Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina may put a dark spin on the iconic teenage witch — her school bullies often take a backseat to, say, actual demons — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t grounded in reality.
“I really resonate with a show that can be entertaining and a total escape, while also highlighting real issues and bringing them to the forefront in a way that feels conversational and real,” star Kiernan Shipka tells TVLine. “It’s a nice balance.”
The 10-episode series, based on Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack’s comic books, follows the half-witch as she (eventually) chooses between the supernatural world of her family and the mortal world of her friends. As it turns out, both come with their fair share of injustices.
“We’re touching on all these things as they’re happening now,” explains Michelle Gomez, who plays Sabrina’s “teacher” Mary Wardwell. “It’s all relevant to young adults and adults out there now. For anybody who’s had to grow up and get between the ages of 12 and 18, there’s a lot to navigate, especially in the world today. We touch on bullying, female empowerment, individualism and inclusiveness. That means we’re all valid, no matter who we are. Feel good about it. Don’t shy away from who you are.”
One major example of the show’s spirit of inclusiveness is the character of Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose, played by newcomer Chance Perdomo. Despite Ambrose being television’s first pansexual warlock, his sexuality is never formally announced on screen. It simply doesn’t need to be.
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“We don’t pander to the audience,” Perdomo says. “We don’t have to ‘explain’ anything. We just drop you into the world as it’s formed. We understand that the audience is sophisticated and sees global perspectives. Personally and artistically, it’s gratifying to be able to forward these narratives that represent where society is today.”
There’s also plenty of fun to be had in the show’s Chilling first season, whether it’s in Sabrina’s “dreamy” romance with Harvey (played by Ross Lynch), Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda’s (Miranda Otto) sisterly squabbles, or Salem’s… Actually, I’m not sure I’m allowed to say anything about Sabrina’s furry friend. And for being an actual witch, Sabrina manages to be surprisingly relatable, thanks in part to her small-but-diverse group of friends.
“They’re not the most popular [kids at Baxter High School], but also never quite felt like outcasts,” Shipka says. “They just found their group of people, and that really hits home for me. Like, we’re all in this together. I love that.”
Will you start bingeing Sabrina as soon as it drops on Friday (at 3 am EST)? Drop a comment with your thoughts on the series below.