The third and final season of the hit fantasy drama A Discovery of Witches is set to begin airing in the US on Saturday, January 8. Ahead of the premiere, Nerds & Beyond caught up with Steven Cree, who portrays the de Clermont vampire Gallowglass. Fans will also recognize Cree for his part in another epic fantasy series, Outlander, in which he portrays (the elder) Ian Murray.
A Discovery of Witches, which is based on the All Souls trilogy by author Deborah Harkness, follows the story of a reluctant witch named Diana (Teresa Palmer) and a charming vampire named Matthew (Matthew Goode). Despite the ancient laws that guide the ways of the Congregation, a governing body that oversees the vampires, witches, and daemons, the two strike up a passionate yet forbidden romance.
The second season saw Matthew and Diana tumble backwards through time to Elizabethan London in the year 1590, in search of the Book of Life and a teacher for Diana. This is where we met Cree’s Gallowglass, Matthew’s nephew and son of Hugh de Clermont. Gallowglass was undoubtedly one of season 2’s standout characters, bringing a warm, spirited energy to the show. Season 3 introduces audiences to a modern version of Gallowglass when he reconvenes with Matthew and Diana after the pair timewalks back to the future.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Nerds and Beyond: When we first met Gallowglass in the 1590s, it was kind of a period piece at that point. But now, we get to see him in the current day. He’s decked out with a fresh haircut, a leather jacket. What was it like for you to come back for season 3 and play the same character over 400 years in the future?
Steven Cree: Great question, because it was actually tough. The very first scene that I have in season 3 is with Lindsay Duncan, who plays Ysabeau. Lindsay Duncan is such an amazing actress, I was very excited my first scene was with her. But I felt like I was playing a different character, having a new costume, not having the wig, being in the contemporary period, working with actors that I hadn’t worked with in season 2. It genuinely felt like playing a bit of a different person at first. Once I leaned into that, it helped, because obviously, 400 years, whether you’re a vampire or whatever, you’re going to change. And he has changed a lot in those 400 years. But I would say it probably took me the first couple of days to feel like I was Gallowglass again.
And then, before long, that leather jacket, the amazing costume and stuff … When we were getting his look right for season 3, I wanted a wig again, I wanted him with long hair. But, rightly so, the makeup team and Bad Wolf said I should just keep my own hair, which I actually think was 100% the best idea for that. It helps modernize him, and it helps change him as well. So I’m glad that they were resistant to that.
Nerds and Beyond: Without spoilers, how would you describe his character arc in season 3?
Cree: I keep describing him — and I’m trying to think of a different way — as Fun Bobby from Friends, where he’s the life and soul of the party. Obviously, what Fun Bobby ends up being is something else, and there’s a bit of an inner tragedy going on. I guess for Gallowglass, it’s about setting himself free, in a way, over the course of the season, and unburdening his troubles.
Nerds and Beyond: Can you tease an actor that you filmed a scene with for season 3 that you feel audiences should be excited to watch?
Cree: Olivier Huband, one of the new actors who plays Fernando. I think the fans — and particularly the fans of the book as well, because Fernando is such a popular character — I think they’re going to love Olivier. I loved Olivier. He’s become a really good friend now. I think he’s brilliant as Fernando. As I read the book, he really captures who I imagined Fernando to be. He’s very stylish as a person, but his costumes as Fernando are fantastic. I loved every scene that I did with him. There’s one in the end of episode 2, I think, that I remember particularly enjoying filming.
Nerds and Beyond: In the first two episodes, he’s definitely been a really interesting character thus far, so that made me more excited to see what else is going to happen with him.
Cree: He’s great. For someone who’s only 26 years old, he’s got a lot of gravitas.
Nerds and Beyond: Speaking of age, how do you approach playing a character who, although he doesn’t look it, he’s actually many centuries old?
Cree: There’s aspects of that where you have to just leave it. The audience doesn’t necessarily know how many hundreds of years old we are, but they know that’s there. So you kind of just have to put it to bed, that that aspect of it is accepted.
In terms of what it took me to in the moment. In season 3, there was something that Gallowglass had been thinking about every single day, really, for 400 years, probably, I imagine. It’s so difficult to completely comprehend. But for me, it kind of led me to believe that when we meet Gallowglass in season 3, he’s really suffering a lot of inner turmoil and torment about what’s been going around in his head. And I think when you’ve been alive for hundreds of hundreds of years, you’ve been there, seen it, done it, haven’t you? But when it’s emotions that affect your heart, then I think, no matter how long you’ve been around, we’re all susceptible to being controlled by that.
Nerds and Beyond: There’s a moment in the beginning of season 3 where it’s mentioned that it’s only been a few days for Matthew and Diana, but hundreds of years for him. I think that adds a really interesting layer to the storytelling that I didn’t even think of at first going into the season.
Cree: A huge thing I remember trying to do in that moment is like, how do you get that moment across? But actually, the thing is, it’s all kind of done, hopefully, in the words anyway. Because how can you play a moment as huge as that? Like you said, when Gallowglass says, “It’s only been a few days for you. I haven’t seen you for 400 years,” then I think that hopefully is information enough to make you realize how significant that is.
Nerds and Beyond: If you were in charge of writing Gallowglass’ backstory during those missing 400 years that we haven’t seen him, what would be one of his coolest claims to fame? Something in history that he experienced or participated in.
Cree: I would like to think that he participated and made a valuable and heroic contribution during World War II. Obviously on the side of the allies. I’m a huge history buff of that particular period, and one of Gallowglass’ traits is that he’s a bit of a warrior, and if there’s a fight or a war going on, Gallowglass is someone that you want on your side. I think having someone like him on your side on the battlefield in World War II would have been pretty advantageous.
Nerds and Beyond: So looking back to season 2, what would you say was one of your favorite scenes with Gallowglass?
Cree: It’s kind of all the stuff at the palace in Bohemia with King Rudolf. I loved all of that. I love the scenes in the little parlor with Matthew and Diana. I love the scenes in the hall when King Rudolf, Michael Jepsen, was kind of regaling us with his stories. And there was a bit in particular where Diana changes something into a snake, and we hid it in a vase. I didn’t actually really speak that much in that scene, but I just loved the spectacle of all, and I felt so transported to that period. And Michael did such a great job as King Rudolf.
Nerds and Beyond: Fans are really excited for season 3, but it’s bittersweet because it’s the final season. How would you sum up your experience working on the show?
Cree: I had a great time working on it. I’ve made a lot of friends. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really, really, really fantastic actors of the British scene. Paul Rhys, I’ve been a big fan of for a long time. Lindsay Duncan, she was almost like British nobility here. Matthew Goode, I’m a massive fan of. I loved Ed Bluemel when I watched season 1. I’ve made new friends in season 3. I saw a lot of Wales that I’d never seen before, so it’s always nice to experience a new country. I don’t actually know if it was ever on my bucket list, but I think I had always quite fancied playing a vampire. So now that I’ve played a vampire as well, and to play a vampire who’s kind of like the rock and roll vampire of the 17th century, and then the biker vampire of the 21st century, it’s been a pretty cool experience.
We came through so much as well. Season 2, the world was a very different place, and then season 3, we went back to work right in the middle of the pandemic. So it was a very different experience. Actually, one of the best aspects of season 3 was that I shared a house with Matthew Goode. It was actually fantastic, because I didn’t film as much with Matthew in season 3. But getting to go home at the end of every day, because we were all kind of living in a bubble, getting to go home and kind of share that experience with Matthew was great. Because normally when you’re filming away on location, you stay in a hotel room or you stay in an apartment by yourself. So that was a great experience.
Nerds and Beyond: You’ve just woken up in the world of A Discovery of Witches. So you’re yourself, not Gallowglass. Would you prefer to be a human, a witch, a vampire or a daemon?
Cree: When I’ve been asked this before, I’ve always said a vampire. I haven’t been given the option of a human though. I think, given that option, I would possibly go for human. Because I don’t fancy going through hundreds of years of the people that you love the most … seeing them die, or seeing them fade away. Unless the vampires just entirely stay together for hundreds of years. I guess that’s been part of the idea. But my issue is, I would love to see how the last have lived through the last 800 years. And I also don’t really fancy the idea of living that long. So yeah, maybe I’ll just stay as a human.
Catch the season 3 premiere of A Discovery of Witches on Saturday, January 8 on AMC+, Sundance Now, and Shudder. Follow along with all of our coverage on the series, including episodic recaps and more!