A Discovery of Witches emerged as one of the biggest fantasy series of recent times when it arrived in 2018, striking a chord with legions of dedicated fans and marking the most popular series on Sky One that year.
Teresa Palmer, for one, didn’t see it coming.
‘It was quite mind blowing,’ the lead actress said about the success of the Sky One show, which returns for season two this week.
‘I just think what a beautiful surprise… I guess I was cautiously optimistic that people would love the show. So hopefully that will continue, and we’ll have that same sort of reaction with season two.’
The show sees Teresa play Diana Bishop, a young witch who discovers her magical abilities after an encounter with vampire Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode). The end of the first season saw the pair travel through time to escape the shadowy Congregation, with the second chapter seeing Matthew and Diana hunting to find a powerful witch teacher to help her harness her magic.
Sky were so impressed with the drama that they renewed it for two further seasons before season one had even finished filming – something that normally just doesn’t happen.
‘I think because I’ve been burned before, in the past, I really had no expectations with this one,’ Teresa said about the drama.
‘I thought, let’s go into this thinking that maybe it’s just going to be one season, do what we can with these characters, and then we let the audience decide. But we actually found out [about being renewed], we were probably about three quarters of the way through filming season one. Sky was seeing what we had been filming and they just made the decision. It was liberating and so exciting.’
She added: ‘For me, especially as this is my first TV project, to know that I have years to sit marinate with this character has been such a blessing. I feel like I learned more about her every day. And I keep trying to develop her and I love it. It’s just been wonderful.’
Teresa moved her whole family over to Wales while filming the show over the last few years, and the actress admitted ‘it’s going to be quite bittersweet when we leave’. Her newborn baby has played an unlikely role behind the scenes too – and by the sounds of it, making the lives of the costume designers a little challenging.
Describing the costumes in the new season as ‘gorgeous’, Teresa said that her daughter Poet enjoyed playing with some of the outfits – even ripping a few. ‘My baby is just not a fan of being gentle at all, with any of the collars or the beads – she just rips at everything. So, it’s been complicated at times,’ she said.
The fantasy series based on the novels by Deborah Harkness returns for its second season on January 8. The action is transported from modern day Oxford to Elizabethan London, with stars appearing in those glorious period costumes that Poet took such a shine too.
It’s ideal escapist viewing, with Diana and Matthew journeying along the cobbles of Elizabethan London and encountering a host of new characters.
As well as the introduction of Kit Marlowe (Victoria star Tom Hughes), one of the new characters viewers can look forward to meeting is Gallowglass De Clermont – the vampire and nephew of Matthew.
Actor Steven Cree gave us a taste of what to expect from the new character – not least ‘an amazing wig and a phenomenal costume’.
According to Steven, viewers can look forward to him to bringing ‘some laughs and lightheartedness’, keeping things upbeat in a ‘very serious and dark situation’. He’s described as a ‘fierce warrior, with a sensitive side’ – one for fans to keep an eye out for.
With the action straddling narratives both in the current day and the 16th century, star Ed Bluemel is also back to play Marcus Whitmore. The young vampire was made the Grandmaster of the Knights of Lazarus at the end of season one – ‘which is a sort of very old sort of secret Guild of vampires,’ according to Ed.
Speaking about his character’s arc, Ed said: ‘What we see in series two, is Marcus really being able to break away from the people who he’s constantly been in the shadow of.
‘[Marcus] has always been a bit more of a playboy vampire – which is my favourite type of vampire – but this is the season that we see him start to grow up and start to take responsibility and really look after the people around him.’
The wheels are in motion on new episodes of the show, and the stars now find themselves in something of a unique position. With coronavirus previously pushing back its release, production is almost complete on the third season of the drama before season two has even arrived on TV.
Steven said: ‘It’s quite odd, almost being at the end of season three and still not knowing the reaction to season two. It’s possibly a blessing in a way. It’s such an unknown quantity. I’ve certainly never been in that situation before. But it makes it more exciting.’
One thing the actors want to make clear, though, is the appreciation they have for fans of the show who have been waiting patiently for the latest season to drop.
Ed said: ‘The response has been so amazing. The fans are so passionate in such a lovely way.’
A Discovery Of Witches Season 2 begins on January 8 at 9pm on Sky One.