Witches of East End is inspired by Melissa de la Cruz’s best-selling novel that centers on the Beauchamp family, a multi-generational family of witches. Family matriarch Joanna Beauchamp (Julia Ormond) has two daughters, Ingrid (Rachel Boston) and Freya (Jenna Dewan-Tatum), who accidentally discover their secret past. So, when a series of dark and mysterious events, including the return of Joanna’s mischievous sister Wendy (Mädchen Amick) start to occur, their lives spiral into chaos and the family is forced to reconcile their true calling as witches.
During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, actress Mädchen Amick talked about how she started out as a guest star, being made a series regular after shooting the pilot, how much fun it is to play the troublemaker, why she chose not to read the books that the show is based on, what it’s like to work with this great group of women, and finding a good balance between drama, romance and comedy. She also talked about how much it means to her to have been a part of the David Lynch television series Twin Peaks (she played “Shelly Johnson”), and how it effected the way she’s approached her career since then. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
MADCHEN AMICK: To be honest, I snuck my way into this project, from the very, very back door. It was really sneaky. I have a good relationship with Lifetime. I had done a couple of things, and I was in the mix for a couple of things. It was one of those things where they were like, “Will you do this for us real quick?,” and I was like, “Sure!” It was just a guest spot for the pilot. But then, after it was put together, they decided they wanted to make Wendy a permanent character in the show, so I snuck my way in. I’ve just had a lot of fun with the character. That’s how it came together. Wendy is not in the books, at all, so that’s fun. And I just love the idea of witches, in general. The whole concept of witches was to keep down the feminine rise in power that was happening, at the time. They created this concept of witches, so that they could burn women at the stake and keep them in their place, and now we’ve turned it around to empower women. I love that. That’s very ironic. If they only knew that they created a weapon for us to use against them.
Who is Wendy, and how will she fit into the story that’s being told?
AMICK: She’s the one that stirs up trouble. She’s a troublemaker, but she’s very grounded and loyal. She’s very loyal to her family. She’s very loyal to her sister. She loves being an aunt. She loves her nieces. But, she’s the one that brings out the truth when Joanna (Julia Ormond) is in denial and hiding the magic from her daughters to give them a normal life. Wendy is like, “What are you talking about? We’re witches! That’s what we are!” I’ve kept tabs on her, even though she hasn’t spoken to me in over 100 years because I killed one of her daughters. I mean, whatever! I’ve come to warn her of this imminent evil that’s coming towards the family. So, she’s the naughty one of the family, but she’s got good intentions. She’s really fun! She’s got something sarcastic to say, always. She’s gonna needle everyone in the family to keep everybody honest about what’s going on. I was a huge Bewitched fan, growing up, and there was this episode about Serena, the cousin that comes to town, and she’s the bad girl. It was funny, the first week of us filming in Vancouver, I was like, “That is so much Wendy.” She always comes into town and causes trouble. I think Serena on Bewitched is an inspiration for Wendy.
AMICK: We all have different powers. Some of us have powers from intellect and some are from emotion, and then there are some that just carry the whole package. I’m a shape-shifter, so I shift into a black cat and back out again. Some of us can take on an animal form, and some of us can shape-shift into other people. So, there’s a lot of trouble to be had. It’s fun to get to learn the magic rule book too, for when we use our powers and when we don’t.
Since Wendy isn’t in the books, did you not feel the need to read them?
AMICK: Even if she was in them, I don’t think I would have read them. They’re not following the books exactly, so I didn’t want to have something set in my mind, and then have it be something that we’re not really following. I’m very curious about them, so I’m going to read them, eventually. But, I don’t think I want to read them in the first season. I think I’ll wait.
What kind of tone will this show have, throughout the season?
AMICK: I really do feel that it’s a lot like The Witches of Eastwick, where there’s a lot of serious magic, there’s some romance, there’s some depth in the characters, but there’s a lot of comedy. We have fun with it. It’s really examining the family dynamic, more than anything else. There just happens to be some witchcraft, on the side.
All of these supernatural shows have their own take on what the world is. Does this feel like its own fresh take on witches?
AMICK: I think so. I haven’t seen witches really examined in this family dynamic before. It’s fun to see a family of four women, with the two sisters, Joanna and Wendy, and the two daughters, Ingrid (Rachel Boston) and Freya (Jenna Dewan-Tatum). There’s the dynamic between aunt and nieces, and mother and daughters. I haven’t seen that take on witchcraft. They’re usually put into this villain role, and put off to the side and not really examined. How do they exist, day-to-day? What is their life like? What do they eat for breakfast?
How does Wendy get along with her nieces?
AMICK: She’s very jealous that Joanna was able to have children because she wasn’t. So, she’s sort of like a surrogate mother. When Joanna has her issues and has to stand her ground about certain stuff, Aunt Wendy is always there to be the comfort and understanding. She’s given license to be more loving, in a way, because she can forgive a lot and let it go. She doesn’t have to be the strong parent. She gets to be the fun aunt. It’s kind of like grandparents who get to come in and spoil their grandchildren. That’s Aunt Wendy.
AMICK: I think that Freya and Wendy are the more free-spirited side, and Ingrid and Joanna are the more grounded, nature side. That’s similar. They’re both very loving to each other, but they both have their issues, too, with being very different.
What’s it like to work with this great cast?
AMICK: To be honest, I know there are other shows that have a lot of women and they say, “Oh, we love each other!,” but I don’t know if I totally believe it. But, this is really real. There are four of us, and we’re very strong, very opinionated women, and we all very much love each other. There’s mutual respect, and we really do get along. It was instant chemistry, and I think that’s why they wanted to continue having the four of us together for the series. We did have a really immediate, genuine chemistry with each other.
Where do you find your performance, for a character like this? Since you can’t know what it’s like to be a witch, do you focus on the human aspects of her?
AMICK: Yes and no. I’ve got a really good imagination, so I’m really imagining her. Wendy and Joanna have been alive for hundreds and hundreds of years. We’re really, really old. She and I have been around for a really long time. I’m the one that continues to adapt to the time period that I’m in because I’m cool like that, and Joanna is a little more set in her ways. The girls are constantly reborn, so they’re fresh souls, over and over and over again. So, there are definitely some human rules that I’m following, but there’s also that concept of old souls that just keep being reborn, over and over and over again. I’m just following that concept.
AMICK: Yeah. And you’ll see old foes that come back to get us.
I will forever be a huge fan of Twin Peaks. What’s it like to be a part of something like that, that will forever be a part of TV history, and have it leave to other things, like Psych because James Roday is such a Twin Peaks fan?
AMICK: And I did an episode of Mad Men because Matt Weiner is such a huge fan and did an episode that was an homage to Twin Peaks. I feel very, very honored to have been a part of that show. In a way, it set me up. That was the first thing that I was a part of, so I approached everything, from that point forward, with that mind-set. I went into normal Hollywood like, “What do you mean we can’t do that? I’ve done that already!” That then made me interested in more off-beat things. I didn’t follow big box office ideas. That eventually led me to witches. It’s led me to find interesting roles.
Witches of East End airs on Sunday nights on Lifetime.