Teresa Palmer on How 'A Discovery of Witches' Turned Her Into a Fan of Fantasy Romance (Exclusive)

A Discovery of Witches
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The actress talks to ET about playing an 'otherworldly' couple with Matthew Goode on the series, based on Deborah Harkness' trilogy.

Teresa Palmer didn't think a forbidden love story between a witch and a vampire would captivate her imagination. Tales of fantastical romances with supernatural beings weren't exactly her taste. But that was before she came across A Discovery of Witches, the television adaptation of Deborah Harkness' best-selling All Souls trilogy.

Titled after the first book, the eight-part freshman season follows Palmer's Diana Bishop, a historian and reluctant witch, who stumbles across an enchanted manuscript in an Oxford library that unknowingly thrusts her back into the dangerous secrets-filled world of magical beings. She meets the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode, perfectly cast as a brooding vampire sophisticate), a biochemistry professor and centuries-old vampire, who offers his protection and help. Even though years of bad blood between the witches and vampires make their team-up more complicated, their alliance turns into more than just a platonic union as they fight the evils from the supernatural world.

It's easy to compare A Discovery of Witches to Twilight or True Blood. But it's not all about the threat of desire or sex, though those elements pulsate throughout. There's a seductiveness in the way Diana and Matthew's romance unfurls that feels much more adult and refined; much of that is credited to Goode's innate, oft-overlooked ability to elicit impure thoughts just by a piercing look or a two-word answer in his deep English drawl. Palmer, for her part, kept a distance from stories that fell under the fantasy romance umbrella. She couldn't quite put a finger on why. But within reading “the first five pages” of the script, she was enraptured by the seemingly innocuous world that heightens imagination and, if done well, transports you to a completely different dimension.  

But A Discovery of Witches relies on the sparks between Palmer and Goode, and thankfully, they deliver -- even if the minutiae of the actual supernatural mythology at the center of the conflict leaves much to be desired. Their connection is, well, swoon-worthy. "Luckily Matthew and I got on so well, so it was very easy for us to portray two people that have this otherworldly love, pardon the pun," Palmer, 32, tells ET. "There's an innate connection between these two that's so deep and cellular. It's something that neither of them can deny."

The Australian actress, expecting her third child with actor-filmmaker husband Mark Webber, spoke to ET about being one-half of the latest TV romance, creating that rapport with Goode and why she's just as obsessed with where A Discovery of Witches is going as you are.

ET: I have to admit, I binged the entire season and found myself entranced by the show. Was it an immediate kinda connection for you too, when you first got the script?

Teresa Palmer: I feel like I was connected to this material from the first five pages. I wasn't always a fantasy romance kind of person, and so, when my agent sent me the script, I was like, "All right, I'll check it out." I got about five or six pages in and I was hooked by the world, by the setup and by the description, what this kind of environment was like. And then I fell in love with Diana. I just thought she was so brilliant and layered and she felt familiar in a way that I hadn't really felt with other characters previously. I just felt like I knew her. By the end of the first script, I was on the phone to my agents, and I said, "You guys...," because they were like, "We're not sure if you're gonna like this, 'cause it's a fantasy romance and we know that's not really your thing," and I was like, "You're wrong. I'm obsessed. I love it. I love it. I wanna do this show. This is brilliant!" And there's so much to work with. I didn't even know where the story went, so they got me the next two scripts, and then, I had already fully made up my mind. Like, "I'm doing it. I don't care if I move to Wales for six months and I have to move my entire family over there. It's just what we're doing." It was a wonderful experience.

What was it about this particular fantasy romance that really stuck with you?  

It was Diana, first and foremost, because I loved how human her response is. She had tragedy in her life, and then she ran away from the thing that could potentially bring more tragedy into her life, and I thought that that felt very human and real. There have been so many times in my life where I've run away from things that felt hard. It was a response that most people tend to have, and then, the fact that she just goes deeper and deeper into this world -- even though it's scary, she's just so brave and passionate and she lets her heart drive her. I was very inspired by that. There was something really beautiful about watching her journey and how she really comes into who she authentically is in a way that's not forced. It's organic. She follows the flow of where life's going, and I really loved watching how much she evolved from the start. Even with those first three scripts, I was like, "Wow, this is a woman who's radically changing and working on herself."

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What was appealing about being enveloped by this world of vampires and witches and demons?

I'm so excited by who demons are and vampires, and the vampires aren't traditional in this show at all. They're different and they're alluring and appealing in a really unique way. They're not out killing other human beings. I mean, there's a little bit of that. (Laughs.) But, they're not focused on that. They don't have fangs. Everything's just different and feels like it could be happening now. You could walk down the street and not know if they're a vampire or a demon or a witch, and I love that it was set in a contemporary world and we were just existing with humans. I thought that was a unique take on the genre.

I jumped into the show completely blindly and what struck me was how incredibly, like you said, alluring, and sexy this world is. Maybe it's the music, the way it's filmed, the performances or the whole package. I had several moments where I thought, "Oh, I want to be in this world. I want to meet a vampire or something," which is a ridiculous thought!

(Laughs.) I know. It's really sort of special and it's enticing and you're right, it's all those things. It's sexy and intriguing, but scary, and I don't think it's straightforward. You can't guess what's gonna happen next, and that's what I really love about it. It keeps you on your toes, and yeah, I find it so fascinating. And, I wanted to be in it. I wanted to be a part of the world. We have such great set designers and a crew that was very passionate about the story, that oftentimes when you're on set and you walk into these amazing sets that have been built and are so incredibly detailed, that you really feel like you are existing in that world, which is, nice. It makes your job easier as an actor to really immerse yourself into that environment.

Shows like this rest on the chemistry between the two leads, and here, between you and Matthew Goode. How did you chart Diana's initial attraction to Matthew Clairmont? Because that's the entire show. If it doesn't work, then the show doesn't work.

Like, am I screwed? (Laughs.)


Luckily, Matthew and I got on so well, so it was very easy for us to portray two people that have this otherworldly love, pardon the pun. But it is this otherworldly thing. There's an innate connection between these two that's so deep and cellular. It's something that neither of them can deny. They're just supposed to be together. And, I don't think either of the characters -- I know neither of these characters has ever felt like that before. Even if they wanted to fight against that feeling, and you do see Matthew have that moment in the show, they just have to be together. There's just no other way. I found that very romantic. It's wonderful to portray that and I loved that. That connection that meant that they were drawn to each other, and no one and nothing could stop them from being with one another. It's very easy to portray that with Matthew because we're both romantics and we're both married and have a bunch of kids. I've got three kids. I'm about to have my third, and I have a stepson as well. We have a lot in common and we have a lot to talk about, and it was easy. I found it really easy doing that with him.

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Was there a specific moment where you were like, I can't believe I'm doing this! What am I saying? What are we doing?

There were definitely moments with some of the fantasy elements where Matthew and I wouldn't be able to keep a straight face, 'cause we were talking about time traveling. We would giggle a lot, a lot, a lot and ruin takes and have to start all over again. You take the job seriously, but you also enjoy it by having fun and having a laugh and putting good feelings and vibes into it. I think it was an easy thing for us to do, but yeah. Of course, there are moments where I was like, hang on, I'm on a wire, hanging upside down by my ankle getting pulled up and down a tiny, little shaft. And I'm screaming because a vampire has fallen in love with me, and I'm like, What? What? Is this my job? Am I actually doing this? 

The show is just hitting the U.S. now, but it was recently renewed for second and third seasons in the U.K. Have you gotten any indication of what's going to happen in those two seasons?

The great thing is it's based on Deborah Harkness' incredible series, so we have a rough idea of what the seasons are going to look like because we've read the books. But I do think there are going to be some changes. We fell in love with the whole cast of people in the first season, and in the second book, it's set in Elizabethan times, but it's really just Matthew and Diana, so I'm sure the writers are going to explore ways to bring the remainder of the first cast back into the second series somehow, so we don't miss them because it would be such a bummer not to see these amazing characters we've fallen in love with, like Miriam and Marcus. I know the audience is going to really miss that if they don't get to see them in the second season, so I think there will probably be slight tweaks to it. But ultimately, we let the books guide us and we'll figure out the story from there.

So you eventually read all the books?

Yeah, I did the audiobooks. That was the only way I could get through them without being interrupted and I was [listening to it while] putting them on in the car, especially when the kids are sleeping. Some of it wasn't appropriate for a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. I just finished the third audiobook. I've got friends who are reading them too, and I'm getting texts from my girlfriends, like, "Wait, tell me about this backstory again. What happens here?" I have amazing friends who are really passionate about the story as well, so that's really nice.

The first season of A Discovery of Witches is streaming now on Sundance Now and Shudder.