From show creator/writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the Netflix original series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina follows Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka), the magical 16-year-old half-witch/half-mortal who feels conflicted about both sides of her nature. While Sabrina is on her own personal journey of discovering what she stands for and where she belongs, her aunts Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto), warlock cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), high priest Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle), the Devil’s handmaiden Madam Satan (Michelle Gomez), human boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch), and even her familiar, Salem the cat, are each trying to influence her, in their own way.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa talked about how Sabrina Spellman went from being a potential character in Season 2 of The CW’s Riverdale to having her own TV series, whether there’s still a chance for a cross-over, the dark themes they’re getting to explore, the social issues that are present in the story, delving into issues of identity for young people, whether Salem the cat will ever talk on the series, and how he’d feel about a Melissa Joan Hart (who played Sabrina Spellman on the ‘90s sitcom, Sabrina the Teenage Witch) cameo.
Collider: I absolutely love this show!
ROBERTO AGUIRRE-SACASA: Oh, I’m so happy! That’s great. I’m happy to hear that.
You’ve previously talked about how Sabrina Spellman was originally set to join the cast of Riverdale, at the end of that show’s first season, and she would have been the antagonist on that show, as it leaned more into horror. So, how deep did you actually get into planning that, and when did you realize that she would just be more suited to her own series?
AGUIRRE-SACASA: The first season of a television show is like a battleground. You’re trying to figure out the show while it’s a runaway freight train. We were nearing the end of Season 1 of Riverdale, before Riverdale exploded, and we were trying to think of a cliffhanger that would guarantee that we got a Season 2. The plan had been to bring in Veronica’s father as a villain, but then it was like, “Well, is that a big enough deal?” So, I talked to (executive producer) Greg [Berlanti] and he said, “What about Sabrina? I think that would mean more to the audience.” And I said, “Yeah, I think you’re right.” The question became, would we introduce Sabrina as a supernatural character, or would we have to do a non-supernatural version of Sabrina, like for instance, say that she’s a cult member or a practicing pagan, but not a supernatural witch. We had those conversations, but it felt like we ran out of time to have either Veronica’s father or Sabrina. And then, we landed on the idea of Archie’s dad getting shot, as a cliffhanger, and we tabled the Sabrina idea. When we returned to it, it was after Riverdale had exploded on Netflix, and it felt like maybe this wasn’t necessarily a part of Riverdale, but that it’s a spin-off. So, it was a conversation over many weeks and months.
If Riverdale is more of the crime and pulp of it all, and Sabrina is now the horror and magic, will it be too much of a challenge to ever have a cross-over between the two series?
AGUIRRE-SACASA: I’m a big fan of cross-overs, in comic books and on shows, so I feel like, where there’s a will, there’s a way. I think it would probably be easier if maybe the Riverdale kids go to Greendale. On a dare, they could go spend the night in a haunted house. But I could also see the universe where Sabrina is like, “I want to be mortal. I don’t want to be a witch. I’m gonna transfer to this school, Riverdale High, where everything is surely gonna be normal and I’ll be a normal kid.” But little does Sabrina know that Riverdale High is a lot darker and crazier than Baxter High. So, I think there is definitely a way to do it, and my hope is that one day we get a chance to do it.
What are you most enjoying about the Sabrina that we get to see in this series and the journey that you can take her on, now that she is in her own world?
AGUIRRE-SACASA: One of the constant sources of what challenges me on Riverdale is that no matter what, the episode of television has to be 41 minutes and 40 seconds long, and there are so many characters on the show that I don’t always get to service them the way that I would like. One of the things that’s great about Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is that I have a little more room to play and a little more time to explore these characters, and we can probably get a little deeper into the horror and witch mythology on Netflix than we might have been able to on broadcast. There are some pretty dark themes. We have an episode that’s all about cannibalism. We do have the devil popping up, here and there, and stuff like that. So, it can probably be truer to the original vision. There would have been advantages to it being a direct spin-off, but there are definitely some major pluses of it being its own thing.
There are definitely some interesting overtones with this subject matter, when it comes to wanting to make your own choices, especially when you’re a 16-year-old young woman. That aspect of it feels less supernatural and more real-world, with what we’re currently seeing going on around us.
AGUIRRE-SACASA: No kidding, right?!