A Discovery of Witches, AMC and SkyOne’s adaptation of novelist Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy, has closed the majestic tale of witch/historian Diana Bishop’s (Teresa Palmer) time-bending quest for love, magical knowledge, and supernatural species unification. Over three seasons, the series distilled the main themes and plot points of the book into a complex but compelling story of Bishop’s ultimate goal of connecting the warring factions of witches, vampires, and other supernatural creatures who have been living amongst humans for centuries. In fact, it’s Bishop’s forbidden love for ancient vampire Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode) and her connection to the long-lost Book of Life which ignites a myriad of huge secrets and subsequent truths that all came to a climax in the series finale.
To mark this huge moment in her personal career, as well as the rare complete ending for a genre series, Paste Zoomed with Palmer from her home in Australia to dig into the specifics of the finale, her thoughts on coming to the other side of her first television series, and if there’s a possible continuation of Bishop’s adventures.
Paste: A Discovery of Witches was your first television series. Having spent four years with this character, did you find satisfaction with long-term character investment, or was it draining?
Teresa Palmer: You know, it was probably the year prior to booking A Discovery of Witches that I started thinking about what an interesting experience it would be to sit in a character and then continue to be with that same character for a number of years. Wow, how luxurious instead of hopping in for three months, then coming to the close and moving on. I knew that it would take, for me, a character that I loved and that I wanted to stay in their world for a period of time. When I started reading for television [projects], there is now a very successful television show out there—and I’m sure my agents are still like, “Oh, my God, we can’t believe you didn’t do it”—but the character, she’s rough and she’s hard. I felt it would be so exhausting. I had two children at the time so to be in this dark character, I didn’t think that was the right one for me. In this [series], I really enjoyed being with Diana for a long period of time. And seeing the evolution of my character over a number of years was really lovely.
Paste: Going into the finale season of A Discovery of Witches, did you sit down with Harkness or the showrunners and ask that they include something important to you from the books, or even an original story beat, to satisfyingly close Diana’s overall journey?
Palmer: In Season 2, I really was adamant about that relationship with Goody Alsop (Sheila Hancock) and the witches. I wanted that sense of sisterhood for her and the familiarity of people who are like-minded. Especially in a world in Season 2 where she’s thrust into something that just feels so foreign for her. To be such an outsider and very isolated, because Matthew is delving back into his old ways, she needed that sisterhood so much. I don’t know if it was ever a consideration not to have her in, but that was one that I really said, ‘This is a must. I don’t think there’s any way forward unless she sees someone who’s an older version of herself in many ways.’
And then this season, the birth sequence was important. Obviously, she was going to give birth in the third season, but I really wanted to show birth onscreen in a way that hasn’t been done. I got to have a big, big, big say in that which was really lovely. I sat down with the two Debs, Deb Harkness and then Debs Paterson who directed as well, and said let’s do it this way because it hasn’t been shown on camera like that. We really wanted to fold in Sarah (Alex Kingston) and Diana so the power of women together at birth felt wonderful. And also mother-led birthing, which was one of really listening to the body and checking in and intuitively guiding the babies down was wonderful. And of course, it made me cocky and I got pregnant two and a half weeks after I filmed that! [Laughs]
Paste: In the finale episode, there’s a great final confrontation between Diana and Satu Järvinen (Malin Buska) which is really impactful while being compassionate. Talk about how that very feminine powerful scene came to be.
Palmer: That was randomly my idea! I knew that everyone was gonna expect this crazy cat fight and it’s gonna be so intense between them. But I was like, ‘What if we play this scene totally differently? Where instead of Diana being so reactionary, she can just sit and have some compassion and really feel for this character?’ It also shows Diana’s growth from where she’s come from. You remember that first altercation between the two of them was so intense? And then this next one, I found it quite beautiful even to film. Malin and I really love this idea that there’s almost like this unsaid mutual respect for each other. It’s like Satu knows at that moment that the penny drops. Her cowering in the corner like it’s a big relief for her. I knew that we were going straight from that into Benjamin (Jacob Ifan) and doing the knots, so it was about finding how does it not all just feel like one big mush? It was asking where are some colors and some different notes and flavors to make it more compelling?
Paste: The scene where Diana walks into the Congregation is such a powerful full circle moment for the character. She’s dressed like she owns the place yet is measured in her approach. Did you have a lot of say in her presentation, like that jacket and jewelry?
Palmer: The whole season has led up to this moment and she finally has her day in court! We wanted that image to be really visually stunning. We had this idea that she was pulling a piece from Season 2 back into this time. Jane Tranter, who is our executive, really loved this idea of how do we pull something from the Elizabethian era and modernize it? We had that jacket put together. It was one of the ones we had leftover from Season 2, but then redone. We had so many fittings, because we felt like this was such an important moment for her. I loved everything. I loved how they styled her hair. It’s showing her from a girl to a woman and I truly loved it. And I’m so glad that someone else picked up the way she presents herself in that moment when she comes in. They listened to her. They really sit and listen to her. She feels powerful. She looks powerful. But she’s also open that this is the best thing for all of us. That’s what she leads with, and when you lead with such a pure intention, you’re always going to end up having a good result. I think that’s why that end sequence was so integral.
Paste: It’s also so powerful to see her nominate another woman in Agatha (Tanya Moodie) to be their future.
Palmer: The idea of Tanya’s Agatha taking them next level as one collective, big group, is just such a wonderful representation of togetherness. We are stronger together. I think that that’s a big takeaway from this show: inclusivity, less separatism, more togetherness. Let’s celebrate the common threads that bind us. I loved that!
Paste: Let’s talk about that tango at the end. Diana and Matthew come full circle on the dance floor amongst their friends and family. Was that always the endgame image?
Palmer: We were either gonna do it that way, or we were not. It was going to end right before that, or we were going to include the dance. We thought it meant it came full circle from the start. Also for the audience to see them together with all their friends. Though, I had the crazy idea, but we didn’t have the time or the budget for it, suggesting, ‘And then we have Philippe (de Clermont) at the window and you see him looking in and then you see Em (Valarie Pettiford)’ I had the story idea that the ghosts came back at that moment. And they were like, “That’s not gonna happen because we only have X amount of money.” So Matthew and I learned to dance. That was our last scene. Wellm it wasn’t the last thing we filmed but it was the last thing we filmed as a collective with Miriam and Marcus and Hamish and everyone being there.
Paste: Any impactful moments in that goodbye?
Palmer: We actually played a prank on Matthew Goode! He’s not a dancer. He’s there to work, but he’s definitely a goofball. Instead of playing the actual music that we’re supposed to dance to we played 50 Cent’s “In the Club” and everyone’s dancing to it. Everyone was raving as though we’re at a club and then all the crew came in, too. It was like we were having this wrap party on camera but no one told Matthew. [Laughs.]
Paste: The finale really does leave a very open-ended world to still explore. Where do you stand on returning to the character?
Palmer: I would definitely revisit Diana, 100%. In fact, Deb and I have talked about it. What would we do? What would be next? What does that look like? We’ve had those big conversations and basically I always say to Deb: ‘I’m open. I’m here. You just call me. If you are ready, we’re gonna jump in and we’re gonna do this together.’ We will see but I certainly would be in. We would have to try and rope Matthew back in, but I think we could.
Tara Bennett is a Los Angeles-based writer covering film, television and pop culture for publications such as SFX Magazine, Total Film, SYFY Wire and more. She’s also written books on Sons of Anarchy, Outlander, Fringe and the official history of Marvel Studios coming in 2021. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraDBennett.
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