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, actor Bronson Pinchot (who plays Baxter High’s villainous principal George Hawthorne) talked about how he came to be a part of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, what he thinks of the dark approach to this material, what he loves about sitcom compared to single camera, why Sabrina Spellman is such a thorn in his side, what it’s like working with Kiernan Shipka, and one of the funniest moments that happened on set.
Collider: I was a fan of the original Sabrina series, of which this is nothing like, and I’m glad about that because it can really be its own thing.
BRONSON PINCHOT: Oh, yeah, it’s true. People say to me, all the time, “What are you working on?,” and I take a long breath because as soon as I say Sabrina, they say, “So, what’s it like playing her cat?” And I say, “No, it’s not all cute like that.” It’s fabulously sexy and funny and nasty. The thing that I tell people to center them and get them to stop yapping about how cute Sabrina was, is about how they eat people in this. They eat people!
How did you come to be a part of this?
PINCHOT: I went in and auditioned. The funny thing is that I usually make a big federal case over auditions ‘cause I feel that I should represent myself properly, as if I’ve worked on it for weeks and weeks, so I always spend a lot of time finessing it. And this one, I looked at it, and for some reason unknown to me, I just thought, “Yup.” And then, I wanted to do it without my glasses. I didn’t want to be one of those people auditioning for a professorial type with glasses on ‘cause that’s too on the nose. And since I wasn’t going to use my glasses, I sat in the waiting room and copied it out in Sharpie that was big enough to read without my glasses. And then, I went in and did it, and they said, “That was just revelatory.” I said, “Okay.”
What were you told about what this version of the show would be and who the character would be? Were you given much information about any of that?
PINCHOT: I did not see a script or anything, but I was told with great enthusiasm by my manager that it was a super duper dark take on the material. I only saw the pages the character was in, so I saw maybe six pages, but the blurb from the casting director said that it was based on the dark graphic novels by Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] and not on the TV series. I’ll tell you, you know where you’re at as soon as you walk on the set. It’s very atmospheric. Many times in my career, I’ve wondered, “What am I going to do with this character?,” and then somebody hands you the clothes and, all of a sudden, you know who the character is. On this, you step onto the set and you know what to do. It’s so beautifully done and so atmospheric. It also helps that the directors are all amazing, and that the cast is the most professional cast that I’ve ever worked with.
Because this guy seems a little bit mysterious in what his backstory is, once you were cast, were you told much about what his journey would be, over the season?
PINCHOT: They didn’t tell me a whole lot. The thing that I love about sitcom is that there’s a lot of people there and they’re all responding, so they can almost guide you where you ought to be going. The great thing about single camera, especially if it’s shot a little bit out of sequence, is that you can inject mystery and mislead anything you want. I don’t like to know ‘cause that’s what it’s like, as a human being. Honestly, I really don’t like to. Why should you know where everything is going? I don’t like to know, as a person. There are grey, muddy areas in this because Roberto loves surprises. That’s what makes it so fun. There are so many delicious surprises on this. To tell you the truth, I don’t even like to know where things are going, in a given scene. You can be in one mood, and then, in the next script, it seems like something else, but that’s typical of a TV series. I don’t know what Roberto does to come up with these twists and turns, but they’re marvelous. Every time I open a script, I gasp. He’s so nice and kind and paternal, but there’s gotta be something marvelous going on in that head of his. He has a little giggle, at the read-throughs, when characters have to do something that’s absolutely so naughty you cannot believe it.
As long as he keeps amusing himself, we’ll all be the better for it.
PINCHOT: Exactly! That’s the trick. I have noticed, many, many times in my career, that if I’m doing stage work and I want something to be really funny, as long as something makes me laugh out loud, I know that it’s gonna make other people laugh out loud. If your jaw drops open, then there’s a very good chance it will make other people have the same reaction. I can’t imagine that it’s linear. I think he just lets it surprise him. When we get to the set, we always look at each other and say, “Oh, my god, have you seen this?”