Exclusive: Miranda Otto Says A Midwinter’s Tale Will Show a Softer Side of Zelda Spellman
In Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the characters I loved the most were Prudence and Zelda. From the moment she flipped that paper down like a Bette Davis character she had stolen my heart. Not only is the character a deeply compelling anti-heroine, whose character journey is one of the most developed of the main characters, but we have a really great understanding of who and what Zelda loves and how deeply she will go to fight for it.
Portraying the imperfect maternal figure is Australian actress Miranda Otto, famous for playing Éowyn in the Lord of the Rings series where she uttered the best line in the entire trilogy. We had the blessed opportunity to speak to the actress about her coming into the role of Zelda and what we have to look forward to for the character as we get closer to the Christmas Special which will be airing on Netflix December 14, 2018.
Our first question was about the relationship between Sabrina and Zelda coming up in the holiday special and in the upcoming season. “They both want to lead in the holiday special. There are some moments where it’s very firey between them,” Otto says about the relationship between Zelda and Sabrina, “but [Zelda] is also very, very proud of Sabrina.” During the first season, there were a lot of conflicts between the two witches because of their opposing ideas of how to move forward. “They’re both leaders as characters” and that is the crux of their major disagreements.
What we also remember from the end of season one is that Zelda saves/kidnaps the first-born true daughter of Father Blackwood out of fear that the leader might get rid of her for being born before the boy twin. We asked Otto what this new material relationship will look like, especially since Hilda is moving out to do her own thing.
“Zelda is very taken with baby Letisha, very taken, she’s a little goo-goo over the baby,” Otto laughs. “She doesn’t trust what Father Blackwood would do to her as the twin of the boy when he really wants twin boys. It makes her even more special to Zelda and it’s a real tug-of-war for her this episode about what Zelda wants and what’s best for baby Letisha.”
As for the “subtle changes” between Hilda and Zelda now that the younger Spellman sister is going off to do her own thing Otto says that really “Hilda always does her own thing anyway” so the sister dynamic doesn’t completely change. “There are changes that are happening, but there are bigger shifts down the line” Otto teases us. After all not only is Hilda moving out of the sister-bedroom, but she is also pursuing a relationship with Dr. Cerberus.
In the “Christmas Special” Otto explains that it is a “very dangerous time for witches” because it’s a time when a lot of bad things can happen and “creatures play tricks on you and you really have to rely on each other” which means that element of trust will be key for their survival. “It was really fun playing with the world of the holiday season from the witch perspective and the traditions that Zelda loves. Zelda loves her witch traditions and routines and the structure, she loves it.”
With the task of channeling a character like Zelda, who is so larger than life, Otto does give credit to the hair and makeup department for creating a look that was able to assist in the transformation. “One of the first things for me that is super important is the costume and the hair. For me as an actor, if I can turn myself into [the character] when I put on the hair and the makeup then the character starts to come forth by itself. If you can make yourself believe it when you look in the mirror then a lot of the work is done for you in some ways. So we are really lucky to have such a great team with a great vision.” Including the 30s/40s film noir look that told Otto that the character “was glamours but tough and determined and a little bit loud sometimes.”
From the first reading, Otto believed in the project because not only could she see the vision, “the look of it, the world of it, the tone,” but how it deals with modern issues, horror, and the shifting tone of the storytelling. Plus, witches have remained a staple in the pop culture because the idea that women could have power is something “particularly, in this day and age, that women really identify with.”
That power is something Zelda herself perfectly encapsulates, but Otto does say that, in this special, we will be getting a “softer side of Zelda,” as well as a “slightly sillier and more emotional side,” because that’s what the holidays do to you. It’s an exciting promise for a character who has been so interesting and compelling in season one. Zelda’s ability to be so many things at once—a mother, an aunt, a leader, a supplicant, and a rebel, when it comes to it—is what makes her such a well-rounded and endearing character.
Also, Miranda Otto is an icon, so we love her in whatever she does.
Seeing where Zelda goes next as the inferred matriarch of the Spellman family will be exciting both in the Christmas Special and also in season two (or the second part of the series 20-episode order), which is going to air on April 5th of next year (the day before my 27th birthday, fyi). We’re looking forward to more Zelda, more witch hijinks, and more Satan.
(image: Dean Buscher/Netflix)
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