Season 2 we start to see the abilities she has are unlike any other. A typical witch can use spells in many ways. Diana was never any good with spells. Diana’s magic would come out through emotions. Witchwind would fly out or witchwater would rain down because she was experiencing anxiety or stress.
As a weaver, Diana can open up her third eye and see all the realms of the universe, using the threads of these universes to create knots in order to write her own spells. One spell Diana weaves, for instance, brings life to creatures that have died – such as resurrecting a bird or conjuring a snake. Diana can bring life to things, but she can also bring death. Her magic is boundless and incredibly powerful!
What challenges will Matthew and Diana have to face in Season 2?
In Season 1, Matthew and Diana navigated some interesting family dynamics. Diana’s aunts, for instance, weren’t very fond of Matthew initially – particularly her Aunt Sarah. It was the same with Matthew’s mother, as Ysabeau was the only woman in Matthew’s life prior to Diana’s arrival.
In Season 2, we see tension again, this time between Diana, Matthew and his father, Philippe de Clermont [played by James Purefoy]. When Diana meets Philippe on her arrival to Sept-Tours, he is icy and protective. There is a fractured dynamic between Philippe and Matthew. Diana is aware that Philippe was hard on Matthew in the past. Although the relationship improves, it doesn’t come without its challenges.
Are Diana and Matthew more trusting of one another?
We see a very interesting dynamic develop between Matthew and Diana after they time walk. Diana expects to arrive in Elizabethan London with the Matthew she knows, but Matthew reverts to his former life and that is a part of Matthew she’s never seen. Matthew is a tortured man, dark, morose and completely distant from her, leaving Diana feeling isolated.
Initially, Diana finds herself wondering whether she’s made a mistake, but you eventually see how much depth this brings to their relationship. This creates a lot of friction between them in the first few episodes, but they eventually find a flow with one another. Diana realises the Matthew of 1590 is very much a part of him that she must accept.
What dynamic does Kit Marlowe bring to their relationship?
Diana’s initial contact with Kit Marlowe is confrontational. You can tell that Kit despises Diana and is shocked that Matthew would bring a witch to his quarters. Kit ultimately takes these frustrations out on Diana, but she’s a strong woman.
Obviously, there was a fascination between Kit and Matthew. To Matthew, this was just a brotherly bond, but from Kit’s side, there was something romantic there, something underlying that was never fulfilled. So Diana throws a spanner in the works for Kit, which just makes another enemy for Diana in Elizabethan London.
Personally, I love Kit’s character and I love Tom Hughes who plays him. He’s such a fabulous actor and he’s really brought colour to Kit that I didn’t even know was possible.
What do you think of the new sets?
James North is the best production designer in the world – I am just going to put it out there! I have never seen anything like what I’ve seen this season with our sets. They are incredible and the attention to detail is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. They’ve built the streets of Elizabethan London on a piece of land in Newport, Wales.
The first time I walked onto the set I burst into tears. It was the most magnificent thing I’ve ever seen; it felt like I’d walked back in time. I took my parents onto the set after telling them they couldn’t visit Wales without seeing it. Everyone is gobsmacked across the board. Even Sheila Hancock, who has performed on hundreds of film and television sets, said hands-down it’s the best set she’s ever seen.
What challenges does the period setting bring for production and the cast?
One of the main differences is that in Elizabethan London, people looked different. For us actors, this meant longer periods of time getting ready. Hair and makeup usually take two and a half hours. My hair is curled, and then intricate pieces are woven into it, as well as a certain period-makeup look.
Then there are the dresses – most of the fabric that Sarah Arthur uses to create our costumes is sourced overseas. Sarah will travel to places like Prague and bring beautiful patterns and fabrics back here. Then she has a team working around the clock to stitch them together. Even navigating people getting dressed in the morning takes longer. So, there have been some challenges but we’ve all really enjoyed stepping into this period.
What’s it been like coming back for the second season?
I love being back here in Wales. I brought my whole family over from Australia. I had two kids last season and three kids now – who knows how many I’ll have next season! I’ve really immersed myself into life here in Cardiff and jumped right back into the world of A Discovery of Witches! I loved reliving this world and being with Diana again and seeing how her dynamic with Matthew has shifted – it’s been such a joy to make it.
What’s it been like working with Matthew again?
It’s funny because Matthew Goode and Matthew de Clermont are so similar in so many ways that the line gets blurred a lot of the time. Matthew just is Matthew de Clermont! The way he walks, talks, what he emotes – he’s just so brilliant as Matthew de Clermont.
‘Goody’, as we call him, is just such a laugh. He’s a wonderful human with many layers and complexities, which serve the character well. The two of us are constantly giggling. Philippa Langdale, one of our directors, sent us a four-minute clip of the two of us laughing. We both have three kids, so we have a lot in common and we both turn up to set exhausted! He’s my partner in crime and we have each other’s back. It’s a beautiful collaboration.