Studio Photoshoots > 2018 > Session 17 | Netflix

TEEN VOGUE – Kiernan Shipka is a professional. At 18, her résumé reads longer than those of a lot of other actors. But even working steadily for over a decade — 12 years and counting — can’t prepare you for being tagged on Instagram as someone’s Halloween costume.

It’s a really weird, kind of surreal experience,” the actor admits of having seen fans dress as the teen witch. “But it’s so cool and I’m loving what I’m seeing.” Fittingly, the day also happens to be Sabrina’s birthday. In the new Netflix series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, it’s also a lunar eclipse and the day Sabrina is set to sign her name away to Satan himself, join the unholy Church of Night, and renounce her life as a mortal forever. (Spoiler alert: she has second thoughts, and wants to read the fine print before literally making a deal with the devil.)

Kiernan, meanwhile, is multitasking in her own way: already filming scenes for season 2 of the show, and watching the DIY costumes roll in on Instagram. (“People are getting their cats involved!” she adds.) It’s a relatively new sensation, too; while she concedes that people may have dressed up as Sally Draper, one of the few voices of reason on Mad Men, there’s something singular about seeing Sabrina be born anew in tribute. “She’s such a fun, badass character, and she’s so right and current for this sort of time that we’re in,” Kiernan says. “I think that will resonate with a lot of people.”

Iterations of Sabrina have been in the works for years; at one point, creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has said, the character could have shown up as the villain on Riverdale. But it is now a TV show, and it is dark and twisted and deals in horror, the occult, and teenage love triangles in equal measure. That it debuted in 2018, when almost everything feels horrible, might be nothing short of magic.

The character of Sabrina was born in 1962, and brought a supernatural element to the squeaky-clean hijinks of the Archie comics. It wasn’t until 2014 that her story took a turn for the gruesome, when The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina debuted as a comic book (Aguirre-Sacasa wrote that book as well.) As a result, the Sabrina Spellman of 2018 isn’t the Sabrina the Teenage Witch from the days of the TGIF sitcom lineup; they’re each an adaptation of different source material. That Sabrina crimped her hair and had a talking cat, and when she pointed her finger, a tinkling little sound would indicate that magic was at play. This Sabrina loves horror movies, must choose between a mortal education at Baxter High or a magical immersion at the Academy of Unseen Arts, and slits a frenemy’s throat. (Don’t worry: she buries her in a bewitched garden that brings people back from the dead.)

Yet underneath the show’s supernatural forces and macabre storylines lies what Kiernan believes is a kernel of truth. Sabrina, she explains, is “sort of torn between two worlds, and instead of choosing a path, she forges her own. That’s what I love about this show and that part of the story: it’s so relatable. Even though it’s about witches and has that added layer of fantasy to it, there’s a very grounded-in-reality aspect to it as well.”

Kiernan knows a thing or two about feeling torn between two things, “on smaller scales, on bigger scales,” she muses. “Whatever you choose, whatever path you take, you’re gonna learn something, you’re gonna take things away from it as long as you make them most of that experience. I don’t think that having a hard time is inherently negative. I think that it can make you a stronger person; it can be tough and painful but it can make you grow. I think that’s definitely easier said than done but I think approaching everything with a level of curiosity instead of judgment would be my main advice.”

It also helps to have people in your corner. For Sabrina, that includes her aunts, Hilda and Zelda; her cousin, Ambrose, who serves as “the Alfred to her Batman;” and her mortal friends at Baxter High: Ros Walker, Susie Putnam, and Harvey Kinkle. Over time, that list grows to include Prudence Knight, one of the Weird Sisters who hold court at the Academy; and Nick Scratch, a warlock who spends just as much time casting love spells at Sabrina with his eyes as he does studying.

The show found its star first; she landed the role in December 2017, and read with many of her eventual costars during the casting process. The show, like the Riverdale that exists just beyond Sweetwater River, films in Vancouver, which means that “Basically, we are each other’s social circles up here,” Kiernan explains. “Toward the beginning of the series, I was a little harder to get out of the house, just because I was focusing on working and resting. Now I feel that I’ve found a bit more of a balance.” Her costars, she adds, “love when they can drag me out and get me to a party or something like that.”

Some elements from the original Sabrina also received an update; the platinum-white hair makes its own splash at the end of the Netflix show, and while Salem no longer delivers zingers, he does help his companion out of dangerous traps. There’s also the matter of Harvey — the sweet, earnest teenage boy who earns Sabrina’s heart before she must choose between mortal and magic. It’s a pairing Kiernan calls “too good to be true,” though she doesn’t want to align herself wholly with either Harvey or Nick. (She’s firmly team “Whatever Sabrina Is Feeling,” she explains.)

There’s something so special about the Harvey-Sabrina relationship to me, just because it’s so pure and innocent and it so representative of her mortal self,” she says. “I was pretty heartbroken at the end of the first season when she had to tell him the truth, which was necessary in a lot of ways but definitely caused some rockiness for them. I could kind of gush about their young love, first love kind of relationship for a long time.”

Add in the fact that the Kinkle family is descended from a long line of witch hunters, and it sure seems like our young lovers are more Romeo and Juliet than Darrin and Samatha Stephens.

That doesn’t mean she wouldn’t rule out other possibilities in Sabrina’s future, however. In the mortal realm, Kiernan has spent more than a little time in the comments of Noah Centineo’s Instagram posts. “I’m completely making a play for it,” she laughs. “I’m glad it’s not going unnoticed either and honestly, I will make a play until the end of time. I am ready with open arms.” If Noah’s character, the instantly charming Peter Kavinksy of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, ever wanted to move to Greendale, she’d be “down for any sort of crossover whatsoever.”

Before then, however, is the matter of finishing season 2, which fans believe could debut close to Valentine’s Day 2019. Halloween is an understandable fit for a show about witches and ghosts and black cats, but February 14? Perhaps the horror show could tackle the utterly terrifying emotion known as love.

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