Mayfair Witches: Alexandra Daddario Knows What Rowan Wants
Mayfair Witches’ Alexandra Daddario, Harry Hamlin, and Tongayi Chirisa find their place in AMC’s Anne Rice Immortal Universe.
This article contains spoilers for MAYFAIR WITCHES episode 3.
Mayfair Witches episode 3 “Second Line,” is an extremely revelatory piece in the puzzle of Anne Rice’s magical circles. AMC’s second foray into the Anne Rice Immortal Universe, after Interview with the Vampire, is structured like the novels, not in its narrative, but in the emotional layout. Rice’s trilogy Lives of the Mayfair Witches takes its time laying out the story, and Mayfair Witches is happy to let the suspense boil.
“Be careful what you think,” a bubbling Dr. Rowan Fielding (Alexandra Daddario) warns as she grinds into the masked Lasher (Jack Huston), who is not a fan of caution. The satanically seductive entity smoked “the 13th witch” from the safety of a protected apartment to a spirited street procession, where the percussion conjures that New Orleans magic.
Fielding is an emotional wreck when she dances with a devilish stranger at the funeral march. She is in double mourning. A gifted neurosurgeon coming to terms with an impossible past, she also gets a crash course in fringe science. Talamasca case agent Ciprien Grieve (Tongahi Chirisa), who is educating Rowan on her special gifts, uses his own talent for psychometry to examine a very personal crime scene.
The audience is only a small step ahead of Rowan in receiving information about her circumstances. We know Cortland Mayfair, played with deliciously corrupt authority by veteran actor Harry Hamlin, is secretly manipulating events. Daddario consistently pulls emotional realism from uncertainty. Rowan is clueless, Daddario projects her learning curve with an almost pained ferocity. “A being,” she asks about a multifaceted, multigenerational family curse. “What does that even mean?”
Rowan is the entry point for the discovery of the witches in Rice’s novels. Her confusion is ours. The novels are thick with information, history, and emotional trajectories which outweigh the paranormal. “Second Line” rounds out the story, while sharpening the edges, and giving a glimpse into giving in to dark nature. Alexandra Daddario, Harry Hamlin, and Tongayi Chirisa spoke with Den of Geek about diving into the depth of Rice’s works, and dredging up psychic pains.
Den of Geek: Which is more fun to indulge: the good witch or the bad witch?
Harry Hamlin: Oh, the bad witch, of course.
Alexandra Daddario: Yeah. It’s very human to want the thing you’re not allowed to have, or do the thing you’re not allowed to do, and then just go: “You know what? I have the power to do it anyway.” You don’t get to do that in real life. But these characters grapple with that. Well, I guess I grapple with it more than Cortland. It’s certainly fun to explore that.
Had any of you read the books before being cast?
Tongayi Chirisa: No, I think we all jumped on it as we were filming, just prior to production, kicking off.
Was there any specific sequence in the book which gave you a crucial clue into your character?
Alexandra Daddario: For me, the scenes with Lasher. Anne Rice wrote a ton of erotic novels and there are parts of The Witching Hour that feel like an erotic novel. It’s so well-written, the intensity of her attraction towards Lasher, and the relationship between them, that it made me really understand a lot more about this woman. Who she really is, what she’s really drawn to, and the intensity of her desire to have something she’s not allowed to have. So, that really helped.
Harry Hamlin: Cortland is dead in the books. He wouldn’t be alive today, because he died, I think, in 1969 in the book. So, I couldn’t get that much from the book about Cortland. I certainly got that he’s the patriarch, and was a southern gentleman.
I read there were Wiccans and magical advisors on the Mayfair Witches set. Did you do any of your own research into the occult?
Alexandra Daddario: Well, that’s my fault. There were no advisors on set. There just happened to be two crew members who are Wiccans who I started talking to, but there were no advisors. The text itself helped the most. I did a ton of research on Anne Rice. That really helped. The Wiccan, I learned a little bit about, but more helpful was what Anne Rice wanted to say: What her metaphors really were; where she came from; who these people really were; and what she really wanted to convey, or was working through when she wrote this book.
Anne Rice’s books have very precise descriptions of Ciprien’s gifts, was that a jumping off point and did you also do personal research?
Tongayi Chirisa: Yeah. Ciprien is an amalgamation of two characters, Aaron [Lightner], who worked for the Talamasca, and Michael who has these gifts. These elements that these two had, we meshed that, and went on this discovery of finding out who Ciprien was in his own right, without delving too much on the history of these two other characters.
From that standpoint, and me being a fan of mythology and religion, you look at Lasher and what his impact was, and how he was conjured up. You start to ask the questions “what dimension is he from” and “what’s his mission,” because they have similar throughlines. These things don’t just come for the fun of it. If you conjure something up, there’s an end goal for the entity. Just trying to discover what that is, and what it takes to take it out or send it back to its other world, was some of the research that I did.
Obviously, reading the book to see the full circle of Lasher and what his mission was on earth just made it that much more compelling.
I also cover Interview with the Vampire, and I notice Rice’s adaptations allow actors to explore extreme vulnerability. What were you most excited to discover, and does anything take you out of your comfort zone?
Alexandra Daddario: Yeah, this was an uncomfortable show to shoot, for me, because it was so intense and so dark at times. But that was also, again, the joy of it, because I got to dive into what it means to be human. Everything around witches, I’m totally comfortable with.
What was really interesting was diving into her relationship with these men, and her attraction to what she shouldn’t be attracted to, and her attraction to the dark side. That was certainly a challenge. It was just hard. This woman is going through all these very intense feelings, and she cannot resist the bad guy. I related it to a very bad relationship I had, which is probably why I had trouble with it. Because it’s that person you can’t stop going back to, even though it’s bad for you. She knows it’s bad for her, and she keeps going back. That isn’t necessarily how it had to be played. But that was what was going on in my mind while dealing with my relationship with Lasher.
Mayfair Witches airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC and AMC+.