Final Season Of The Witch
SFX|Holiday Special 2020
As Netflix’s teen horror show chilling adventures of sabrina meets an untimely end, sfx gets spooked on the vancouver set
Jamie Tabberer

GOLDEN CANDELABRAS, satin tablecloths, a tattered Encyclopaedia Britannia dating back to 1910… SFX is surrounded by beautiful things right now. Our favourite: a kleptomaniainducing, Antiques Roadshow esque lamp with stained glass dragonflies and sculpted fairies at the base.

At a glance, the Spellman residence – home to the titular teen on Netflix’s Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina – is a hipster millennial’s dream house come to life. Which, for some, is nightmareinducing enough. But on closer inspection ghastly touches abound: from flayed faux-lizard fans in the lounge to a jar of “adder skin” in the kitchen. (SFX recoils on discovering that they’re actually bits of pickled cauliflower).

In the embalming room – Casa Spellman doubles up as a family-run mortuary, naturally – Miranda Otto points out “coyote eyeballs” with a chuckle. Otto, who plays family matriarch Zelda, is giving us a tour of the set, which is just outside of Vancouver.

Scarier than all this, however, is the fact that this elaborate set is set to vanish soon. In July, Netflix announced that Sabrina would (somewhat prematurely) end after part four. A passionate, fan-driven campaign to reverse the decision followed, but to no avail.

BEING DOUBLE

Technically, Sabrina spans only two seasons. But thanks to its pace and unique structure – each season is split into two binge-friendly “parts” – the show has made an outsized mark. It’s certainly been a trip for Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka), whose journey from precocious schoolgirl to rule-breaking half-witch to Queen of Hell and time-travelling, irrepressible wonder woman has been so not your typical tale of late adolescence.

“My brain still hurts,” laughs Shipka, of the five-dimensional storytelling. “I have a lasting headache from trying to figure all that out. Ask anyone in the cast and they’re like, ‘What’s happening right now?’ I can kind of make sense of it.

“[But] splitting Sabrina into two was an extremely exciting thing for me, despite it being double the work,” she explains. “I’ve always seen her with a lot of duality: the mortal side of her and the witch side of her – the fiery, dark, more badass side, and this really loving side. So I got to play around with splitting those sides, picking what traits I wanted to lean on.”

Rounding out the main cast are Sabrina’s aunties Zelda and Hilda (the latter played by Lucy Davis) and warlock cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo). Davis says that the character arc of the formerly subservient Hilda has been a pleasure to play. “For me as an actor, and for the character, it’s been good to get out of Zelda’s shadow. Although I love working with Miranda! You see Hilda in scenes with Zelda doing the Hilda thing, which is ‘Wait for Zelda to speak and then respond’, or try and respond and ‘Shhh’. But through Dr Cerberus, she moves on from that.”

Ambrose, meanwhile, started season one under house arrest (after trying to blow up the Vatican 75 years before), and is long since sidelined. Perdomo explains that it’s left the character in a state of anxiety. “He’s a guy who likes to have knowledge for knowledge’s sake. He’s a man of leisure! So although he doesn’t necessarily want to go and help save the day, he knows it’ll eat him up inside if he doesn’t. Because there isn’t anyone else who can. Having the knowledge, the skills that he has, might help save the planet/the cosmos/the universe several times over. But do you see the stress on my face?”

For Zelda, there have been evolutions both big and small. “This season I got to wear pants [trousers], which is something I pushed for,” says Otto, before adding of Academy Award-winning costume designer Angus Strathie, “I emailed him and said, ‘It would be fun to go for some Marlene Dietrich kind of looks.’” Otto’s favourite prop is the cigarette holder. “I’m not a smoker, so they’re not nicotine cigarettes. Although they are really burning. I’d be green in an instant!”

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