The cast and crew of The Secret Circle met with the press at Comic-Con International to discuss the upcoming CW drama, its origins and where it might be headed.
Based on the popular fantasy romance novels by The Vampire Diaries author L.J. Smith, the series centers on teenager Cassie Blake (Life Unexpected’s Britt Robertson), who moves to Chance Harbor, Washington, after the tragic death of her mother, only to discover that she and her classmates are descended from powerful witches. What’s more, Cassie’s new friends have been waiting for her to complete their secret coven.
As the synopsis might suggest to fans of Smith’s books, the adaptation will deviate from the source material, beginning with the opening scene, which depicts the death of Cassie’s mother, a central character in the novels.
“I killed her, I’ll take credit for that,” confessed executive producer Kevin Williamson. “I wrote that scene. … The thinking was, ‘Why would she ever come back to this town if she knew what she knew?’ And, ‘Why is it a town called New Salem if it’s about a bunch of witches who are trying to hide?’ Thank you, L.J. Smith.”
However, Williamson, who’s also showrunner of The CW’s The Vampire Diaries, views the author as a kindred spirit. “She and I are married at the hip, in some sort of weird, twisted, pathetic, wonderful way,” he said.
He conceded he’s concerned The Secret Circle will draw comparisons to the other, more established series. “I hope it’s not compared to Season 3 of The Vampire Diaries, because that’s up and running and that started out of the gate in an explosive way,” he said.
While Williamson reiterated that the two series will be “two separate worlds,” he noted that a witch created vampires. He also said there may be other supernatural creatures in The Secret Circle, hinting that demons “might be a go-to.”
Producer Andrew Miller contended audiences may have an easier time connecting with the world of Cassie Blake. “I think [witches] feel slightly more relatable, in the sense that our witchcraft exists from tapping in to energies in the things all around us,” he said, comparing recent TV series and movies about witches to those focusing on vampires and werewolves.
“Any one of us can hear the roar of an ocean or walk through a forest and feel the power of those things and can tap in to them,” he added. “That’s a little bit different than being born a shape-shifter or being born a werewolf. We are trying to ground the show a lot.”
But more than simply witches, The Secret Circle will focus on the complicated relationships of the central characters. “These are six people who would not have been friends before they found out they had a shared lineage,” said Producer Richard Hatem. “In a lot of ways, the show is about this unlikely friendship, because they have this bond with each other. In a weird way they will sort of heal each other over the course of the series.”
This was the first Comic-Con for Australian actress Phoebe Tonkin, who plays Faye Chamberlain. “We don’t have anything like this in Australia,” she said. “I didn’t even know what [Comic-Con] was.”
Although her character is depicted as a bit of a villain in the pilot episode, Tonkin insisted Faye isn’t evil. “She just wants to do really bad magic,” she said. “That’s just kinda her vibe.”
Asked who would win a fight, Faye or “Dark Willow” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tonkin replied, “Oh, my God! I am such a Buffy fan! Faye, definitely, but yeah, Buffy is the best.”
Thomas Dekker, who plays Adam Conant, confessed, “I was obsessed in my youth with The Craft,” the 1996 film about four teen girls who try to master witchcraft for their own benefit. “I never got in to practicing Wiccinism or any of that stuff, but I certainly had a deep fascination with it. It’s a little bit different than what [The Secret Circle] is about, though.”
“Vampires, werewolves, witches -- they’re just the dark side of fantasy,” said the actor, best known for his roles on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Heroes. “All of those things are appealing, especially witches, because it’s that appeal to have power. More power than we naturally have. That’s why I loved [The Craft] so much growing up.”
Dekker said he didn’t read any of Smith’s novels before shooting the pilot, because he was told his character in the series is vastly different from the original. “We decided, for this universe, to kind of go in our own direction,” he said. “I don’t even know what the difference is.”
Robertson, who stars as Cassie, said The Vampire Diaries serves as a benchmark for The Secret Circle. “Hopefully a lot of their fans will like our show as well.” That said, she thinks the drama will stake out its out territory.
“A lot of the stuff that was done back in the ‘90s, like The Craft or Charmed or Sabrina the Teenage Witch, all those sort of ’90s television series based on witches, and I think this is a modernized updated version of that,” she said. “We are just trying to make it our own and amp it up and give it a 2011 flavor.”
Natasha Henstridge, who plays Faye’s mother Principal Dawn Chamberlain, admitted that, “It’s great to join a show that’s young and hip.”
“I’ve done some great shows that didn’t have that young audience and ‘bye-bye!’” she said. “Nobody wants to work when no one’s watching the show.”
Henstridge said that she was initially hesitant to accept the role, thinking her character was just another boring villain. However, Williamson assured her Principal Chamberlain would be fleshed out during the series.
“I read the first script and thought ‘Oh, he wasn’t lying, this is going to be dynamic,’” she said. “There’s a lot more going on than meets the eye with the character right from the get-go. It’s a real interesting dynamic that she has there because she is the mother, she does love her daughter. And yet she is willing to use her daughter. But I think that she really believes that she’s using her daughter for the greater good.”
Henstridge said he remains in the dark as to what happens to her character. “Whether you like to know ahead or not, in this case, they don’t seem to tell you that much ahead,” she said. “Also, I think if you know too much ahead it will start influencing the in-the-moment stuff that you’re doing.”
The Secret Circle premieres Sept. 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.