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Emily   November 12, 2018

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.”
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