The witching hour is upon us as Netflix’s latest horror series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina premieres at midnight on October 26. Based off characters from Archie Comics, the series tells the story of half-witch, half-mortal Sabrina Spellman, played by Keirnan Shipka, as she weighs the pros and cons of giving up her mortal friends and boyfriend to become a full witch. It’s also a blood relative of the hit CW show Riverdale, which gets a subtle nod in the first episode.
Make no mistake, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is not afraid to delve into the darker side of witch lore, with Satan at the heart of the Church of Night, the religion that gives witches and warlocks their power. It’s that sinister nature of witchcraft that gives the supernatural characters, including Sabrina’s Aunt Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto), a deliciously gothic vibe.
Of course, it’s the wicked and enigmatic Weird Sisters, Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), Dorcas (Abigail Cowen), and Agatha (Adeline Rudolph), that may be the most sinister of all. The students of the Academy of the Unseen Arts are instant rivals with Sabrina and aren’t afraid to cause trouble for her. The TV Junkies spoke with Dorcas and Agatha portrayers Cowen and Rudolph to discuss how they worked together to create the sister’s creepy appearance, their relationship with Sabrina, and the series’ overt feminist tone.
Who Are the Weird Sisters?
The Weird Sisters are an age-old visual trope in media and literature, originating in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and appearing in various media over the last century. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is bringing in a modernized version of the sisters to the small screen, and they are some of the few characters that weren’t prominent in the comics.
According to Cowen, when they got the script they weren’t sure what to make of the sisters at first. “[They are] three girls that are kind of in unison,” says Cowen. “It was like an entire entity in three girls that are out to harm Sabrina. [Creator] Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] described it as a three-headed monster.”
The lack of comic origins also gave them a lot of room to collaborate with the directors on their look and feel and try to create the characters from scratch. “We really didn’t want this to be your stereotypical mean girls because we’re not, we are much deeper than that,” says Cowen.
Once they were cast, Gabrielle, Cowen, and Rudolph quickly got to work building their characters, and their chemistry. “We tried to understand our relationship between one another,” says Rudolph. “Then slowly we discussed the particular things that the weird sisters would do to show the bond–not necessarily in the cliche lovey-dovey coven way, but in a creepy way.”
“We practiced a lot of different movements, different things that would put us in sync, and things that would also set us apart,” adds Cowen.
The end result in the series includes the way the girls hold their pinkies together instead of holding hands. Rudolph says they also gave subtle head tilts to add to their creepy vibe. As the series progresses, Rudolph says we’ll see more and more of the sisters’ individual personalities, including Prudence’s specific grudge against Sabrina. “While we are this entity and have this magical bond, we’re also very different in our own characters.”
Of course, the work didn’t stop there. Cowen and Rudolph say they also did research into witchcraft to better understand the characters and make sure they didn’t “offend anyone.” “The show is very Satanic, in that sense, but when we’re talking about witchcraft and pagans, for example, they aren’t Satanists,” says Rudolph. “It’s essentially a religion and they’re very in tune with nature. They like to use sage or crystals or things like that to kind of be in tune with all the energy.”
Antagonizing Sabrina and Embracing Female Power
The Satanic nature of the show is a key part of the show’s feminist message, as Sabrina begins to question traditions and the patriarchal norms of both the witch and mortal worlds. The Weird Sisters fall in the middle of this, sometimes acting as foes, and occasionally becoming an ally. “They’re definitely also very critical of tradition and that will become evident as the season goes on,” says Rudloph. “The sisters are very empowered, very secure in their sexuality, and very unapologetic. They fight for what they believe in and what they think is right, even if that contradicts what Sabrina believes in.”
According to Cowen, their grudge against Sabrina is a mix of jealousy of her abilities, the attention she gets from certain members of the Church of Night, and her allegiance to her mortality. “It not only frustrates us, it literally makes us so angry because she is teetering on the edge,” she says. “This is their religion, this is their everything.”
Even so, that doesn’t stop the sisters from teaming up with Sabrina in a moment early on in the series, as a way to punish a group of mortal boys. Whether they’re in it to help Sabrina or further their own agenda is another question entirely. “That’s kind of the essence of the Weird Sisters is that you don’t know if they’re on Sabrina’s side or if they’re not,” says Cowen. “You don’t know if they have ulterior motives. I liked that that was brought in because it also brings in some different levels to them.”
“It’s really nice to see women working together and being powerful together despite their differences,” adds Rudolph.
The team-up is just one of several instances where the series shows women supporting each other, and not being afraid to question the status quo. “We have so many female characters in the show that are so unapologetic for being strong and for standing up for their beliefs and for making power moves,” says Cowen. “I think it’s needed in this world right now”
Crossing into Riverdale
There’s no word of a crossover with Riverdale just yet, but it’s already tantalizing to think about how the residents of Greendale would interact with the beloved personalities of Riverdale. When asked who they’d want the sisters to share a scene with, both Cowen and Rudolph admit that it’s too tempting to resist wanting to see them team up with Madelaine Petsch’s Cheryl Blossom. “I would love to see them go head to head or maybe even unite,” says Cowen.
On the lighter side, Cowen would love to see Sabrina’s mortal friends Roz (Jaz Sinclair) and Susie (Lachlan Watson) attempt a sleepover with with Betty, or maybe even see a little flirtation between Sabrina and Archie. Rudolph, on the other hand, thinks there’s a darker team-up just waiting to happen. “I think what would be fun and may a little more niche, is we can work with Malachi, the head of the Ghoulies, and cause a little bit of ruckus,” she says.
What do you think of the weird sisters? Are you looking forward to watching the bewitching new series? Sound off in the comments below.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina premieres Friday, Oct. 26 on Netflix worldwide.
Associate Editor Kelly Townsend always had strong opinions on TV growing up, so it was only natural to evolve from couch musings to online journalism. She can't ever choose a favorite series, so please don't ask. Her writing has also appeared on IndieWire and Tribute.ca. You can find her on Twitter at @kellybtownsend.