The big interview: Return of the TV drama that casts a spell

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It’s been a long wait, but series two of Discovery of Witches is finally here. Georgia Humphreys met some of the stellar cast on set.

The latest instalment of Discovery of Witches has a lot to live up to.

The fantasy drama, about a closet witch named Diana Bishop, and Matthew Clairmont, a centuries-old vampire, is based on much-loved books – Deborah Harkness’s bestselling All Souls trilogy – and series one was Sky One’s most popular drama of 2018.

Matthew Goode, the Downton Abbey star who plays Matthew, was certainly feeling the pressure, what with the show becoming a period drama this time around.

“There are many more things to think about,” notes the 42-year-old actor. “I don’t think we are sitting on our laurels.”

But there’s no need to worry; the ten new episodes are just as gripping, romantic, and spellbinding as you’d hope.

They follow star-crossed lovers Matthew and Diana (Hacksaw Ridge’s Teresa Palmer) as they travel back to Elizabethan London, where they try to find a powerful witch teacher to help Diana control her magic, and search for the elusive Book of Life.

Intertwined throughout there’s plenty of drama in the present day too – a world where witches, vampires, and daemons secretly live and work alongside humans.

Here – from interviews in November 2019, on set in Wales – lead stars Goode, Palmer, plus brand-new cast member Tom Hughes, tell us more.


How will we see Diana adapt to a new time period? Aussie actress Palmer, 34, says: “To be thrust back so many years is incredibly confronting and challenging, and she’s in a very vulnerable position, so she’s having to navigate lots of different things.”

We also see a different side to Matthew, she adds, as we explore his past as Matthew Roydon.

“Matthew Roydon is a really complex, broody sort of dangerous, dark character and she hasn’t known this person before, and she feels like she’s getting to know this whole other side of him. She wants to learn more about him, which I think is very romantic.”


A whole set has been built, in the Welsh countryside, purposefully for this second series. As we walk around, it’s bustling and atmospheric, and it really does feel like we’ve been thrust back in time. Then there are the new characters that immerse us in the time period too, including Kit Marlow, the English playwright, poet, and translator of the Elizabethan era, played by Victoria star, Tom Hughes.

“There are elements of the real Christopher Marlowe in there; there’s a kind of Mercurio quality to him, and there’s a hedonism to him, there’s a lyricism to him,” notes Hughes, 35. “And then bring that in with obviously what’s in the books, and how that’s adapted for this story, he’s slightly infantilised at times.

“Something about his emotion is very, very raw, and that brings with it a plethora of different feelings; there’s volatility, there’s obsession.”

That obsession is with Matthew, and it also means Kit has a fear of Diana, because when Matthew arrives back from the modern-day, the whole world has changed and shifted.


In this series, Diana doesn’t have a choice other than to start embracing who she is – the most powerful witch the world has ever seen. And Palmer says that has been really fun for her because she’s “getting to do so much more magic stuff” – and has even been doing magic classes with a movement coach.

She’s been “learning about weaving and the history behind witches and the idea of like the threads of the universe and weaving them together and doing these ten different knots”, she explains.

Interestingly, Diana starts to realise that one of her gifts is that she brings life into things, which will no doubt make for some exciting scenes.

“There are certain elements in the book where, for instance, she has an egg and she makes the egg hatch and a live chick comes out,” notes Palmer.

“There’s another sequence where she’s looking at someone’s shoe and a snake is embroidered in it and she brings a snake out of the shoe – a real-life snake.

“So, she’s starting to learn about her connection to life.”


There are so many stories about witches and vampires which have been adapted for TV or film. Discussing their enduring appeal, Goode says: “I think we hear those stories first when we’re children and they’re sort of a little bit disturbing and magical and mysterious. And then I think Harry Potter helped…”

Palmer adds that shows like Discovery of Witches are “a departure from how we live our lives. Fantasy is a form of escapism, I think.”

Sky original A Discovery of Witches Series 2 started on Sky One and NOW TV on Friday, January 8 with all episodes now available to view.

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