Joanna Beauchamp (Julia Ormond) had been slowly poisoned at the hands of Penelope (Virginia Madsen) before Wendy (Mädchen Amick) managed to kill her. Dash may have inadvertently killed his brother Killian (Daniel DiTomasso) and set him adrift on a boat to cover it up, and Ingrid (Rachel Boston) was forced at gunpoint to open the portal to Asgard, the mysterious otherworldly home that the Beauchamp ladies abandoned centuries ago.
Needless to say, we've been a little eager to find out what's going to happen to our favorite witches in the aftermath of the aborted wedding.
And series creator Maggie Friedman knows that she left us in suspense.
"In the premiere, we pick up a week later," she says. "Joanna is still struggling, she's not doing so well healthwise, and while Wendy, Joanna and Ingrid know that the portal opened, they all suffered a memory loss on who came through. And Freya's trying to figure out where Killian is, while Dash has to contend with the aftermath of wondering if he really did kill his brother."
Season 2, which premieres on July 6 on Lifetime, is definitely off to a dramatic start, and Friedman is enthusiastic about the changes another year has brought to Fair Haven. "This season is darker than last year, we wanted to take it to darker, scarier, sexier places, but there's still a lot of humor. The look of the show's changed a lot, too, which I'm really excited about. We have a new DP [director of photography] and a new director who brought it to a whole new level, visually and cinematically. It looks amazing, and we're telling some crazy cool stories."
One of the new stories she's particularly excited about involves a long lost member of the Beauchamp family — Joanna's son Frederick, whom Freya and Ingrid have never met. The recurring themes of family and forgiveness have always loomed large in the Witches of East End universe, and the return of Frederick is no exception. "He betrayed the family hundreds of years ago. Wendy does not trust him, but Joanna is willing to re-embrace him and welcome him back into the fold. There's some conflict about his agenda and if he can be trusted. And we like to keep the audience guessing about who he really is and what he wants. We also learn he was Freya's twin! So the two of them have these special abilities that only work when they're together."
The love triangle between Dash, Killian and Freya was also left up in the air at the end of the season. While Freya may have chosen not to marry Dash and tried to chase down Killian, Friedman promises there's still plenty of potential left to be explored. "Last season's love triangle has become more of a love pentagram," she says. "Freya was once at the center, and now she's at a different point. We've kept it all very tortured and romantic. It was important to make it high stakes, keep it all wrong and sexy and dangerous."
However, Friedman laughs when she's asked to choose between Dash or Killian for herself. "I can't say! They're both stunning, interesting men, and they're both very talented guys, and I think they each have their individual strengths. Dash is on an interesting journey this season. A dark one. We get to see a new side of him, which is fascinating, and Killian is that bad boy, romantic, 'you're drawn to it but you know it's bad for you' kind of guy. That's sexy in its own way."
Dark, sexy and dangerous are some of Friedman's favorite words to describe the new episodes, but one of the biggest themes explored is still that subject of familial forgiveness. "It's a lot about picking yourself up after making mistakes and going on. There are a lot of repercussions from the events in the first season, so this year, we're exploring how you forge ahead even when you've made a mess, clean it up and keep going. It's also a lot about the women, especially the younger generation, coming into their own and learning to own their power."
This is Friedman's second show exploring the concept of women empowering themselves through witchcraft after her stint producing ABC's short-lived Eastwick, an adapted version of the John Updike novel The Witches of Eastwick and the 1987 film starring Jack Nicholson and Cher. "I love the wish fulfillment aspect of witchcraft. I grew up with Bewitched reruns. If I had a day home sick from school, I was watching Bewitched, and I fell in love with that idea of having those kinds of powers. I think witchiness is a very feminine thing and yet it's also very strong, it's powerful, it's feminine, and it's a way to own your power as a woman. Witches are such a great metaphor for how to be strong and well-rounded and unapologetic."
It's one of our favorite things about Witches of East End. Joanna, Wendy, Ingrid and Freya are all such different, widely varied women, and the show never makes judgments on which is the best way to be. Each woman is vibrantly drawn, completely her own person and strong in her own way, and even Friedman can't choose a favorite. "I aspire to be like Wendy, because I think she's a bada**, and I love her kind of spirit and attitude. She doesn't let things get her down, she does what needs to be done, and she's hilarious," Friedman says. "But then there's Joanna's nurturing calm, Ingrid's intellectual smarts and Freya's free spirit. They all have something I would like to cultivate in myself."
The relationships between both sets of sisters has also been a great counterpoint. Joanna and Wendy's bond was strained after a hundred years of estrangement, while Ingrid and Freya have always been close, but this season, Friedman wanted to shake that up. "Last year, Ingrid and Freya were very tight and loving. Obviously, Ingrid can be a little mothering towards Freya and give her a hard time about her bad choices, but they had each other's backs. But there are definitely some things that come between them and we get to see some really good conflict and fighting that we hadn't explored before. Their relationship gets tested more this year than last."
Of course, we've only seen Ingrid and Freya's bond in the current century. The sisters have lived dozens of past lives that have only been briefly touched on. We've seen a version of the girls in 1906, where Freya was essentially the same — a free-spirited bartender in love with her Killian look-alike piano player. Ingrid's intellectual curiosity, however, led her down a darker path, and it's one of Friedman's favorite things to play with.
"I love that aspect of our show, going to different time periods," she says. "We have a really, really fun episode where we explore one of Freya's past lives, and we get to see her in the 1970s. She's still Freya, but like 1906 Ingrid, this is a darker, wilder version of Freya. It's pretty rad and I'm excited about it. I love exploring their past and how we see that your strengths can become downfalls."
It's clear Friedman also has a soft spot for mischievous, pragmatic Aunt Wendy, who never lets a little thing like moral ambiguity get in her way. "Wendy was actually supposed to die in the pilot!" she reveals. "But when we saw what Mädchen was doing with the role — she just has so much light and life inside her. We begged her to stay, we knew she was a keeper." Though Wendy never appears in the original Melissa de la Cruz novels on which the show was based, Friedman says the author loves the addition. "When I met Melissa, she came to the set when we were shooting the pilot. I was nervous, I thought she'd be angrier because I changed so much stuff, and instead, she was all "I love Wendy! She's my favorite!" and I kept thinking 'Oh, thank God'," she laughs.
There's certainly a challenge in adapting a beloved book series for TV, and Friedman made a definitive choice to guide her when she was conceptualizing the show. "I made a call early on when I wrote the pilot that I was going to take the foundation of the book, which was family relationships, and I would strive to make it my own and create stories that would surprise even the people who knew the books intimately. So even from the beginning, we went pretty far-field. We talk a lot about the books in the writers' room, we love them and we definitely mine them for story points, but we wanted to create something in the spirit but is its own animal. I love what Melissa created so much, so I try to stay true to the spirit of it, but I did have to figure out a way to write it in my voice."
We think she's definitely succeeded! We're ready to head back to Fair Haven for another dark, sexy summer — it's shaping up to be one wild ride.
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