Behind The Scenes And Spooky Facts About The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina
The hit Netflix series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a complete and total departure from the lighthearted 1990s television sitcom Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. When the new show’s creators said the update was going to be a lot darker than the earlier version, they were not kidding. Developed by comic book writer and Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and starring Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina, this shadowy and mystery-filled reboot is nothing short of spellbinding.
The behind-the-scenes facts and trivia about the making of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina are almost as gripping as the show itself. Grab your familiar and read on as we learn all the sinister secrets about Sabrina Spellman and her weird, witchy world. Warning: possible spoilers ahead.
The Show Is Based On A Comic Book
Sabrina the Teenage Witch originally appeared in the iconic Archie Comics, alongside other notable characters like Archie Andrews, Jughead Jones, Veronica Lodge, Betty Cooper, and Josie and the Pussycats. She made her debut in a 1962 issue of Archie’s Mad House.
Sabrina lived with her witch aunts Zelda and Hilda in a town called Greendale, which is near Archie’s hometown of Riverdale. Initially, her aunts were portrayed as hag-like crones, while Salem was an orange-colored cat and didn’t speak.
Find out what Melissa Joan Hart, who played the ’90s Sabrina, thinks of the new show.
Before Sabrina, Kiernan Shipka Was ‘Worried’ About Her Career
After her breakout role as Sally Draper on Mad Men, Shipka briefly worked on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and on FX’s Feud. But just before The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina premiered in October of 2018, she confided to Refinery29 that she’d been worried about her career until scoring the role.
“I was a little bit, down in the dumps, frustrated actor for a second,” she confessed. “It wasn’t like things were flying my way, left and right. I was sort of hustling, and [the role of Sabrina] came my way, and I knew I couldn’t give it up.”
Next: why the witchcraft on the show feels so real
There’s A Real-Life Pagan On Set
Production designer Lisa Soper is a real practitioner of Paganism. She feels that her personal experience comes in handy on the show, and she even cast a spell on the set after it was constructed. “I put a protection spell on the house. I didn’t have to hide it [from the cast],” she explained to Vanity Fair.
The spell Soper used involved crystals and salts, burning sage, and a sacred circle. Soper says that the crew goes out of their way not to disturb any of the crystals or other artifacts to avoid messing up the protective spell.
Lucy Davis As Aunt Hilda
If Aunt Hilda looks familiar, it’s for good reason. British actress Lucy Davis has had many prominent roles throughout her career, including Etta Candy in 2017’s Wonder Woman, Dianne in the comedic horror flick Shaun of the Dead, and Dawn Tinsley on the BBC version of The Office.
Aunt Hilda’s character is warm and motherly, with a quick sense of humor. Davis says she has fun with her role on Sabrina. “I’ve gotten to do a lot of things on this job that I’ve never gotten to do; it’s certainly not a courtroom drama,” she told Teen Vogue. “To get to do this at 45 has been really special.”
Next: why some cast members are scared during filming
The Spells Used On The Show Are Real
Lisa Soper told Refinery 29 that “all the writers and myself are very sticklery on the Pagan rituals,” and said that the spells cast on the show come from “actual history.” In fact, the characters use real spells found in Soper’s personal collection of religious history and spell books.
Some cast members are scared of the spells, worried that they’ll attract some “otherworldly” energy that could follow them home after filming is done. Tati Gabrielle, the actress who plays Prudence, has an end-of-day ritual to combat this. “I do smudging just to keep my energy clear when we step off,” she shared. “Like, let’s leave that behind.”
Sabrina’s cat Salem is a familiar, a former goblin who has taken on the shape of an animal in order to better assist his witch master. He first debuted alongside Sabrina the Teenage Witch in an Archie comic in 1962, although he was originally orange and didn’t speak. In those days, he was described as being a former witch who was doomed to spend 100 years in feline form after trying to take over the world.
In the 1990s live-action Sabrina the Teenage Witch sitcom, Salem was a witty and wise-cracking cat who spoke in a human voice. In the new Sabrina, he was given a more serious demeanor to match the darker mood of the show. He communicates primarily through telepathy.
Coming up: find out how Kiernan Shipka feels about acting alongside a cat
The Riverdale Connection
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was at first meant to be a companion show to CW’s Riverdale. But in December 2017, the project was moved to Netflix, which had ordered two seasons of the show. Even so, Sabrina and Riverdale still share a universe. The series are both filmed in Vancouver, so they can share the same crew.
Riverdale centers on Archie Comics’ most popular characters: Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and Josie and the Pussycats. Although the possibility of a crossover was initially dismissed by the shows’ creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, he later said that he’d “hate for [a crossover] to never happen.”
A crossover did indeed happen… and fans went wild! Read on to find out which unlikely Riverdale character appeared on Sabrina
The Show Is Filmed In Vancouver
Parts 1 and 2 of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina were filmed in a town called Cloverdale, located in Vancouver, British Columbia. The town, founded in 1870, has also been featured in Smallville, Deck the Halls, Stargate Universe, and Coke commercials.
Some Sabrina settings, such as Baxter High School and Cerberus Books, were shot at real Cloverdale locations. Many locals were thrilled about the show being filmed in their hometown. The executive director of the Cloverdale Business Improvement Association snapped this pic of stars Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, and Jaz Sinclair crossing the street.
Read on to find out what happens when someone sneezes on set
All The Familiars Have Meaningful Names
A witch’s familiar is no ordinary house pet, and you’re probably not going to find any with boring names like Whiskers or Spot. The familiars on Sabrina all have special meanings behind their monikers. Sabrina’s cat Salem has perhaps the most obvious name, a reference to the Massachusetts town known for holding brutal witch trials in the 17th century.
Ms. Wardell’s raven is named Stolas after one of the demons listed in a book on spells and demonology. Zelda has a dog called Vinegar Tom, which was a play about the witch trials in England. And Ambrose’s familiar, a mouse named Leviathan, shares the name of a biblical sea monster.
This Is What Happens When Someone Sneezes On Set
The cast and crew of Sabrina have developed a unique tradition that was based on an unscripted comment made by Richard Coyle, who plays Father Blackwood, the High Priest of the Church of Night. In a moment that was later cut, he ended a sermon by saying “Hail, Satan.”
This delighted everyone, and they started using the expression in place of “God bless you” anytime someone sneezed. Since there are over 300 people involved in shooting, that means a sneeze can become a loud affair. “It turns into this massive echo,” production designer Lisa Soper told Thrillist. “You can hear it everywhere. We even made crew T-shirts saying ‘Hail, Satan!'”
Is Cousin Ambrose The New Salem?
Fans of the 1990s Sabrina series might think that cousin Ambrose is a new character in the Spellman world. But he’s actually an adaptation of a character who first appeared in Archie comics in the 1970s. The latest version of Ambrose is “witty, puckish, [and] pan-sexual,” per a casting description, and he is trapped in the family’s funeral home due to a binding spell. His wicked sense of humor and sarcastic comments are sure to remind viewers of Salem’s character in the ’90s version.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was so impressed by English actor Chance Perdomo’s audition that he wrote the part of Ambrose Spellman specifically for him.
Next: the Part 1 crossover
The Creepy Crossover Character
Although the first season of Sabrina developed independently from its companion series Riverdale, there was a brief crossover cameo that left many fans freaking out. Ben Button was a background character on Riverdale who popped up in Greendale when he showed up at Ms. Wardwell’s door to deliver a pizza.
The problem with this cameo? Ben Button’s character had just died on Riverdale after waking from a coma and throwing himself out of a window. Riverdale fans who recognized him in the Sabrina cameo quickly went into conspiracy theory mode, trying to explain Ben’s appearance. Show creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa gave this hint: “In Greendale, everyone pops up — the dead don’t stay dead long in Greendale.”
Next: Kiernan Shipka doesn’t get along with this co-worker
Kiernan Shipka Is Allergic To One Of Her Co-Stars
Lead actress Kiernan Shipka has a rather unfortunate allergy. There are five different cats that play the part of Salem, and Shipka discovered that she’s allergic to at least one of them! She learned this after breaking out in hives after picking one of them up. She’s joked that “the cat is the one cast member I don’t get along with.”
The allergic reaction was so bad that showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa almost considered giving Sabrina a different familiar. “It did go through my mind: Could Salem be a dog?” he said to EW. Once the decision to stick with a cat was finalized, though, he tweeted a photo of one of the cats with the caption, “All hail, Salem!”
Miranda Otto Thinks Aunt Zelda Might Be A Hockey Fan
Australian actress Miranda Otto plays Zelda, the stricter and more image-conscious of Sabrina’s aunts. In a Vulture interview, Otto described the chain-smoking Zelda as a “film noir–type… strong, a little mysterious, dark, and very definite.”
She also volunteered that she thinks the character might have some unexpected interests. “I think Zelda might be a big Joan Crawford fan. She loves movies. That and football. She’s a big ice hockey fan, too,” adding, “because it’s very violent.”
Those Wonderfully Witchy Clothes
Kiernan Shipka became a household name while she worked on one of the most fashionable television series of all times — Mad Men. And now, Sabrina’s wardrobe gets some serious attention from fans. The entire show has a distinctly retro style, but Sabrina’s fashion sense particularly stands out.
“We take the best of different decades and create this timeless look,” explained Candice Stafford-Bridge, who heads the show’s makeup department. Fashion magazines now tell fans where they can purchase lookalike versions of the gorgeous shirt dresses, coats, and sweaters that Sabrina wears.
Ross Lynch Used To Be A Disney Star
Ross Lynch, who plays Sabrina’s love interest Harvey Kinkle, made an interesting transition in his acting career when he signed on for the series. His acting debut was in the Disney show Austin & Ally and then in the original Disney film Teen Beach Movie. He also made a cameo appearance in 2014’s Muppets Most Wanted film.
Lynch then pursued decidedly darker roles, landing a gig playing a teenage version of the notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in My Friend Dahmer, before eventually signing on with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Next: Kiernan Shipka almost wound up in Riverdale instead of Greendale
Kiernan Shipka Was Almost Cast On Riverdale Before Sabrina
According to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who created both Riverdale and Sabrina, he initially wanted Kiernan Shipka to play Betty Cooper on Riverdale. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he said, “Kiernan was iconic in Mad Men, and… I was like, ‘Oh I wonder if she’d ever do Betty.'” The role ended up going to Lili Reinhart.
Later, before there was even a script for Sabrina, casting director David Rapaport mentioned that Shipka might be interested in the role, and the rest is history. Aguirre-Sacasa said, “for me it was sort of like, ‘Okay she’s Sabrina. I’m writing this for [her].'”
The Christmas Special Was An Afterthought
The Christmas special, called “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Midwinter’s Tale,” was a standalone episode that helped tide fans over as they awaited the release of the second season. It turns out that the episode wasn’t in the show creator’s initial plans. As Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa told TheWrap, “I was having dinner with one of the writers and we sort of realized, ‘We’ve done a Halloween episode and a Thanksgiving episode and we skipped over Christmas.’”
As shooting for Part 2 was already underway, it was decided that the Christmas special would be a standalone episode. Kiernan Shipka called the special “really wonderful.”
Melissa Joan Hart Isn’t Really A Fan Of The New Sabrina
Many fans who grew up watching the original Sabrina, The Teenage Witch will always think of Melissa Joan Hart when they hear the name ‘Sabrina.’ So how does the original Sabrina feel about the reboot? It turns out that she’s not a huge fan, citing demographics as the main reason.
“I don’t think it really appeals to me,” she revealed in an E! News interview. “I watched a little with Netflix. We did a social media campaign where I watched some of the episodes. But I don’t think it really appeals to me. My kids are a little too young for it and I’m too old for it.”
She’s not against the new show, though!
From One Sabrina To The Other
Although she doesn’t watch the show, Melissa Joan Hart has nothing but good things to say about it or its star. I love the fact that the character lives on,” she said to E! News. “It’s kind of like a sisterhood when you play the same characters, I think, and probably the way the James Bond guys feel, or something.”
In a promotional Netflix video, Hart even recorded a special message for Kiernan Shipka, complete with advice for the younger witch. “By the way, from one Sabrina to the other…if you’re ever given a choice between a broom and a vacuum, choose the vacuum.”
Could A ‘Bewitched’ Reboot Be In Shipka’s Future?
Could A Bewitched Reboot Be In Kiernan Shipka’s Future?
There are some legitimate correlations between Kiernan Shipka and the iconic 1960s show Bewitched, which was about a witch named Samantha Stevens. First, Shipka got her big break on the AMC series Mad Men, which followed her father Don Draper — a big-time ad executive. The dad on Bewitched was also an ad man, with a witch daughter named Tabitha. Mad Men producer Matthew Weiner even says that his show was heavily influenced by Bewitched.
Shipka’s character Sally Draper was a parallel to Tabitha Stevens in many ways. They also physically resemble each other. And now Shipka is playing a teenaged witch… is it possible that her next move after Sabrina would be to play Samantha in a reboot of Bewitched? Many fans would love to see that.
Next: another possible ‘Bewitched’ connection
The Show May Have Hinted That The Spellmans Are Related To Bewitched’s Elizabeth Montgomery
Some fans think that an Episode 1 scene might have been a hint that Sabrina is supposed to be related to Elizabeth Montgomery, who played the iconic witch Samantha Stevens on the 1960s series Bewitched.
In the scene, Aunt Hilda is telling Sabrina how handsome her father had been. She says, “He could’ve been a movie star if he’d chosen, like Cousin Montgomery,” which many fans interpreted to mean that the Spellmans are related to the Montgomery family.