One day remains until the third and final season of the hit fantasy drama A Discovery of Witches begins airing in the US! While we eagerly await the premiere, Nerds & Beyond had a chance to talk with series lead Teresa Palmer, who portrays the central character from which all of these extraordinary events unraveled — Diana Bishop.
Based on the All Souls trilogy by author Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches follows the story of a reluctant witch named Diana (Palmer). Thanks to her accidental discovery of a long-lost bewitched manuscript and a simmering forbidden romance with a vampire named Matthew de Clermont (Matthew Goode), Diana’s neat and tidy life begins to rapidly unravel.
In season 2, Diana and Matthew timewalked back to Elizabethan London in the year 1590, both searching for the Book of Life and a proper teacher for the untrained witch. Now, season 3 sees the pair return to the current day, where heartbreak and a myriad of dangerous, pressing problems await.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Nerds and Beyond: Diana’s growth throughout seasons 1 and 2, as she goes from a reluctant witch to a dedicated student learning from Goody, is such a wonderful part of the show. She’s always come across as very calm and competent, so I’m intrigued to see how that will interact with all of the newfound power she brought back to the current day with her. What was it like for you to enter this “third and final stage” of Diana Bishop for season 3?
Teresa Palmer: I love where we find Diana at the beginning of season 3, because she’s dealing with so many complex issues and things that she’s having to work through and unpack. She’s dealing with immense, tremendous grief — not unlike the feeling she had when her parents died — because she loses Emily, who has been her caretaker for many, many years. So she’s dealing with grief, she’s dealing with the burning rage and that desire to seek revenge and to seek justice and to also affect positive change within the Congregation and the old paradigms that are in place. Also, she’s pregnant! So on top of it, she’s being thrust into motherhood in a world that feels very dangerous, and she’s got hormones flying around.
We see her, in season 3, going through a lot and then stepping into her own as the most powerful witch in the world. Again, she’s sort of working on her magic but really harnessing it. It just takes on another level of power, which is really exciting. To see her use everything that she’s been working on over the last few years, how to cultivate, and it manifests itself in a way that is really mind blowing at the end of the season.
Nerds and Beyond: I’ve seen the first two episodes of season 3 thus far, and I’m loving it. It’s brilliant, especially Diana’s attitude and seeing that bit of power creeping in. I’m really excited to see the “protective mama” coming out as well, because now she has so much power, and there are babies that she’s going to be protecting.
Palmer: Yeah, she’s very, very fierce this season, and I love her for it. It’s amazing to think about where we found her the first episode of season 1, and then where where she leaves this series is wonderful.
Nerds and Beyond: You had a unique experience with the show, because you started off in season 1 in the current day, and then you spent an entire season in the 1590s. Now you’re back in the current day. So what was it like to jump back into regular clothes and modern sets again when you came back for season 3?
Palmer: I think the novelty of being in Elizabethan London was so amazing, and then it wore off by the fifth month of being in corsets and trying to breastfeed having corsets on. And then also, that season, it was cold and wet. We were filming in Wales. The long dresses always had mud on the ends, and it made it really heavy. So you’re lugging the end of your skirt, lugging these big capes, and they got really, really heavy with the rain and the wet. To just put on a regular shirt and jeans was sweet relief. I loved it. It was wonderful. And just to have had that experience in Elizabethan London with all of her historical heroes. Diana’s sort of flying high but also wary that when she steps back into the present time, things are going to have shifted drastically. But she certainly didn’t expect what happened to Emily to be the first thing that she is faced with. She immediately has to pivot. It’s a really challenging experience for her.
Nerds and Beyond: I feel like it had to have been nice for you, too. Because Diana had no idea — I mean, obviously with her historian background … — but she really didn’t know how to act and how to “be” in the 1590s. Coming into it as an actor, you kind of you get to lean into that, because …
Palmer: We also don’t know.
Nerds and Beyond: Yeah, you don’t have to know everything on the set.
Palmer: Yeah, I mean, I didn’t know nearly as much as what Diana knew about that time. But in my little research, you still don’t know how to walk, how to be. It actually made my job easier as an actor. I think it’s probably harder for Matthew and some of the other characters who were of that time and had to really appear like they’ve been living in that time. Where as for me, I was like, “Oh, I’m a fish out of water,” and, “Actually, I am as a performer as well, so this is perfect.”
Nerds and Beyond: It must have been nice to reunite with everyone on season 3 as well, because you spent all of season 2 apart.
Palmer: Yeah, it was so nice. I barely saw Aiysha, who plays Miriam, and Marcus (Ed), and all those guys. I barely saw them in the second season. I saw little bits of people here and there. I arrived right as Val, who plays Emily, and Alex, who plays Sarah, were having their last day. I was like, “Hello, goodbye,” like passing ships.
But we were so happy to be back together. Obviously, it was really bittersweet, because with Emily’s death, that meant that we had to say goodbye to Val again. So I didn’t get to be around Val very much. I think I had one scene with her in season 3. I mean, she’s such a ray of light. She’s so sunny and beautiful and wonderful. So then to say goodbye to her was sad. But then I had so much wonderful time with Alex Kingston this season and Lindsay Duncan. And then Adelle Leonce. It’s just nice to be reimmersed. I’m back in with my gang, with my family. So that was lovely.
Nerds and Beyond: I’m really excited to see the dynamic with Diana and Sarah now without Em as the buffer. Because I think that Emily was very much like the positive buffer for them. So even in the first two episodes, it’s interesting to see them finding their footing again without her.
Palmer: Yeah, having to find what that dynamic is now, because it’s certainly shifted, and there’s that missing piece. It’s almost a rebirth of their relationship. The tension between them is still there, but there’s a raw, gaping wound and so much love. I have known people to go through tremendous grief, and they’re sort of cracked open and more vulnerable and willing to go deeper. I think that sort of happens to Sarah’s character and certainly to Diana’s as well. The death of Em reshapes their relationship, I think for the better in some ways. They certainly become closer through their shared grief.
Nerds and Beyond: If you could borrow Diana’s timewalking abilities for a day, where in time would you want to take a visit to?
Palmer: I feel like it’s a toss up between the 60s … I feel like I’m a child of the 60s. I have so many people who grew up in the 60s who are like, “You would have been perfect then. Bunch of babies, barefoot, pregnant, long, crazy hair, no makeup, listening to music.” You chuck me in that environment, like commune living, all that sort of stuff, I would have thrived. I would have really enjoyed that time. I still listen to a lot of 60s music, because my mom obviously grew up in that time, and so she loves listening to that music. We listen to it together.
But the 20s is another time that I would love to have experienced. I heard stories from my grandma about what it was like. She was born in 1918. When she was alive, she would still talk about her experiences growing up as a 10-year-old, 11-year-old, 12-year-old in the 20s. Like, what even is that? It’s amazing, a completely different world away. I reckon those two time periods, even just to be a fly on the wall, to observe the way the world was back then, would have been very interesting.
Nerds and Beyond: The premiere of season 3 is exciting and bittersweet for fans, and I’m sure it is for you, too. This has been such a beautifully produced show. I have loved watching it, and I’m excited to see where it’s going to end up. How would you sum up your experience working on the show? And what are some major takeaways that you’re going to bring with you?
Palmer: I will bring Deb Harkness with me forever. I feel as though I know her intimately, because I just spent so much time with her. And so much of Diana is Deb, actually. They’re so similar in so many ways. For me, Diana lives on through Deb. We have a deep friendship, and we see each other … we were just over with her visiting her horses. She’s like an auntie to my children. For me, that’s like a massive takeaway, this forever friendship that I’ll have with Deborah Harkness.
And then the fans. I’m friends with some of the fans online. Their passion and their encouragement and their enthusiasm has been completely uplifting. It really makes a difference, as a performer, to go into a world where there’s certain expectations of how a TV show adaption would unfold. These characters are so beloved by them. To be embraced and to be accepted and held by them the way I have been has been truly a remarkable thing. I feel very grateful about that.
The experience in general has impacted me. It’s been life changing. We moved to Wales, my children have so many really beautiful, wonderful experiences there. We made friends during our time. And I’ll always carry Diana with me. I’ll always have her with me. There’s no way my life isn’t impacted by the experiences I’ve had on this show.
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!
Make sure to check out our interviews with Alex Kingston (Sarah Bishop) and Steven Cree (Gallowglass) as well!