Exclusive: A Discovery of Witches star Teresa Palmer talks season 2

Teresa Palmer as Diana Bishop - A Discovery of Witches _ Season 2, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Sundance Now/Bad Wolf
Teresa Palmer as Diana Bishop - A Discovery of Witches _ Season 2, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Sundance Now/Bad Wolf /

A Discovery of Witches is a global phenomenon, capturing the hearts and imaginations of fans who fell in love with author Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy. Season 2 sees Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer) and Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode) traveling to Elizabethan England so that Diana can learn more about her magic.

Winter Is Coming had a chance to speak with Palmer about her experience working on the show’s second season ahead of its debut on AMC on June 27.

Teresa Palmer “loved season 2” of A Discovery of Witches

(Sarabeth Pollock) I am such a huge fan of the show and I remember thinking that it was going to be a huge hit before the first book came out. When they announced A Discovery of Witches was being made into a show I knew it would be an even bigger hit, so congratulations on all of the success and everything that’s come from it. 

(Teresa Palmer) Thank you! I appreciate it so much.

One of the things that has always stood out to me is that you’re so generous in sharing your life with fans on social media. There’s a photo from late 2019 where you’re filming ADOW season 2 and you’re in this beautiful Elizabethan gown and you have your daughter in your arms and you also have a laptop because you’re finishing the notes on your book. It’s such a powerful image in general, but there’s something about knowing what life was like for women in Elizabethan England and having a strong female character like Diana Bishop getting to see it. It’s a powerful image and powerful juxtaposition.

Thank you, I appreciate that. I try to be as open and real as I can on my social media. And that was a particularly crazy time because I was editing my book and I’d just had a baby. And then I was working so many hours a day, and in a corset. So I have a breastfeeding baby and wearing a corset that doesn’t usually make things easy but I had such a wonderful group of people around me and such a supportive crew. I felt like I’d landed there with them. I was so held by them. I was safe there. My baby was so embraced and everyone made it easy. I had corsets that were done up on the front, instead of at the back, with hooks and eyes so that you could quickly pop them open and she could nurse. And I just, yeah, I loved it.

I think when you’re on a trilogy and you’re on a TV show you build such a community with your crew, especially if they’re returning crew as well. And that’s how it felt for me. And yeah, I was able to balance all those things and then just disappear into Diana when I needed to, which was wonderful. And I have my husband to thank for that because he came with us and held it down with the kids so that I could really focus on portraying Diana in all the ways I needed to because her evolution and her journey, particularly at that point in season 2, it’s really delicate and it was just imperative for me that I had the space to be able to do the things that I needed to, to bring her to life.

I remember the first time the show was at San Diego Comic-Con, way back before it had really been filming for very long, and there was so much excitement. Has it surprised you how people have embraced the show as it heads into season 2? Was it surprising to see how big it was?

Yeah, it definitely does surprise me. I think I’ve always tried to have lower expectations for projects because I’ve been in things over the years where there would be a certain hype about it and then it would never reach the level that people were anticipating. So I think throughout my career I’ve come to realize that it’s better just to enjoy the experience and then let it go. And you can be hopeful that it finds an audience and that it connects with people and resonates, but I didn’t want to be disappointed by having expectations.

So then it was wonderful because my expectations were of course just exceeded and then some because [ADOW] was so embraced and celebrated. And then we cultivated this really big fan base and that gives you a certain energy. I think it pumps you up as a performer because you know there are so many people rooting for the story and I felt a certain sense of responsibility not to let anyone down. It was wonderful to feel that encouragement and that motivation streaming towards us from this audience.

There are so many powerful women in Deborah Harkness’ series and in season 2, of all the times in history, it’s so wonderful to see so many brilliant women from history, from Queen Elizabeth to Goody Alsop, interacting with her characters. 

Yeah, definitely. I love that about Deb Harkness. I think because she is such a passionate historian she wanted to shine light on these brilliant historical characters. And then of course they were cast so beautifully. Barbara Martin playing Queen Elizabeth, and the amazing Sheila Hancock playing Goody Alsop. We have Mary Sidney in there. I mean, it was wonderful for Diana to be surrounded by such strong, empowering women.

And for Diana in particular, I think you see radical growth as soon as she lands in her coven because she’s felt lost I think for so much of her life, running away from her roots and who she authentically is. And she was always trying to paint a different picture and ignore this side of her, the magic side of her life, because there was some deep trauma surrounding her experiences as a witch. But then to come into her own and to be around other witches is such a beautiful therapeutic experience for Diana, and you can really see her flourish and shine and her magic just goes from strength to strength because she’s in such a supportive environment. So I loved that aspect of it as well.

The timeline of the trilogy moves really quickly even though you don’t really realize it. It’s a matter of days, weeks. So it’s fascinating in season 2 to see the development of Diana and Matthew’s relationship because there’s still so much to learn about each other, but they’re doing it in the middle of Elizabethan England.

I always giggle because I remember my parents saying, “Well, you’re moving very fast with your husband.” This is when I met my husband Mark and we got pregnant within eight months and I remember them saying that. And so I’m always laughing at, well, if you think that was moving fast wait till you see Diana and Matthew!

I mean, that’s unbelievable that [they’re] time traveling together after about six weeks! But no, it’s funny, the timeline. Matthew Goode and I would always remind each other that actually they haven’t known each other that long. I mean, it’s still obviously this soulmate, otherworldly connection. So it feels like they’ve known each other a lifetime, but then of course Diana gets thrust into Elizabethan London. And while one part of her is extremely excited to meet her historical heroes, she’s also confronted by the fact that the man she loves suddenly is changing into a much darker version of himself and pulling away from her mentally and emotionally.

And there’s this distance between them that feels cavernous and it’s very fear-inducing and she has to hold her own in this time that wasn’t very nice to women. It wasn’t so supportive of who she was and it was an especially dangerous time for witches as well. So it’s completely isolating. She’s suddenly thrust into this very scary world and has to navigate it the best that she can. So it’s nice when she lands with her coven, because I think that really shifts things for her. And then she also embraces Matthew on his journey. The ways in which he needs to dive back into his old self, and he does that for many reasons, but one of them is that he realizes that he needs to embody that character in order to heal some of these gaping wounds that he has surrounding his past.

As an actor, for both you and Matthew Goode, was it more fun bringing Matthew and Diana to life in the present day, or was it more fun in season 2 with the huge sets and the wardrobe?

I loved season 2, because to have that opportunity as a performer to work on set, to be walking around these amazingly rebuilt Elizabethan backdrops, with the cobblestones and all the attention to detail, it was emotional. It really was very moving to me. And talk about what a joint effort that was from the production designer to the costumers, to hair and makeup, to the crews, to the special effects… They would burn this certain material and the streets would smell like freshly baked bread. And there were smoke machines, and then the extras, the background players were so incredible in their roles, giving it everything. It felt really magical. That is the word for it. And I remember being completely moved.

I kept saying to myself, if only I could go back to my 16-year-old self who wanted to be an actor. And I just, I could only dream up that sort of experience being on a set like that, getting to wear outfits of that nature. That was so beautiful. So I loved season 2, I think, of all of them.

That was the most fun, but also because it was a delicate dance for Diana. She’s so excited to be there. She’s meeting her historical heroes, but also she can’t act like a modern woman. So she’s swinging a pendulum of all sorts of feelings and emotions. And she’s constantly having to be hyper diligent in terms of her behavior and making sure she’s not geeking out too much to give it away that she doesn’t belong in that time. So I loved that element of the performance as well.

There was a lot of heavy material in season 2, but were there scenes that you and Matthew or other actors struggled with? Did you get the giggles on set, or were there certain scenes that were hard for you to get through?

All the time. I think working with Matthew Goode, that’s to be expected. He’s such a giggle. And we actually got sent a clip from Philippa Langdale, who was one of the directors on season two. There’s a campfire scene where we’re talking about some really heavy things. And for whatever reason, we both got the giggles and we just couldn’t get through it. We just could not get through it. And I ended up doing the scene where all my closeups are done to one of the PAs. So he sat in Matthew’s role and I did my performance to a PA because Matthew was making me laugh too much. And that would happen constantly with him and I. Usually we can get it together and by the third take we’ve got our giggles out. But that night in particular, I think we were a bit delusional because it was 3am and it was freezing cold and we were having to talk about these really epic, intense, moody things. And it was just like, that was it. We lost it. We lost the plot.

Those sorts of evenings were challenging but they were also really fun and we needed to have moments like that to get through it, especially because he and I are in pretty much, we’re in every single day. We have so much material to learn that sometimes you would just sort of lose your mind in the middle of a scene and just have to get your giggles out. But yeah, so that was nice. And he was my comrade and we were really partners in this whole experience. We held each other up again. And I loved that. He was my best pal throughout this experience. And also I’m a mom of three, I’m about to have number four, but he was a dad of three and he just got it. So that aspect of it was really nice.

Our gratitude goes out to Teresa Palmer for taking the time to chat about A Discovery of Witches season 2. Be sure to catch the two-hour season premiere of ADOW on AMC on June 27.

dark. Next. All the actors in House of the Dragon and who they're playing

To stay up to date on everything fantasy, science fiction, and WiC, follow our all-encompassing Facebook page and sign up for our exclusive newsletter.

Get HBO, Starz, Showtime and MORE for FREE with a no-risk, 7-day free trial of Amazon Channels