***The transcript portion of the following interview contains spoilers for the series finale***
Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of
Witches tells the story of forbidden love in the world of witches, vampires, and daemons. Last week SciFi Vision caught up with series star, Teresa Palmer, before the eagerly-awaited finale, to talk about Diana Bishop’s final journey and what it means to the actress.
Palmer worked closely with Harkness through the seasons on building Diana, and it really helped her to find her footing as the character. “It was so empowering for me,” said Palmer. “She was like, ‘You are Diana; that's why we cast you. I chose you, because of your spirit, your essence.’
The actress continued that Harkness put a lot of herself in the character, and the two of them see a lot of each other in themselves, but not when it comes to academia, which caused Palmer some doubt. The author was quick to reassure her, however. “I’d start obsessing about the little things,” said the actress. “…I think I was vulnerable, because I kept saying, ‘Well, I'm not an academic, and I don't find pleasure in academics the way you do…’ She was like, ‘But it's all in you. It's all there. Just lean into it.’ I think that that felt very liberating.”
During the interview Palmer also talked about how much Diana has grown since the beginning of the series. “When we see her in the first season, she's still running away from who she truly is and really living a life that doesn't serve her in any way; I can tell by looking back at that first season. I was like, ‘Oh, she's such a shell of herself, of who she ultimately becomes.’…It's not until even midway through the second season, where I'm like, ‘Oh, she's really landing into a place where she's empowered and sitting in her authenticity,’ which is really lovely to watch.
The actress came into her own like Diana over the course of the series. “I think I overcame a lot of insecurities and vulnerabilities in the very first season,” said Palmer. “I landed this big show, and I was really excited, and then I felt really wobbly after the first one or two episodes.
“…But I think after the first season…I felt like I really stepped into my own power and felt confident in my own voice and really stripped away some of the insecurities that were hanging on my shoulders. I love that, and now I'm in a place where I'm happy to just speak up and say how I'm feeling, and that's really cool. I think we kind of grew together in that way, which is really lovely.”
As the series closes, Palmer wants fans to take away the message of togetherness from the show. “We are stronger together,” said the actress, “and that is the true inherent message of this series; separatism isn't going to serve anyone. We are much more powerful at holding each other's hands, no matter what our backgrounds, and moving through life's challenges…I think it was probably my takeaway from the books, too, just the importance of community and meeting people from a place of love and compassion rather than judgment.”
For more from the interview, read the full transcript below, and be sure to watch the series finale of A Discovery of Witches
, now available on AMC’s streaming platforms Sundance Now and Shudder.SCIFI VISION: You've said before that you've talked a lot to Deborah about the character. What’s the one piece of advice through these the years that she's given you on playing Diana that kind of stuck with you that really helped you?
She gave me this beautiful little gem; I think it was the beginning of season two. Actually, it was so empowering for me. She was like, “You are Diana. That's why we cast you. I chose you, because of your spirit, your essence.” And it's funny, [because] Deb and I, we have so many similarities, and she wrote Diana as almost a version of herself, her own spirit, her own personality, and so much of Diana is in Deb, but Deb and I see so much of each other in one another. I had asked her questions, and I’d start obsessing about the little things and I think getting vulnerable and having [her say], “You are it. Just lean into what your instincts are, and that's all you have to do.” And I think I was vulnerable, because I kept saying, “Well, I'm not an academic, and I don't I don't find pleasure in academics the way you do. I've never had that same connection to books and to research into history the way you do.” She was like, “But it's all in you. It's all there. Just lean into it.” I think that that felt very liberating, especially to come at the beginning of season two. She said, “Just follow that gut feeling, because it's working.” I was like, “Okay. Thank you, Deb!”Is it difficult for you to change your accent for Diana, and are you the kind of person that sort of stays with it all day, when you're not in a scene, or do you kind of go back and forth?
Yes, it was difficult…I think it is such an amazing thing that there are actors out there who can stay in their accent. I cannot do it. I feel like one of my favorite things about being at work is connecting to people in between, and if I'm not in my own accent, I wouldn't be able to feel as I can express myself in an authentic way. So, I decided to dip out of the accent, which probably doesn't serve me; it probably means that it's not flawless. I've spoken to a good girlfriend of mine who’s a really successful TV actress, and she was like, “What do you mean you don't stay in the American accent?”…I sort of tap in and out of it.
Then, I'm pretty selective in ADR. There's this thing called additional dialogue recording that you do, ADR, that you do in post-production. So, I'll have my dialect coach listen to the entire season and take notes on my accent, and if there’s stuff that I don't like, I just go in and rerecord it.
Diana has grown in the sense that at the end of the series, she says she's willing to even spell bind her own children. Obviously, that was a horrific thing to her at the beginning of the series, and now she sort of understands what her parents went through. Can you just talk a little bit about how she's grown in that way since then?
Yeah, gosh, she's evolved so much, I think. I think it's easy to cast blame on your caregivers when you're going through a lot. She wasn't in their shoes; she didn't have that experience of being a parent and knowing that your heart now exists on the outside, and you would do absolutely anything in the world to protect your children, anything. You would throw yourself in front of a bus. That's just what happens when you become a parent. And I think it's like the penny dropped. Finally, she realized that was the intention behind the decision, and she would consider doing the same thing.
I love how much she's grown. When we see her in the first season, she's still running away from who she truly is and really living a life that doesn't serve her in any way; I can tell by looking back at that first season. I was like, “Oh, she's such a shell of herself, of who she ultimately becomes.” You see the spark, and you see that sort of kick off in that first season, and she starts leaning more into who she is, but it's not until even midway through the second season, where I'm like, “Oh, she's really landing into a place where she's empowered and sitting in her authenticity,” which is really lovely to watch.
How has your own life changed - other than becoming a mother - since you've started working on the show, and was there anything that you learned about yourself?
Yeah, I think I overcame a lot of insecurities and vulnerabilities in the very first season. I landed this big show, and I was really excited, and then I felt really wobbly after the first one or two episodes. “Am I doing this right? Is this right for me? How can I make sure that I'm servicing this character?”
But also, I was solo parenting that whole first season. Not many people know that my husband was away the whole first season and my kids had the flu, one after the other, and I didn't have adequate help there, so I was only sleeping about five hours a night that whole first season. I was sick, and I wasn't sleeping at all, and I felt like my voice was small. So, I didn't feel empowered to say like, “Hey, I need I need this. These are what my needs are.”
But I think after the first season, I really, kind of like Diana, stepped into my own. The second season, I knew I needed to make sure that my husband was with me, and if Mark's [wasn’t] there, I’d have someone to come and help with the children.
I [also] needed to have a place, because in the first season - I didn't know Wales or Cardiff at all - I picked this really charming farmhouse that was an hour away from where we shot. So, that was cut into my time, my travel time, so I wasn't sleeping.
So, the second season, I was like “Okay, I need a place that's right near where we shooting,” all those sorts of things. So, I felt like I really stepped into my own power and felt confident in my own voice and really stripped away some of the insecurities that were hanging on my shoulders. I love that, and now I'm in a place where I'm happy to just speak up and say how I'm feeling, and that's really cool. I think we kind of grew together in that way, which is really lovely.Can you talk about what you want people to take away from the series as a whole, what you want people to look back on?
Well, I think the message is really what we see Diana come to talk about when she finally has her day in court with the Congregation. It’s about togetherness. We are stronger together, and that is the true inherent message of this series; separatism isn't going to serve anyone. We are much more powerful at holding each other's hands, no matter what our backgrounds, and moving through life's challenges. I think that's what her big speech is all about. I love that.
I think it was probably my takeaway from the books, too, just the importance of community and meeting people from a place of love and compassion rather than judgment. They're all messages that I took away.
Then, also, I have just been really loving listening to people telling me how healing this series has been for them over the past couple of years, in particular, with everything people have been going through with the pandemic. It's a form of escapism for a lot of folks to dive into this fantasy world and imagine that they're in it and be swept up in this beautiful fantasy love story. Just to hear how profoundly that's impacted people, and it acts as a little pick me up for them, in an otherwise tumultuous world, has brought me a lot of joy.