'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina': New Characters, 'Riverdale' Crossovers & Everything You Need to Know
By Meredith B. Kile
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Get ready, witches, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is coming to Netflix!
The spooky new seriespremieres on Friday, bringing fans new small-screen adventures from everyone's favorite teenage witch. Mad Men's Kiernan Shipka is stepping into Sabrina's spellbinding shoes for these enchanting new escapades, taking over the character first made TV famous by Melissa Joan Hart on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which ran from 1996-2000 on ABC, and then on The WB from 2000-03.
However, Chilling Adventures presents a very different take on Sabrina's story -- featuring bloody rituals, freaky familiars and a coven that worships the mysterious and menacing Dark Lord. At its mortal heart, however, it's still a tale of a teenage girl struggling to find her place in the world, further complicated by the fact that she is half-human, half-witch.
"I love my feminist characters, always," Shipka recently told ET's Leanne Aguilera at the show's junket. "I really loved that the show was so entertaining and fun and had all these really kind of wonderfully enjoyable elements, but also had this really nice foundation of being a very feminist show led by extremely powerful and wonderful women with lots of depth."
"Even our writers' room, even our directors, it feels like so many different perspectives are coming together to tell the story and I was just immediately so drawn to it," she added.
Read on to learn more about Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, from its cast of characters to the possibility of a much buzzed-about Riverdale crossover.
How is this show different from Sabrina the Teenage Witch?
While both series are based on Sabrina Spellman, a character who originated in the Archie Comics franchise, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is adapted from a comic book series of the same name by Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and has a much more morose tone than Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
"It’s much darker, kind of gothic take on it, and it’s a Sabrina for this age, for this time," series star Miranda Otto, who plays Aunt Zelda, explained. "A lot of the issues that we’re dealing with in the show are really modern issues."
Chilling Adventures, like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, kicks off with Sabrina celebrating her 16th birthday and learning more about the mystical legacy that has been left for her. However, Shipka's central sorceress has much more dire drama ahead of her than Hart's character ever faced, as she is urged to pledge herself to either her mortal life or her witching bloodline, choosing "the path of light" or the "path of night."
Even the spells are more intense in the new Netflix series, with the actors learning complex Latin incantations for some of the most bewitching scenes.
"We need a while to learn it," admitted Lucy Davis, who plays Chilling Adventures' Aunt Hilda. "I’ll be honest, there was a day when we were given Latin and then the next morning we came in and they went, ‘Well, that’s just changed.’ We were all on set for the whole day until we got to the scene and we were all testing each other!"
"What’s really fun for me is when they do the practical effects and you actually feel like you have powers there for a second," Shipka chimed in. "Like, when you do something and something actually happens, you’re just like, 'Yeah!'"
"People have said to me, 'Oh, you must do so much green screen,' but I can't think of one green screen that we have had," Otto agreed. "Everything has been very much on set."
So there are some of the same characters?
Praise the Dark Lord, there are! Sabrina's close-knit coven includes characters that fans of Sabrina the Teenage Witch -- as well as the comics -- will surely recognize, including her protective aunts and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch). But while Hilda is still the friendlier, more pliant Spellman sister and Zelda is the sterner, pragmatic aunt, the Chilling Adventures characters are much more than merely updated copies of their Sabrina the Teenage Witch counterparts.
"It's just luck in that the whole cast came together in the way that they did," Shipka raved. "Everyone gets along so well... and we just, like, hit the jackpot with everybody and just cast really awesome people."
And she's more than ready for the "Sarvey Spinkle" shippers to embrace the show's central couple -- though the name might need a little work. "[Ross] is just such a sweet guy and so friendly and wonderful and down for everything," the actress said of her onscreen beau. "I’ve just become a really close friend of his and it’s so nice...That kind of stuff can't be forced."
As for Chilling Adventures' take on Harvey, while Lynch admits that past iterations have been "sort of clueless," and his character remains a bit oblivious to his girlfriend's witchy ways, it doesn't mean he's unintelligent. "He's just unaware of what's happening... He's not a dolt, he's just not in the know."
Click through the gallery below to see even more Sabrina the Teenage Witch characters compared to their Chilling Adventures counterparts.
Of course, it couldn't all be friends and family and familiar faces. With a sinister new series comes some majorly mysterious players, and Chilling Adventures has those in spades: from Sabrina's strange and secretive teacher, Mrs. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez), to the Weird Sisters -- Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), Agatha (Adeline Rudolph) and Dorcas (Abigail Cowen) -- who have it out for the "half-breed" Sabrina from the start, to Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle), the High Priest of the Church of Night and Dean of the Academy of the Unseen Arts.
But fear not, Sabrina has a few new friends in her corner as well. Her high school besties, Ros (Jaz Sinclair) and Susie (Lachlan Watson), are there for her no matter what -- even if they're still in the dark about her secret life.
On the magical side, there's Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood), a fellow student of Sabrina's at the Academy of Unseen Arts, as well as her cousin, Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), who has been sentenced to house arrest by the Witches Council -- a fate not dissimilar to Sabrina the Teenage Witch's Salem Saberhagen, minus the whole "being turned into a cat" part.
And speaking of...
Salem's still there, right?
Hail Satan, he sure is! While the black cat on Chilling Adventures isn't quite the same sassy scene-stealer fans loved on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, he is equally important to the show as Sabrina's familiar. (Familiars, as Aunt Zelda explains it, are goblins who have "taken the form of an animal to better serve their witch masters.")
"All three of them are stars: Shaq and Boomer and Edward, they are always on," Shipka said of her feline co-stars, despite the fact that cuddling up to them on set triggered her cat allergy in a serious way. "They're scene stealers! You’re gonna get upstaged. It’s fine, you’ve just got to know your place."
As it turns out, the other members of the Spellman family have been similarly unlucky with their familiars.
"I mean, I’m not scared of spiders, it’s fine," laughed Davis, whose character can summon swarms of arachnids to come to her aid. "I haven’t yet had to do a scene with them on me. I don't know how I would feel about that. I’ve done a scene with worms... I don’t want them crawling on me."
As for Aunt Zelda? "I’ve heard that my familiar might be a snake and I’m really not down with snakes, they’re not my favorite," Otto remarked. "And Michelle is not down with birds, and hers is a bird... It’s like Roberto found out what we’re most nervous about and then it was like, that’s the one!"
"We should have told him we were scared of sweet puppies," Davis added with a laugh.
What about that possible Riverdale crossover?
With Aguirre-Sacasa serving as a showrunner on both Sabrina and Riverdale, and both shows' roots intertwined in comic book canon, fans have been clamoring for a crossover practically since the new series was announced. But will it ever happen?
"I work on both shows and I wrote on both of the shows and showrun both of the shows -- but I’m also, like, a fan of the shows," the producer noted. "I love crossovers. I am trying to will one into existence and you’ll see Easter eggs as you’ll go on in both Riverdale and Sabrina. There’s a big Easter egg in Sabrina in episode seven that you won't be able to miss when you see it."
"I’d love for there to be a crossover, but I can say honestly right at this moment, we don’t have plans for one. But never say never," he teased. "And I really, really, really, really want there to be one."
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina premieres on Oct. 26 on Netflix. Check out the video below for more from the upcoming series!