- This article contains spoilers for both seasons of ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’
When Chilling Adventures of Sabrina debuted on Netflix last year it was met with lashings of praise. Eons away from the wholesome 90s sitcom, the reinvention was a bewitching watch, bringing the teenage witch into the 21st century. And all without a talking cat in sight.
The production team knew viewers would fall under its spell before it was even released. In fact, they had so much confidence in the show they filmed Parts 1 and 2 back to back. “I think, going into it, we all knew that it was going to be something really special,” Kiernan Shipka, who stars as the show’s lead character Sabrina says, a week before Part 2’s release. “There didn’t feel like there was much pressure!”
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There’s a reason people love this new iteration of Sabrina; it feels genuinely relevant. Take away the witchcraft and dark baptisms, and the show sensitively handles subject matter that’s perfectly pitched in 2019. “Sabrina is definitely our favourite woke witch,” Shipka agrees. “This show is perfect for the time we’re living in right now. It’s an escape from reality, but also mirroring reality at the same time.”
Throughout the show we see Sabrina trying to rid her coven (the group of witches she lives amongst) of the institutional sexism that runs through it. There are scenes in Part 2 where Sabrina stands up to Father Faustus Blackwood (the coven leader) – which are particularly poignant in today’s #MeToo landscape: “It adds a weight to the material in a lot of ways,” Shipka agrees, “you’re doing something that’s make-believe, you’re making a show…but at the same time, there’s something about it that feels so very real.”
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has also been praised for its diversity, but naturally interweaves the characters and storylines instead of shoehorning them in for the sake of filling a quota. Chance Perdomo who plays Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose, a pansexual warlock (and absolute snack), agrees: “He’s a fleshed-out multi-faceted character, as people are in the real world…it’s not, ‘oh we have to meet our “LGBTQIA quota” and we have to meet our “ethnic quota”, Ambrose is Ambrose.”
Chance is another of the show’s breakout young stars. The 22-year-old English actor has made a handful of television appearances in the UK, culminating in BBC Three drama Killed by My Debt, for which he’s just been nominated for a BAFTA Television Award (“I’m still very much shell-shocked!” Perdomo admits ). Sabrina is his first US appearance, and biggest role so far; however it wasn’t his initial plan. The actor originally auditioned for the role of Jughead in Riverdale; Sabrina showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s other smash success. In the end that role went to Cole Sprouse, but Perdomo impressed at his audition. “He wrote Ambrose with me in mind,” he says. “That’s mindblowing!”
Part 2 sees Ambrose’s role in the coven become even more crucial, all while dealing with personal heartbreak. “I live for the tougher scenes,” Perdomo says of his character’s darker storylines. “You get to really see who the character is, and how they handle themselves. The internal environment really comes out into the forefront.” In Part 1 we saw Ambrose under house arrest for attempting to blow up the Vatican, but he was granted immunity from this going into the next instalment of episodes.
“It’s very satisfying to be able to see Ambrose come into action,” Perdomo says, “because I feel like it’s kind of necessary for it to get darker for him. He’s reconciling pieces of his past, and journeys into this world as a free man.”
Kiernan Shipka’s Sabrina has some big choices to make, too. After juggling her mortal and witch lives, Sabrina signed her name in the Book of the Beast at the end of season 1, meaning she became a full witch. Part 2 sees her navigating this new life away from her old mortal school pals, and as a result Shipka worked on some of her darkest scenes yet, “I do my best to leave it in the office, but there’s definitely days where I can get emotionally drained, ” she admits, “and I’m just willing to accept that. It can be hard to switch off after some of the more harrowing scenes, she says, “but I’m lucky that I know how to take care of myself.”
The 19-year-old has spent more of her life on television sets than off. Shipka spent her childhood playing Sally Draper on Mad Men; at this point she’s been doing this for over a decade, and is something of a seasoned pro. “That was absolutely my acting school in so many ways,” she gushes about the TV show, “I would not be anywhere near here if I wasn’t on Mad Men for so many reasons”. She’s still in touch with her on-screen mother January Jones (“I think so” Shipka responds when asked if Jones watches Sabrina), from whom she says she learnt a lot about acting.
She also speaks similarly highly of her current co-stars in Sabrina: “Lucy [Davis, who plays aunt Hilda Spellman], Miranda [Otto, who plays aunt Zelda Spellman], Michelle [Gomez, who plays Madam Satan], those women are such powerful forces of nature, and I’m just so delighted to be on a show that’s not only led by a female, but also has a really strong female-heavy cast.”
And this respect is reciprocal: “Frankly, I want to be Kiernan Shipka when I grow up,” Michella Gomez tells us. “Working with this impressively talented and young cast has been a massive education for me. I was feral at that age. Their focus, curiosity and openness is a refreshing and invigorating energy to be around.”
Looking to the future, Sabrina has already renewed for a third and fourth season, and Shipka is excited about what the future hold for her character. “I think it would be really interesting if she got out of Greendale [the town Sabrina lives in]…and I’d love to see Sabrina go to college!” she says, before adding: “I also see her reforming the Church of Night in a lot of ways, like I think her passion is to continue her father’s legacy.” She also adds that she would love a Jeff Goldblum guest appearance: “I think he needs to be on the show, in some capacity!”
As for the age-old question of a Riverdale x Sabrina cross over episode, she’s on board. “Love it – I’m down” says Shipka, with Perdomo adding: “It would definitely be fun to see Jughead and Ambrose talk philosophy, [they could] go solve a murder mystery or something!”
Crossovers aside, for now the cast are just eager to get back on set after being on hiatus since December. The exuberance the rising stars show for their work is carried onto the screen, and ultimately this is what makes Chilling Adventures of Sabrina so damn good. Boasting mature and convincing performances from a host of outstanding young actors, it’s remarkably exciting viewing that effortlessly toes the line between emotional drama and horror.
Kiernan Shipka holds her own as a stellar leading lady, but she’s surrounded by a sky of rising stars, and when they’re onscreen together it’s magic. With another two seasons locked in, if it carries on like this maybe we will live to see Sabrina go to college.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 2 is on Netflix from Friday April 5th