A Discovery of Witches’ Teresa Palmer shares what it takes to bring Diana Bishop to life


Culturess caught up with actress Teresa Palmer to see how she brought the role of Diana Bishop from the pages of A Discovery of Witches to the screen, and to see if she’s Team Vampire or Team Witch.

Translating characters from the pages of a book to the screen is never an easy feat. Sometimes, we end up loving how our favorite characters turned out in their movie or television adaptations. Other times, we really have to hold back hitting the “Send Tweet” button when it comes to sharing our thoughts about those new takes.

But in A Discovery of Witches’ case, actress Teresa Palmer is making sure that she does the All Souls fandom justice. The AMC series is adapted from the All Souls trilogy, starting with the first book of the same name, and features Palmer as the young witch Diana who gets caught in a world of trouble. Mysteries unravel as an enchanted, old manuscript appears only for her, and hardship (and romance) unfurls when vampire Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode) begins to pursue her.

Diana is helped by her aunt Sarah (Alex Kingston), and her aunt’s partner Emily (Valarie Pettiford) to navigate the treacherous world of witches, vampires, and daemons. Culturess got the chance to talk to Palmer, who was absolutely thrilled to be taking part in the series and the world that Deborah Harkness created.

How would you describe A Discovery of Witches to someone who hasn’t seen it before?

Oh. I would say it’s a fantasy. A fantasy, romantic adventure in history. It’s an epic journey of two star-crossed lovers from different species. I love the whole focus on the love aspect of it, and people were really holding onto the story as it’s an epic, forbidden love journey.

With this show being based off the books, did you get a chance to read the books before signing on or did you brush up on them afterward?

I didn’t read the books; I listened to the audio. I cannot even get myself to read books these days, you know. Usually with the kids at preschool, I can drive around, get errands done and listen to the book. And that’s what I did, actually, prior to signing for the first season. I listened to the entire book… only because I still had to do my chemistry read. Because I was quite engrossed in the story and riveted by the characters. I just felt like Diana; there was just something about her. It was such an interesting choice that I did that because if I hadn’t had gotten the role, I would have been pretty depressed.

Did you get the chance to discuss your role with the books’ author, Deborah Harkness?

Yeah, I did actually. Deborah was very active… she made herself available to both Mathew and I and the rest of the cast so that we can ask questions. [We could] get into her head a little bit and find out about the backstory of the characters and what she envisioned. And I just found it to be an invaluable tool. She’s also very similar to Diana and I think writers, all the time, they write what they know.

What what would you say is the best piece of advice Deborah gave you about playing Diana?

The best thing that Deborah did for me was she said, “You are Diana. You bring who you are and embrace all the facets of Teresa, and that will help bring [Diana] to life.” And it’s funny because I personally could relate to Diana, certainly because she’s just this fierce, amazing warrior. I just didn’t want to let the fans down, to be honest, because they’re so passionate and invested in the story. I remember feeling so nervous to do that. But once Deborah said: “You are her. Just embrace that… following your intuition can take you down the direct path,” it was such a liberating piece of advice that I could get out of my head about the character, and I could just breathe and just follow my feelings and my instincts. And I think I knew her well enough to be able to trust that together, we would find the right version of Diana.

Outside of your character Diana, who would you say is your next favorite character in the show and why?

I really like Alex Kingston’s character, [Sarah Bishop]. We have a very strong dynamic in many ways, Diana and Sarah. But she is just a woman who knows herself and is so fiercely in her power. She’s brilliant and sassy and funny and unapologetic… She’s such a brilliant actress and she always likes to find a way to go in deeper with her characters. But she was the most entertaining. I really loved the back and forth between our characters, and how loving she is. She has such a big heart both on and off screen.

Matthew Goode as Matthew Clairmont and Teresa Palmer as Diana Bishop – A Discovery of Witches _ Season 1 – Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky/SKY Productions/Sundance Now

Speaking of character chemistry, what was it like working with co-star Matthew Goode, who plays vampire Matthew Clairmont?

Luckily for me, Matthew Goode is so funny. He just has the best sense of humor. We just crack each other up. We were always goofing around, having the best time. We hit it off strong from the very first day… Just being comfortable with each other makes our job that much easier. He’s also a father, like, a married father of three. And I’m a married mama of three — almost three — and my stepson. And so we like to talk about our kids and family dynamics, and it made it really fun on set.

Along with Diana, there’s a great cast of female characters. To you, what’s the importance of having a cast that has this many powerful women?

It’s so phenomenal to be surrounded by very incredible females… to have them on set and just watch them bring these characters to life. I just really enjoy female company and love these women. The women that got cast in this show are fascinating and they’re all so different.

And it just made the days fly by because we had each other and we became a band of women to create these stories together and became like a big family. And two out of our three directors were female… A majority of our crew was female… It was just that divine feminine energy around, and I loved that. That was a really wonderful part of my experience filming the show.

What are you most looking forward to in season 2?

I’m really just excited to see where [Diana] goes with her magic powers. She’s the most powerful witch in the world. And so there are so many different directions that her powers can go. We’ve basically only skimmed the surface of the first book… But I’m just awaiting the scripts to know what we’re doing, what direction we’re taking, and what more we can see from Diana.

Matthew Goode as Matthew Clairmont and Teresa Palmer as Diana Bishop – A Discovery of Witches _ Season 1 – Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky/SKY Productions /Sundance Now

As a bit of a fun question, if you could pick one, would you like to be a witch like Diana or a vampire and why?

Ah, I gotta go with my peeps. I gotta say a witch. I love the idea of eternal living, but I think I’d get rather bored. And all the power that Diana has, it’s just amazing.

And finally, who was a woman, either fictional or nonfictional, that you looked up to growing up and why?

Oh, mine’s boring, though, because it’s a family member.

That’s fine!

It was my nana…. Obviously, she’s no longer with us. But she had nine children, and they left England on a big boat for Australia, and she navigated her life raising these beautiful, amazing children.

I’m most like her than any of my other family members, and I think that’s because I just loved her and her stories. I wanted to emulate everything that she was doing. So she was probably the person I looked up to most. And she did say to me, right before she died: “Teresa, I’m so happy for you and your career and all the things that are happening… But I do know that your number one goal is to have a beautiful family and have lots of children and get married.” She was like, “I wish all those things for you.”

And she died before I met my husband and had my kids. But there’s a part of me that definitely thinks she had a hand in getting me here.

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You can see Teresa Palmer in A Discovery of Witches, which premieres on AMC on Sunday, April 7 at 9 p.m. EST. AMC Premiere subscribers can stream the full series now.