The “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” adaptation is shaping up nicely.
Considering the success of Riverdale, it’s no surprise Netflix is interested in exploring more of the Archie Comics universe themselves. The upcoming live-action Sabrina series, which still has no official title, will have characters you remember from the last adaptation, ABC’s Sabrina The Teenage Witch (1996-2003), but that is likely all that Netflix’s version will share with the sitcom.
The new series will be adapted from the “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” comic book, which was created by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. He is serving as the showrunner, as well. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it’s a “dark coming-of-age tale that traffics in horror, the occult, and, of course, witchcraft.” The series is also described as being in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist and will see Sabrina struggling with her nature as a half-witch, half-mortal, all the while doing battle with the forces of evil that threaten her world.
The comic series is set in the 1960s in the fictional town of Greendale and focuses on 16-year-old Sabrina Spellman as she is faced with a choice between living a normal, mortal life or being a witch forever. Like the sitcom, Sabrina is dating fellow highschooler Harvey Kinkle and she lives with her aunts Hilda and Zelda, as well as their talking cat, Salem. Unlike the sitcom and the original comic books, this series is published under the banner of Archie Horror and deals with some pretty dark themes. Madam Satan, the ex-girlfriend of Sabrina’s father, rises from Hell and moves to Greendale posing as a high school teacher in order to exact revenge on the Spellman family because of Sabrina’s father’s choice to dump her to be with Sabrina’s mortal mother.
Based on the information released so far, there are some changes being made in the move from the comic to Netflix. For starters, while “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” includes Betty and Veronica in small roles, the Sabrina TV series won’t be crossing over with Riverdale anytime soon. As Lili Reinhart, who portrays Betty, said in an interview with Vulture, as long as the supernatural doesn’t exist in the world of Riverdale it won’t make sense for the show to collide with a world of magic. But the idea has been discussed.
There will also be some other changes in characters. Rather than have Madam Satan settle in Greendale under an alias, she will possess the body of an already existing person, Sabrina’s favorite teacher and mentor Mary Wardell.
Hype really began to build for the TV series last month when it was announced that Mad Men alum Kiernan Shipka would play the role of Sabrina. From Sally Draper to her reoccurring part on FX’s Feud and starring role in the film The Blackcoat’s Daughter (pictured above), she has proven herself as an exceptionally talented actress and had often been fan-cast as Sabrina after the show was first announced but before she officially signed on.
Since Shipka’s casting, a number of supporting roles have also been filled. Wonder Woman‘s Lucy Davis will portray Hilda, who is described as being the kinder of Sabrina’s two aunts, a characterization that lines up with the older comics and the sitcom. Although the show is going for a gritty approach, the inclusion of Davis, who is also known for the UK version of The Office and Shaun of the Dead, indicates the series likely won’t be entirely humorless.
Sabrina’s aunt Zelda will be portrayed by Australian actress Miranda Otto, who is known for playing Éowyn in the second and third installments of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Zelda is described as possessing a “sternness and tough facade” that is hiding a more mothering soul. Otto has been acting in Australian films for over 30 years. She recently starred in the spinoff of The Conjuring, Annabelle: Creation, so Sabrina won’t be her first foray into the world of the supernatural.
Scottish actress Michelle Gomez, known for portraying Missy, a villain on Doctor Who, will step into the challenging role of playing Mary Wardell (and, by extension, Madam Satan). Like Davis, Gomez has experience in comedy, having starred in British sitcoms such as Bad Education and Green Wing. Her background makes her well suited to some potentially lighter moments as Sabrina’s mentor and darker moments as the series’ primary villain.
Like Riverdale, which features an openly gay character and a Latina Veronica, the Sabrina series will have a fairly diverse cast. Sabrina’s cousin Ambrose, who is described as “witty, puckish and pan-sexual,” will be portrayed by newcomer Chance Perdomo. Sabrina’s best friend Rosalind Walker, a character also adapted from “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” will be played by Jaz Sinclair, an actress who is no stranger to horror after starring in When The Bough Breaks and the upcoming Slender Man.
The plot of the series will be separate from Riverdale, but behind the scenes, the two shows share quite a bit so far. Aguirre-Sacasa is the showrunner, writer, and executive producer for both and he will write the Sabrina pilot, which will be directed by Lee Toland Krieger, who also directed the Riverdale pilot and several other episodes of the show. Producers Greg Berlanti, Rob Seidenglanz, Jon Goldwater, and Sarah Schechter will also join the series after having worked on Riverdale.
Aguirre-Sacasa also wrote the 2013 adaptation of Carrie. He is set to revisit this experience with an upcoming episode of Riverdale that will include a Carrie musical, in what Aguirre-Sacasa describes as a “dream episode.” Considering his lingering attachment to the film, I’m curious to see if Carrie director Kimberly Peirce may join the Sabrina series as a director. She has experience working on TV shows but hasn’t worked on Riverdale before. While it’s exciting the see overlap between the two Archie Comics adaptations, bringing in some new directors, such as Peirce, would give the Sabrina series a fresh perspective free from any inclination towards imitation of Riverdale.
Unlike Riverdale, a CW series that is released internationally through Netflix the day after it airs in the US (and the first season of which quickly went to the streaming service), Sabrina will be a Netflix original, and, as noted, probably won’t ever cross over with Riverdale. This is a win-win scenario for Netflix and the Sabrina series. It will surely attract Riverdale viewers and have a built-in fan-base because of this, but it won’t have any requirement to work around the canon of another show the way a straightforward spinoff would.
Netflix will release the Sabrina adaptation later this year. The first two seasons are to be filmed back to back and will consist of 10 episodes each.