From show creator/writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the Netflix original series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina follows Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka), the magical 16-year-old half-witch/half-mortal who feels conflicted about both sides of her nature. While Sabrina is on her own personal journey of discovering what she stands for and where she belongs, her aunts Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto), warlock cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), high priest Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle), the Devil’s handmaiden Madam Satan (Michelle Gomez), human boyfriend Harvey (Ross Lynch), and even her familiar, Salem the cat, are each trying to influence her, in their own way.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Richard Coyle talked about how he came to be a part of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, why this project appealed to him, being a fan of comic books and graphic novels, how Father Blackwood views himself, the incredible design aesthetic for the series, the fun of getting to make up the rules for a world, what Blackwood thinks of Sabrina Spellman, and what he’d still like to learn about his character.
Collider: How did you come to be a part of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina?
RICHARD COYLE: I got the script, and I’m a big comic book fan. I’ve been aware of Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] for a few years. I’ve seen some of his work before, and I’ve seen some of his work on stage. I was quite excited because I know the kind of worlds that he likes to create, which are very much the kind of worlds that I enjoy. So, I read and loved the script, and then I jumped at the chance to go in and meet him, and talk about and create this character. We just threw some ideas around, and it was very exciting. It was just the meeting of our minds, and we were on the same page.
This show is very hard to describe to people, and the tone is even quite tricky to explain, but that’s also the fun of it.
COYLE: It is quite hard to describe. In Episode 5, we’re contemplating roasting a child, which is very odd to explain. It’s meant with a tongue in cheek, and it’s not necessarily so bad. It’s that kind of a show. There’s an archness to it that’s quite campy, at times, but it’s all done with fondness and with a great sense of humor, really. It’s difficult to actually pinpoint what the tone is.
You talked about being a comic book fan. What were the comic books that most appealed to you, when you started reading them?
COYLE: I was a Batman fan. I inherited lots of fantastic comics from my older brothers, so I started with those. And then, I was into Spider-Man. But then, I graduated into graphic novels. I’m a big fan of graphic novels. I love Daniel Clowes and Rutu Modan, an Israeli woman who writes brilliant graphic novels. I have been an avid collector of those for years. I really appreciate the cross-over of comic book and cinema, and that area in between the two that is so brilliant. Roberto is great at just toeing that line.
To Sabrina, Father Blackwood is clearly a villain. How do you view who this man is, and how do you think that compares to the way that he sees himself?
COYLE: He doesn’t see himself as a villain. I think he sees himself as the savior of the world, or the Wiccan world, as it were. He’s coming in to restore things to their proper order, which to him, is a hero’s work, and the proper order is the old ways. He’s got his agenda, or a couple of agendas, and one of them is revenge on the Spellman family. He’s like a zealot. He’s a cult leader. He thinks he’s doing the Dark Lord’s work, but he’s actually very self-serving. I think he’s got a reptile brain. I’ve approached it as if he were like a Hitler Youth leader. I don’t know if that’s the most accurate comparison, but it’s because there’s something really evil and odious about it. He’s got his mission and he’s got great plans. A lot of this stuff is just beneath his grand plans.
What have you most enjoyed about playing Father Blackwood?
COYLE: Roberto is so good at writing, and that fine line between being evil and menacing, and also knowing where the element of camp comes in. That takes the edge off and make some of the moments lighter. You might even start to develop a sympathy for Blackwood. It helps that the humor comes in, from time to time.
The sets and the atmosphere they create is gorgeous to look at. What’s it like to walk onto these sets and get to wear the wardrobe that your character has?
COYLE: It’s incredible. With my hair and make-up, and everything, it takes you right into the world, when you walk on the set with what you’re wearing and the way that you look. When you walk onto those amazing sets, where the detail is really astonishing, it helps you set the mood and tone, and put your mind into the scene. It’s very helpful, especially with some of the stuff that we have to say and do. I think the set designers are very kind to us and very considerate, which is really great. Also, the way that it’s lit and the way it’s shot, it just looks terrific when you see it played back.