In A Discovery of Witches, Teresa Palmer plays Diana Bishop, a burgeoning witch who's only beginning to understand the depth of her powers. Season 2 finds Diana and her (ever controversial) vampiric partner Matthew in 1590 London, as they continue their search for The Book of Life. In this interview with amc.com, Palmer talks about corseting up for Elizabethan London, how Season 2 pushed her acting skills to new heights, and what it felt like to delve into Diana's new powers.
Q: This season Diana really learns how to harness her powers. Any doubts that she may have had about her abilities are stamped out with the help of her new coven. Now it’s all about honing those skills. Diana maintains her composure even though this journey must be quite emotional for her—can you speak a bit about what her mental state is when she finally finds her teacher?
A: When she's thrust into Elizabethan London, she's quite overwhelmed and it's very isolating. The Matthew that she knows is pretty distinctly different, so she's really looking to that sisterhood for comfort. She knows that one of the main reasons they came back in time is for her to harness her power and go deeper within her abilities, so I think it feels like a homecoming when she meets her coven. She finally feels like she belongs somewhere. So much of her life she hasn't felt like she belongs anywhere, and she's been running away from her authenticity. She finally lands in a place where she feels held, safe, inspired, and motivated to keep going further into the work that she must complete in order to become a fully realized, powerful witch.
Q: The costumes this season are just amazing. Did corseting up help you mentally transform into Diana circa 1590?
A: Definitely! The thing about a corset is obviously it holds you in a different way, so your body is in a more upright position throughout the day. I think it just helped transport me back to that time. I can't imagine what it would have been like to wear that all day, every day. The attention to detail in every aspect of the show, helped elevate these characters and our experiences as performers within the show because it all feels so lifelike. The costumes were just so true to how they would have been back in those days. Then there’s the set pieces that really bring the world to life—it all made our jobs so much easier.
Q: At the beginning of this season, so many of Matthew’s old friends in 1590 warn Diana that Matthew circa 1590 was a really, really rough, deadly character. Regardless, she stands by her love and doesn’t seem too phased by this information. Does she ever truly feel fear when it comes to Matthew, or is her trust in him so strong that she never has to worry? Perhaps she feels so powerful now that she knows she can protect herself...
A: Yeah, I think Diana recognizes her strength and her power. She knows she can take care of herself and so I don't think there's a physical fear of Matthew. I think she knows she can hold her own, but it's fearing the unknown—who is this darker Matthew? I also think it’s complicated even further, because Matthew isn't always the most transparent person. He's a bit of an enigma, and she doesn't know the level at which he's hiding this other side of himself. It starts to be revealed through what his friends are saying to her… but innately his behavior is shifting and there's such a sudden pivot in who he is when they go back in time. It really makes her feel isolated. I'm not sure if she ever physically fears him, but I think she fears the distance between them. That aspect of it is scary for her. It's feeling emotionally and mentally distant from him—she's not comfortable with that feeling at all!
Q: He does feel like a totally different Matthew and it's a bit jarring! He’s different both physically and like you said, behaviorally. He plays the role of Man, if you will, a little bit tighter. He’s definitely less of a modern guy.
A: Yes, exactly. I think for her, being a historian after all, there's a certain element of that that she understands. She knows that times were different back then for women, and men behaved radically different than they do in modern day, so there was a level of expectation. But I think the sudden shift in his behavior certainly outweighed any of the other fears she had about going back in time. It's a particularly dangerous period, especially for witches, but the scariest part of it for her is being so separate from him emotionally and mentally.
Q: The weaving scenes this season are quite emotional to watch, so I can only imagine filming them was also intense. Can you speak a bit about how these dramatic scenes come to life? How much information are you given about CGI and other special effects? Does having the actors encircling you help bring this magic to life?
A: Oh absolutely! Well, I had a witch teacher, my magic teacher in real life. Her name was Sarah from a company called Shapes in Motion. We would work on the choreography together, because it’s very specific, especially as Diana learns her knots. There are certain formations that I needed to be making, and each knot gets progressively harder and more intricate. So she needs to be practicing her knots. It’s not unlike someone who practices patterns when they're knitting or when playing an intricate piano piece.
She needs to practice and practice, so it’s emotional for her. Not only has she found her people, but they’re also helping her build the confidence in herself to learn these powerful knots and to embrace her life as a weaver. I loved shooting those scenes. I think they were my favorite scenes to shoot. Working with Sheila Hancock (Goody Alsop) was such a dream. And then there was just the beauty and the delicacy in hitting the different moments whilst weaving. As an actor I haven't used my body like that before when I've played other characters. It was really specific how my hands had to dance and move, and there's nothing there, so you're not being helped by strings or anything. It's just thin air and you're having to really imagine weaving these knots.
Q: I didn't expect you to talk about hand choreography! Amazing.
A: There was a lot of that! And as the performer, I had to practice my knots in the same way Diana did. I would go home, I'd put my kids to bed and be like, "All right, knot of eight, this is where we go. We go under. Then we duck around." (Laughs).
Q: Diana is such a history nerd that she really has to play it cool when meeting some of her historical idols. How does she manage to quash her excitement? If you could travel back in time who would you geek out over meeting?
A: Oh my goodness, I love it! Gosh, yeah those were probably some of the more fun scenes for me to shoot. It was a delicate dance between the excitement that's pulsing through her body while she’s also trying to play a very specific role—she can't give herself away too much! When she meets people like Mary Sidney, you see the twinkle in her eyes and the excitement, but she's also really trying to play it cool, fit in with the world and not appear like a modern woman.
And then there were certain situations, like with Kit Marlowe. She's such a huge fan of his work as a poet, but when she meets him well their relationship and dynamic is just fraught with tension. There's jealousy, not from her end but from his, so that's very confronting too. It’s like when you meet one of your heroes and they don't really live up to how you saw them in your mind. Ultimately she ends up cultivating compassion for Kit, which is really beautiful.
As for me, hmmm who would I like to travel back in time to meet? I don't know if there's one particular person that I'd want to go back in time to meet, but there are huge moments from my childhood that come to mind. The nostalgia around watching films like The Labyrinth and the idea of meeting David Bowie back then. Not David Bowie as David Bowie, but David Bowie as Jareth. He’s my ultimate hero. I think I'm definitely more into modern day history. I'm into the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Going back to the 60s would be amazing. My husband and I always joke, "Oh, we would have been the perfect 60s hippies going to Woodstock together and having a bunch of babies. Being barefoot, pregnant, and listening to music." That would have been my perfect time! I'm always picking my mum's brain asking her what it was like.
New episodes of A Discovery of Witches air on Sundays at 7/6c on AMC. Full episodes are available to stream now on amc.com, the AMC apps for mobile and devices, and on AMC+. The entire first season is available to watch now with AMC+, which is available through a variety of providers, including AppleTV, Prime Video Channels, DirectTV, Dish, Roku Channel, Sling, and Xfinity. Sign up for AMC+ to stream A Discovery of Witches now on amc.com, on mobile for iOS and Android devices, and on your TV streaming device with the AMC app, available for Roku, Apple TV, FireTV, Xbox One, Android TV, and Chromecast.
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