x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

TV drama Witches of East End: supernaturally spectacular

Matriarchy crackles with magic as a protective mother, her cursed daughters and a catty auntie cast a spell in the new supernatural drama Witches of East End.

The cast of Witches of East End, from left: Mädchen Amick, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Julia Ormond and Rachel Boston. Courtesy Lifetime
The cast of Witches of East End, from left: Mädchen Amick, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Julia Ormond and Rachel Boston. Courtesy Lifetime

Don’t expect these witches to gamely twitch their noses to do the dishes, or to be serially seduced by Jack Nicholson anytime soon – Lifetime network’s new hour drama, Witches of East End, spins a fresh family dynamic that has little to do with Bewitched or the similar-sounding 1987 Hollywood hit, The Witches of Eastwick.

This fusion of family drama, soap opera and the supernatural hails from the magically creative wand of the executive producer and show-runner Maggie Friedman, who has crafted a highly entertaining series about a protective mother, her two daughters and a crazy aunt – all witches who battle their curses and emotional conflicts with élan. In fact, the series has already been renewed for a second season of 13 more episodes.

“What makes it different, I think, from other witch shows, is that it’s very much centred on this family,” says Friedman. “It’s about mothers and daughters. It’s about sisters. It’s about a multi-generational family. It’s four very distinct women and how they each deal with their powers and gifts. And I don’t think we’ve seen a show like that.”

Based on Melissa de la Cruz’s best-selling novel, this paranormal drama focuses on the mysterious Beauchamp family: the free-spirited artist Joanna (Julia Ormond) and her two grown daughters, the wild-child bartender Freya (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) and the shy librarian Ingrid (Rachel Boston), both of whom are unaware of their magical birthright.

Set in the secluded, tight-knit beachside community of East Haven on the eastern tip of Long Island, the two daughters get shockingly (and wittily) clued in when Joanna’s long-estranged mischievous sister, their “crazy” shape-shifting Aunt Wendy (Mädchen Amick), shows up with a warning that could change their fate forever – a formidable and ancient enemy is intent on ending the Beauchamp family line.

Despite the threat, “Wendy’s absolutely a free spirit, a bit on the naughty side … or maybe a lot on the naughty side,” says Amick of her shape-shifting character.

Determined to protect them, Joanna has never told her daughters about their powers. She insists Wendy stick to one house rule: no magic in my home. “I do appreciate your coming to help with the someone’s-trying-to-kill-me thing – but the one rule I ask you to abide while you’re here is: stay in human form! Don’t involve the girls in this.”

Soon, however, Ingrid the librarian has done her research, and blurts to Freya: “You and I have lived and died a bunch of times, but we don’t remember because there’s a curse on our heads … And that is not Aunt Wendy’s cat – that is Aunt Wendy.”

While witches are immortal – it’s never clear sailing in the eternity department.

“Immortality works a little differently for each of the characters,” says Friedman. “Each character has their own distinct gifts and curses. Joanna is immortal, but she has to give birth to the same daughters, again and again and again. Every time they die, she suddenly ages back, however many years, and becomes pregnant again and births them again. So, her age is always shifting. It’s fluid.

“With Wendy, she’s a cat. She has nine lives. So that works in its own way and she ages at a different rate. And the girls age like regular people. They reach a certain age and then they die. They’ve never lived this long before. I want to keep them alive, as long as I can. I want to give them as full a life as I can.”

Of course, love is a big part of life – and the series also conjures up two outstanding manly specimens – the wealthy playboy Dash Gardiner (Eric Winter) and his troubled, enigmatic brother Killian (Daniel DiTomasso).

• Witches of East End debuts at 10pm on Sunday on OSN First HD

artslife@thenational.ae