EXCLUSIVE: A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES Scoop: Interview With Edward Bluemel On the Show’s Complex World of Vampires, Witches, and Demons
The new drama series A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES invites viewers into a world where vampires and witches and demons are caught up in a brewing war over their intertwined eternal lives, which are threatened when a potentially deadly book is discovered. At the center of the supernatural turmoil is a young woman, Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer), who is irrevocably drawn to an ancient vampire Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode), and gets caught up in a quest to locate the book and find the source of the threat to the supernatural world. Aiding in their quest are Marcus Whitmore (Edward Bluemel) and Miriam Shephard (Aiyisha Hart), two vampires who work alongside Matthew Clairmont in his studies. In an exclusive interview, Edward Bluemel explains how Marcus, Matthew, and Miriam are connected in more than just common interest and who stands as their greatest foe in the search for the mysterious book holding the answers.
Your series A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES is amazing. It’s a lot of fun.
EDWARD: Oh, good, I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun to make as well.
When you got the script, what was the appeal for you of portraying the role of Marcus? What was about him that seemed to call to you?
EDWARD: What I really liked was, on the surface, it’s a classic vampire fantasy drama. But I really liked that there was this character in it, Marcus, who was a young vampire, who was a little bit different from what I’ve seen before in vampire TV, which is sort of he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s very liberal. He’s not very traditional at all. He likes to have a good time. He’s a got a bit of a cavalier attitude to the whole thing, and he doesn’t look or dress like you’d expect a vampire to dress. I felt that he as a character flipped the typical vampire a little bit on its head. And that to me seemed really fun to play.
Given his lab and his situation, is Marcus a bit of an altruist? What is motivating him?
EDWARD: I think he is, to an extent. He became a vampire. He’s 261 years old. So in the grand scheme of things, he’s very young. He became a vampire during the American Revolution and really is something that is built into his character that he’s a man of rebellion, of revolution, of doing what he thinks is right for the people as it were. So he’s very liberal. He’s as left-wing as it gets in terms of vampires. He really wants to see change in the world for, not only vampires, but for other creatures: witch and demons as well. So, yeah, he’s the black sheep of the vampire family. He’s breaking away, and he really wants to change things. I think that it leads back to the fact that he’s also a healer. He was a doctor in the American Revolution, and he’s still a doctor today, and he really, really cares about people no matter who they are, or what their background is.
How did Marcus get connected with Matthew? How did their paths cross a bit?
EDWARD: That was during the American Revolution. Matthew fought because Matthew is French background wise, and the French fought on the side of the Americans against the Brits, and that’s where Marcus and Matthew met. And Marcus got very ill, and Matthew saved him by turning him into a vampire and turning him into one of his vampire children.
What is their relationship? Are they father/son kind of thing? Who are they to each other?
EDWARD: In the world of A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, it’s a very much a strong thing that if you turn someone into a vampire, you become their parent, so it’s definitely a family thing. So Marcus is very much Matthew’s son, though not in a typical human way, but in a vampire way. And someone who Matthew has to take care of, and Marcus rebels against Matthew. It’s very much a father/son relationship.
Does that mean there is a sibling dynamic going on between Marcus and Miriam then? It does seem like there’s a bit of a family situation going on.
EDWARD: Yeah, it is. It’s actually slightly different because Miriam wasn’t turned into a vampire by Matthew. Miriam’s actually far older than Matthew. She was turned into a vampire by someone else, who I don’t think is even mentioned. They work in packs. They’re like wolves. It’s a whole thing. So once they’ve found these friends and this family, once they’ve connected and they owe each other things, and then suddenly it’s really tight. So Matthew, Marcus, and Miriam are very much a pack, who work in Oxford together, even though they annoy each other a lot, they are very intrinsically connected.
What are Marcus, Matthew and Miriam up to? It does seem like they have a grand scheme that they’re all trying to work on together and have a specific goal in mind.
EDWARD: Of course. So Matthew, Marcus and Miriam are scientists. Marcus, at the beginning of the show, we find him and he’s a doctor. He’s a bit on the peripheral. He works in a hospital, just a regular doctor, a very, very experienced one, though a regular doctor, and then he gets involved more seriously with Matthew’s side of things, because they work with DNA. Matthew and Miriam are working to find out what’s happening to the vampire, witch, and demon DNA amongst human DNA — and they realize that vampires are slowly dying out, and they’re trying to work out why. Then Marcus tries to turn somebody into a vampire, and it doesn’t work. That’s when he gets completely involved in that, trying to get to the bottom of the situation.
Looking into Marcus’ head a little bit, what’s the incentive to turn somebody into a vampire? I wouldn’t thought he would’ve wanted to do that to anybody, being a doctor.
EDWARD: Well, it’s very much a last resort. It’s one of the first scenes about halfway through the first episode. Marcus witnesses a terrible accident in which his friend is run over by a car, and he realized that his friend is absolutely going to die. There’s nothing Marcus can do. He tries everything medically and he realizes that the only way to save this man is to turn him into a vampire and give him the gift of immortality. So it’s very much a last resort, but Marcus also has a history of being quite reckless with turning people into vampires and using it perhaps when he shouldn’t. So, in this scenario, yes, I think he probably should. He’s doing everything he can to save his friend, but turning somebody into a vampire then has much more longterm effects, because then you’ve got to look after them and then you have a vampire, who can often be very uncontrollable. So it’s definitely reckless, but he’s just doing what he can to save his friend.
At this point, if they have discovered that something might be killing off the vampires, do they have ticking clock against them? Is there that sense of urgency as we go through the series?
EDWARD: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a real panic that their DNA and their genetics are deteriorating. So the pressure is really on to these vampires to try and work out what’s going on. And they believe that the key is in this sacred book that’s kept in the Bodleian Library supposedly, but it can only be taken out by very special people, one of which is Diana Bishop, a witch, who’s played by Teresa Palmer, and that’s how Matthew and Diana meet, because they are after this book.
Do they see Diana as the savior of the vampires, even though she’s a witch?
EDWARD: In a way. At the beginning, it takes a long time for Miriam and Marcus to get on board with who she is, because even though Marcus is quite liberal as a vampire, I think they’ve all been brought up with an inbuilt mistrust of witches. There’s always been a lot of tension between witches and vampires in this world, so though Marcus is very willing to accept her, there’s definitely something that makes him very skeptical of her at the beginning just in case she’s got any ulterior motives or anything. But it turns out that she is this amazing witch, and she does have good intentions. And I think Marcus and Miriam finally realize that and are able to get on board with supporting her, and Matthew and Diana together as they find this book and try to work out what’s going on.
It’s a complex mythology between the demons, the witches, and the vampires. What was the fascinating aspect for you working in the series?
EDWARD: It’s amazing because a lot of it reflects our day-to-day lives as humans. A lot of it’s about acceptance of different people. It’s about turning against tradition that is now seen as unhealthy, and basically the whole message is one of: working together is always better than keeping to your own. And I think that definitely reflects really nicely with our world today politically and everything, and I think that’s what really attracted me. Even though it’s about something that doesn’t exist, or isn’t a reality, it feels like something that we the viewer can definitely identify with.
What was fun about this project for you? What did you enjoy about the actual day-to-day part of it?
EDWARD: It was just great people. I really love all of the actors who are involved with it and all of the crew. The locations were amazing. I love filming around Oxford, and we were in South Wales as well, with this amazing studio, and they created these unbelievable very detailed beautiful sets in. So there was so much that I loved about it. I studied to be an actor in Cardiff, which is where we were in South Wales, so it was amazing for me to be able to go back there and re-experience at city that is very close to my heart. And yeah, it’s always fun doing something that’s fantasy-related, or something that’s a little bit different to what I might have acted before, and lots of blood and drama and fun costumes. Yeah, it was so much fun.
You got a veritable “who’s who “working on your show with you. Was there somebody you were particularly excited to work with and just happy to be on the show with?
EDWARD: Yeah, I think Matthew Goode really. It was really fun playing his son and being able to hang around him and watch him work and see how good he is. That was the initial pull, but then while I was there, I met so many other brilliant actors, like Aiysha Hart, who plays Miriam. It was really nice seeing her, seeing how good she is, and being able to be inspired by her and Teresa Palmer, and everyone else. Everyone was so brilliant. I was the inexperienced younger one, and it was nice just being able to learn from them and see how they’re doing it and hope that, that rubs off on me.
They also introduced Lindsay Duncan’s character a little bit farther into the series, and she’s quite a heavyweight actor in this world as well. Did you get an opportunity to really work with her?
EDWARD: Yeah. So we actually barely had any scenes together at all, but I’m really hoping that, that’s something that gets up and later down the line, because she’s obviously, in terms of theater and everything in Britain, she’s done it all, and I think that would be really inspiring for me to be able to work alongside.
Could you talk about the bigger threats? Not just that the vampires are facing extinction, there’s this council and these other people, who are intervening in their lives.
EDWARD: Yeah, so the governing body of the creatures ,as it were, is this thing called the Congregation, who are everything that Marcus doesn’t stand for. They’re old fashioned, incredibly traditional, very exclusive, very elitist, and they really want control. And there’s a couple of very powerful characters, who definitely have sinister ulterior motives, who run it. One of them is a very powerful witch called Peter Knox, who’s played by Owen Teale, and he uses his power in the Congregation to try and manipulate it. So he can get his hands on this book to find out why vampires are struggling, how they came about, and how ultimately, to destroy them, because he sees vampires as a constant threat to witch supremacy. So they’re very dangerous, and they must be stopped. So that’s what Marcus is up to.
The threat that Peter poses to everyone because of his desire to find out the source of the book, and what it means to take it away from the vampires — maybe you could just elaborate about that struggle between the vampires and the witches.
EDWARD: It’s less sort of a struggle between the vampires and the witches, and it’s more a struggle between sort of the old and the new. There’s sort of witches, vampires, and demons on all sides of the equation. It’s about basically these old sort of traditionalists trying to stop these new liberals getting too much power. But a lot of these old guys like Peter Knox definitely have an ulterior motive. For instance, Peter really wants to see vampires destroyed forever because he’s sort of definitely a witch supremacist, if it were. It’s definitely about the fact that there are people and other creatures on all sides of it and their own reasons why they’re fighting and what they’re fighting for.
Is Peter Knox the “big bad” that everybody needs to deal with this season?
EDWARD: He’s the main sort of villain, as it were. But there’s sort of various other people that cause a lot of problems, as well, the henchman or other families, and there’s some pretty evil vampires around, as well. So there’s some very nasty colorful characters, which is good fun.
It’s quite a thrilling series, but it ends a little bit on a cliffhanger. Is there opportunities to continue the series?
EDWARD: Yeah, so we’re doing series two and series three are already.
To see all how the war among the supernatural erupts in the fight over the book and how it affects them all, be sure to tune in to the premiere of A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES on Sunday, April 7th simultaneously on AMC and BBC America. (The entire first season is also available for online streaming on Sundance Now and Shudder.)
A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES promo:
A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES: A Look. Behind The Series and Characters: