A Discovery of Witches Q&A —Valarie Pettiford Loves Love & It Shows

In A Discovery of Witches, Valarie Pettiford plays Emily "Em" Mather, one of Diana's two protective and loving aunts. Em harnesses some of her magic skills this season to help Diana and Matthew in their continued search for the Book of Life. In this interview with amc.com, Pettiford talks about giving Em a backstory, supporting Matthew and Diana's love, and choreographing her epic incantations this season.

Q: Em deeply supports Diana and is always willing to go the extra mile for her. Their bond is unbreakable. Can you talk a bit about her love for Diana and why she has so much confidence in Diana’s abilities? 

A: It starts with the relationship she had with her mom, Rebecca. Best friends, having been through thick and thin together. They grew up together since meeting in high school. She feels like Diana is her own; her surrogate daughter. Once Diana's parents die, she was first the first to say, "Let's raise her." So Sarah and her raised this incredible child together. She always knew that Diana was special, not only because of who she is as a person but also because of her magical powers. That love she has for her and that bond is a protective cloak she's wrapped around Diana. It just runs so deep.

Q: Em is quite powerful, but as viewers we don’t know all that much about how she got there. What can you tell us about Em’s powers and how she may have honed them? 

A: When I take a role, especially one that's based on a book… It's twofold. I try to get as much information as I can, but I also like to come up with my own story. With this one, I did come up with my own story that Em comes from a long line of witches. It's in her DNA, and her powers were honed by them. It's been passed down from generation to generation. She's embedded in that culture and loves it. And owns it.

Deborah Harkness is just a dream. She was really forthcoming with any information that we needed. She was right there on hand. So that allowed us to have that freedom to create some stuff for ourselves. We didn't have to be so stringent. Of course there were important key points and elements throughout the story that she wrote very specifically, so we wanted to honor that, but she was open to our creativity and I just love her for that.

Q: It’s so lovely to watch Sarah and Em’s relationship on screen. There’s so much love there, even when they don’t see eye to eye. How did you and Alex Kingston (Sarah Bishop) work to develop this partnership on screen?  

A: First of all, when I found out that it was Alex Kingston playing her, I was full of emotion -- joy, happiness, intimidation. "Oh my God I'm not worthy, oh my God I'm so excited!" I've been a fan of her for years, since ER. I just love this woman.

I met her in the lobby of the hotel when we first got to Wales. You never know what your idols and heroes are going to be like in real life, so you hope and pray that they're decent people. Well, I got that and more! She is one of the nicest human beings on the face of the earth. We hit it off immediately. Immediately! And we share so many interests around shopping and food, love, family and friends. We value being a decent human being and integrity! We hit it off right from the start, so it just made that transition from life to screen so easy. Plus she's so professional, she's so good. It was an absolute joy and it was easy because I fell in love with this person, this human being, and it was so easy to love her on screen.

Q: What do you think Em really thinks about Diana and Matthew’s relationship? She seems to deeply understand the dangers there, but is also enthusiastic in supporting their love. 

A: Well, she gets it. I mean, out of all the creatures in this particular story, Em is truly the one that wants everybody to get along. She is the one that feels that we should put our differences and the bigotry aside, and work together and love together. So when we see this match-up of witch and vampire that is so forbidden, she knows -- this is a prophecy, this is something that was stated before she was even born. This was supposed to happen for the good of all creatures. She gets it, and she's all for it because she loves Matthew. She really adores Matthew. She knows that Matthew will love and protect Diana until the end of time.

Q: In speaking with Teresa Palmer, I learned about the hand choreography she had to master for Season 2. You engage in some pretty epic spells as well this season. What was it like learning the movements for those scenes, and how did you anchor yourself in those intense moments? 

A: I'm really, really, really proud to say that I choreographed all my stuff! I'm a dancer first, always will be, so it came naturally to me. Now, I say this. I was under the tutelage of the two masters—an FX master that worked on the show and the movement choreographer. I would never go against them and say, "You know what? Because I'm a dancer, I'm going to create my own stuff." I knew that I wanted to get permission. I wanted to have them make sure that I was going in the right direction, and they gave me that. They made sure that I was moving in the direction that it needed to be for the scene. I'm really proud and I worked really hard to get that right. What a joy that was!

Q: If you could timewalk, what era would you want to enter and who would you want to meet?  

A: Okay, the Twenty-fifth Dynasty of Egypt. I want to meet the Kush Kings. I saw something on PBS recently about the Black pharaohs. I learned about the Kushites and the twin brothers that basically ruled all of Egypt. I would love to timewalk -- now I need to be a king or a queen if I'm going to go back and time walk into that era -- but there's something about the Twenty-fifth Dynasty that I would love to be a part of, even for just a day.














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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