I'm in the middle of bonding over our love of the Netflix Original 'A Christmas Prince', and Madeleine Mantock is exuding nothing but enthusiasm - not only because Christmas movie time is around the corner, but because she's four days into filming Episode 10 of the CW's 'Charmed', which just recently had a full season ordered.
Coup De Main spoke with Madeleine Mantock after a long day of filming in Vancouver, about starring in ‘Charmed’, the real-life politics that the show reflects on, and the importance of diversity in television…
The notion that there are so many black women out there that genuinely feel like if they wear their natural hair they will either get fired or won’t be employable, is just unconscionable to me, because what does that say about our society that a woman is made to feel like the way that she naturally is, or a man, is not acceptable?
COUP DE MAIN: Congratulations on getting the full season of ‘Charmed’ ordered, that’s so exciting!
MADELEINE MANTOCK: Thank you! I’m really glad, not just for everybody involved and the crew and everything, but just so that story-wise we can take a little breath - we have the extra time to see through these arcs and everything. We’re on Episode 10 right now and I was like, ‘Wow, if we had to stop at 13 I’m not even sure where that would leave us.’
CDM: The way the show deals with real-life politics such as #MeToo and the strength of women is really powerful - it’s subtle but is really empowering too. Do you think it’s important for television to reflect the realities that we’re facing in the real world?
MADELEINE: Much like in everything, there’s different strokes for different folks. So definitely some shows might just want to be in its own world and do its own thing, and that can be entertaining too - but I think we have this unique opportunity to, if we can strike the right balance, I think it just marries in perfectly with the magical wish fulfilment opportunity that we have, obviously because we’re witches. I know that Jennie Snyder Urman [Executive Producer, Writer, Developer of ‘Charmed’] she wanted to reboot ‘Charmed’ because she wanted to seize that opportunity to link feminism and witchcraft in a more kind of overtly-- because a lot of our stuff isn’t subtle, which sometimes I struggle with a little bit. There are days on set where I’ll be tapping my nose; I tend to err more on the side of subtlety. It kind of elevates it a bit, and it’s striking the balance of it being fun but it being important to talk about those things. I’m starting to realise that when people watch stuff, they see themselves - they might look up to you, they want to see themselves reflected, and whether that’s in different character traits or whatever scenarios are happening, so I do think its important. It’s a privilege, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that every show has to do that.
CDM: Some things are nice to watch as total escapism.
MADELEINE: Like Christmas movies. <laughs>
CDM: The show explores the importance of witch/life balance - which regular people don’t have to deal with, but it’s similar to work/life balance. Do you think balance in life is an important thing to manage?
MADELEINE: Oh, goodness, yes, and I need more of it. It’s something that I struggle with daily because in my own work/life balance, I spend most of my time at work. With the bit of time that I do have, I’m always like, ‘Do I rest? Do I work out? Do I find time to call home with the ridiculous time difference?’ I really struggle a lot with what I’m supposed to do with the time that is for me. Then, also, on the days I’m feeling really under it, I have to have that little voice in my head and remind myself, ‘You know what? This is actually brilliant, you’re really fortunate, and gratitude can go a long way.’ When the balance seems a bit tipped and when everything is a bit difficult, I just remind myself that it’s actually okay. <laughs> I’m not one of those people that’s super specific about goals, I know some people really set intentions and speak things into existence, or have a five year plan, and I don’t really have that, but I think it gives me a bit more freedom in terms of I don’t feel like I’m rushing towards anything, but maybe on the other hand it’d be helpful because I’d get more done!
CDM: In the beginning of the show, Macy has two major discoveries in her life - she not only discovers that she’s a witch, but on top of that she has two half-sisters. Do you think it was particularly hard for Macy, having both of these things thrown at her at once?
MADELEINE: Definitely. Surprisingly, the familial bond is something that she finds harder to get on with. Because she’s incredibly smart, she’s a scientist, and I imagine she’s the type of person that’s always been top of her class, and could almost be like, ‘Well, yes, if anybody’s going to have powers it would be me.’ So she’s very interested in how magic is possible, and wanting to link science to that. I think it’s something she gets a kick out of investigating, although there isn’t a great deal of time for her to try and figure it out because they’re under duress with all the demons coming after them. But I think learning that she has the family, these two sisters, is definitely harder - because she’s really lonely, and she’s been surviving that way. So to have to learn how to be a friend and a sister, and co-habit and work together with other people, she finds more difficult.
CDM: Side-note, we really love how Macy adds science to magic - using chemicals to help fight demons, it’s such a cool touch.
MADELEINE: <laughs> Oh yay! I’m glad. Sometimes it stresses me out because I’m like, ‘Guys, is this accurate?’ We have this really incredible lab set and it’s full of really expensive equipment, but we don’t actually have a science person. We have a really zesty props person called Judson and we adore him, he’s really up for being as supportive as he can in terms of the props we have, but he doesn’t know anything about science. So sometimes I get stressed because I’m like, ‘Oh man, I know we’re in the lab and we don’t care, but if we’re doing science stuff I really want it to be accurate.’ It’s difficult, because with an actual medical show like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ that’s the whole world, so I’m sure they have a lot more of that, but Macy is in the lab for about one or two scenes an episode - so we’re doing our best with the science.
CDM: What’s it been like, forming an on-screen sisterhood with Sarah Jeffrey and Melonie Diaz?
MADELEINE: Really fun. Now that we’ve been allowed to settle into the work a little bit, I’ve had a bit of headspace, looking back on all the press that we’ve done. For so long we were talking about this entity that people knew from before, the 1998 ‘Charmed’, and trying to explain to people what we hoped it would be after having only shot a pilot. We did so much talking about it, defending ourselves, trying to reassure people that we weren’t trying to dance on anybody’s grave, and that whole experience played a huge part in helping us have a bond, because we had to be united. Travelling with people, being tired with people, and getting to spend time together, is a really great way to get to know one another and become friends. So now that we’ve not been doing that so much anymore, we’ve just been doing the work, it’s just really interesting to see how that experience was kind of a little bit strange. We did so many interviews where nobody had really seen anything.
CDM: At least now people can watch and understand what the show is like.
MADELEINE: Yeah. I think people are buying into, and seeing, and appreciating the sisterly bond that we have. It’s funny, because with me and Melonie we know that our characters aren’t that close yet and we’re always trying to get little bits in here and there, and they always take them away from us. <laughs> We’re always like, ‘Can we have this moment? Can we do it like this instead?’ And then they’re like, ‘Well, maybe you should do this…’ We had one of those the other day where I was like, ‘I feel like it’s mean if I say it like that, can we do it like this where we’re actually enjoying it together?’ So those moments are really fun, and I love working with them both. I love working with Rupert [Evans, who plays Harry Greenwood] as well, he’s like our fourth sister - we spend a lot of time with him and he’s just got so many fantastic stories. The job is so much more fun when you have great people to do it with.
CDM: What are your favourite things about your co-stars Sarah and Melonie?
MADELEINE: I don’t know how you choose one! My favourite thing about Melonie? I’ll tell you a few things to describe the thing that I don’t really have a word for. She almost has a childlike, innocent, mischievousness to her that just really tickles me. It’s not even that she has no sense of direction, she just walks wherever she feels like going, and it’s always never the right way. <laughs> So we’ll be walking to set, and she’ll be wandering off, completely happy, she doesn’t seem lost. Also I’ll catch her from time to time and she’ll kind of be smiling to herself, a very subtle smile. I’m like, ‘What’s going on in there?!’ She spends a lot of time in her head, and I see it, it makes me laugh. With Sarah, I think one of my favourite things about her, is that she’s just really caring. She cares a lot about how people are doing, she really wants everyone to be having a nice time - which also plays into the minute that one of us starts to laugh during a scene, she will be looking around for somebody’s eye to catch to laugh with them. There are times where she’s turning around and I’m like, ‘Stop looking at me! I’m holding!’ I kind of love that about her, she’s always looking for the fun in situations.
CDM: I would love to see a bloopers reel one day.
MADELEINE: I hope we have one. You are aware of that when stuff goes wrong, when Rupert splits his pants on set I’m like, ‘We’re gonna have a bloopers reel, right?! This would be perfect.’
CDM: Did you grow up with any sisters or siblings of your own?
MADELEINE: I grew up with an older brother. I think he’s only really a year and a half older than me, but we’re two school years apart. He was my big brother, I was a complete brat, it was that kind of relationship where he adored me, and I think I knew it, so I used to try and get away with whatever I could. We used to try and play wrestling together, or if we were on holiday we’d try to play tag underwater, or have water fights in the garden - but the minute I started to lose or didn’t like it, I’d go inside and say he was being mean to me, which was a complete lie. He was nothing but wonderful to me.
CDM: In your interview with Teen Vogue, you talked a little bit about how you want the show to inspire confidence in the people watching it. Do you think it’s cool for television to help change how people feel about themselves in real life?
MADELEINE: I hope so. The amount of time that people spend consuming stuff, whether that’s through social media, or YouTube, or TV, whatever it is, I think as much positivity and acceptance, and showing people lots of different ways to be is the most helpful thing that we could do. Whether you realise it or not, I think people are so influenced by what they see and what they consume, and what they hold as an acceptable way to be. I think if you’re watching stuff and it’s the same, it’s all one type of thing, you feel that you’re different to that, and I think that’s really damaging for people to feel. However you are is wonderful, and even though sometimes it can feel bad, and weighty, and troublesome to deal with, if there’s a way that through characters or the show as a whole can inspire true confidence in people… I see so much of that on the internet, I feel like Instagram is so full of people who are so insecure but so self-obsessed, it’s such a strange combination where everybody kind of hates themselves, and they’re searching for this validation, it’s not the healthiest way to try and make yourself feel better. I feel like there’s a purer way where you can accept all of yourself. So that’s what I hope the show could inspire in people.
CDM: You recently celebrated World Afro Day back in October, sharing messages about how black women feel social pressure to alter their hair to fit into European ideals of beauty. Do you find it important to use your social platform to talk about race and beauty issues that are something so personal for you as well?
MADELEINE: It’s not something that I’m so practiced in doing - even me saying I have a platform feels a bit strange for me. I don’t see it like that. I live tweet the show, then I go silent for a week <laughs> and with Instagram I go through phases, where if we’re doing press I feel like I’ve got loads of stuff to post, then we’re just working and I’m not very consistent. But World Afro Day, I love it that we’re in a time where there is a portion of the population that is able to wake up with their hair as it grows out of their head and celebrate it and encourage other people to. It’s the same kind of thing in terms of people, whether it’s the way that they look, the tone of their skin, or their sexuality - however you are should be fine. The notion that there are so many black women out there that genuinely feel like if they wear their natural hair they will either get fired or won’t be employable, is just unconscionable to me, because what does that say about our society that a woman is made to feel like the way that she naturally is, or a man, is not acceptable?
CDM: It’s just a natural state.
MADELEINE: Yeah. That perspective, and that kind of oppressive viewpoint to me, is unacceptable. It’s difficult because sometimes it’s generational and sometimes it’s societal - there are different parts of the world that have different histories, and that really impacts how the people that live in those places see themselves and others. I don’t have all the answers, but in my own life I went through a phase when I first started working in America, I used to go to meetings and people would say to me, ‘Oh, you’re really ambiguous, that’s great. What are you? You could be Puerto Rican, you could be that…’ It was kind of encouraged upon me that I should look as ambiguous as possible, and I think there was a part of me that played into that because it’s that mindset of the actor, that I’ve got to try and play as many parts as possible, I need to be able to slot into whatever part I can. When I would do jobs, I would heat style my hair, which took so long, it was just re-curling my already curly hair to a slightly loose curl, which had its merits in a sense - for continuity purposes it would always look the same. Now, it isn’t really necessary and so I’ve stopped doing it, and luckily The CW said, ‘We don’t want you to do anything to your hair, we like it how it is,’ and I was like, ‘Okay, great! I’ve never heard that before.’ Usually it’s, ‘What else can your hair do?’ Or questions like that where you go, ‘Oh, I guess they like the idea and the look of me, but there’s something about me...' So it feels really nice, and it gives me confidence that I can just be like, ‘This is my hair. This is how it’s supposed to look.’ And I don’t bemoan anybody for wanting to be creative with however they choose to style their hair.
CDM: I feel like when it’s a persons decision coming entirely from themselves, then it’s empowering, as opposed to coming from a place of feeling pressured to look a certain way.
MADELEINE: Exactly, it’s the ‘Why?’ I hope one day I can get to a place where I actually legitimately have a platform and I can do something brilliant with it, but I don’t feel quite there yet.
CDM: What’s it been like seeing the reaction to ‘Charmed’ from fellow women of colour around the world?
MADELEINE: It’s really great, even for me, I’m mixed race, so sometimes - and before I even go into this, I acknowledge my privilege, 100% - you can get a reaction where you don’t necessarily feel accepted by either part of your heritage, and I haven’t really felt that with this. I will say also, there’s a difference between talking about race in America to Britain. So when I’m on TV in America, people will describe me as being an African American woman, and it’s kind of a strange thing to hear because I wouldn’t put myself in that group or in that bracket, but people look at me, and it makes me feel happy that people see me as a black woman. Whereas I feel like at home [in the UK], I don’t know whether they would just say I’m mixed, or I’m too light to be black, and I’m sure there would be some people who would say that in America too, but I definitely noticed a distinct difference. It made me happy that they wanted to accept me as someone that could represent them as a really smart woman who’s a scientist, who’s really awkward, and not necessarily the typical thing that you would see on TV. I feel like Macy is quite a unique character. Sometimes that makes me nervous because it can be quite comforting to play the kind of character that people already know and you know that they’re going to like.
CDM: It’s cool to see someone like that too.
MADELEINE: Yeah, and that’s something as well, not just from women of colour, but people saying, ‘I’m as awkward as Macy is, it’s really nice to see that on TV.’ To summarise, I have lots of warm feelings about the way I feel people have perceived the character, and it’s nice to feel accepted - I feel like there are lots of people who want to feel accepted.
CDM: You talked about diversity further in your Paper Magazine feature, saying you’d love to see the show become more “all encompassing”, such as a plus-sized woman, exploring what it’s like to live with a disability, or as transgender. What do you think the state of diversity is in television in 2018?
MADELEINE: I definitely think we’re taking great leaps in a positive direction. It’s interesting because I do realise that my media, what I consume, what’s on my Twitter, who I follow - which is where I get my news - is obviously a very curated version of voices that echo mine, and also voices that I want to learn from. So in my head I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s all fantastic,’ but I’m aware that for a huge portion of the population they might have completely different views. You watch a Louis Theroux documentary and you go, ‘Wow, these people really exist.’ But from my mind and from what I see, and what I know the show wants to do, I definitely think huge steps in a very positive direction. Also, with a show like this where we have very boldly set out and said we want to be a politically mindful show and we want to showcase all different types of humanity, we’re then also tasked with being a regular show, and having to develop our story arcs, and be allowed the time and space to do those things. I think some people have maybe watched it and been like, ‘Where’s this? We haven’t seen that yet. They were supposed to do that.’ It’s like, ‘It’s episode three, we haven’t quite got there yet.’
CDM: You have to take it step by step, and build up to it.
MADELEINE: Yeah, and I find that hard sometimes because I just want to be so unashamedly bold with it. I’m not a writer, I’m not a producer, I don’t understand the ins and outs of how you navigate working with a studio and a network to get a show made, so I’m trusting that everybody has the best intentions, and if we can continue to make it then we can really build on what we’ve already done.
CDM: You yourself have a BA in musical theatre. Are you hoping for a musical episode of 'Charmed' one day?
MADELEINE: <laughs> Yes! The writers really want it too. We talk about it all the time. I was cast because I did a show five years ago, and one of our writers Micah Schraft recommended me. He was working on ‘Jane The Virgin’ at the time and when he heard they were trying to cast this character he said, ‘Oh, you should have a look at Madeleine,’ and I think the only other thing he told them was that I love karaoke. <laughs> I did a Skype interview because I was in London, and that was what they kept going on about, like, ‘Oh, maybe if we go to Vancouver we could do karaoke,’ and we’ve never actually done it yet because we have no time, but there’s this promise of karaoke and oysters. So they know that I’m interested. We also have a supremely talented cast - I think the only person that doesn’t and has expressed that they don’t want to sing is Melonie. She said, ‘I’ve done it once before and it was really bad,’ but I spoke to her maybe two days ago and she told me she would rap. So I was like, ‘Okay, fine.’ I’m totally happy with that. So they know we want to do a musical episode. But there are musical elements in this first season - they just announced casting for Jaime Camil [from ‘Jane The Virgin’], he is going to play the choir master. Maggie’s Kappa dreams are no more, so she’s joined the school choir - I haven’t read this episode yet, I just saw the casting announcement and was like, ‘Oh, I guess that’s what’s happening!’ I just want a musical episode now.
CDM: Have you filmed episode 11 with Gina Rodriguez directing yet?
MADELEINE: We have not. We’re about four days into episode 10 right now. But we met her, she came to set because she’s prepping, and that was really cool. It was a fun week because it was Supernatural’s 300th episode, and The Flash’s 100th episode, so everybody from The CW was in Vancouver to celebrate those achievements, so we got to see so many people that we’re always happy to see, because when you see them it means you get a nice paid-for dinner. <laughs> Then we saw Brad Silberling who directed our pilot, he was on-set, and then we met Gina. So it was a very celebratory, jovial week last week!
CDM: I’m really looking forward to her directing an episode, it seems like it’ll be so cool!
MADELEINE: Same. I’ve never been directed by an actor who’s on a show. I’m really intrigued. We had a lady called Melanie Mayron who directed episode 4, I’m don’t know if she still does but she definitely was an actor, she’s really into her comedy, and that was great. To me, she’s a director now, whereas when I look at Gina Rodriguez I’m like, ‘But you go to the Golden Globes, you’re a famous lady now!’ So I’m interested to see what that’s like.
CDM: I know earlier this year you were reading Reni Eddo-Lodge's book 'Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race.' Have you had much time since then to read any other books?
MADELEINE: I’ve started to read ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara, which I pause at many times and go, ‘Why did she write this?’ Just because it’s so harrowing, and everybody keeps saying, ‘You just have to get to the end,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Why? Is there some kind of payoff?’ I can’t imagine what the payoff is to justify or give some kind of levity to what has happened so far. I loved 'Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race’, and I just want to implore everybody to read it. I will read it again at some point because it has so much information in it that I wish I could reel off at the click of my fingers. If I were ever to get into a sticky conversation, I feel like there’s so much stuff in there that I could just lick someone around the face with. It’s one of those books that makes you feel justified, and enraged, and proud at the same time.
CDM: Macy's Ph.D. is in molecular genetics. Do you have any similar interests to her?
MADELEINE: My interests are stationery and jewellery, so no. <laughs>
CDM: Have you noticed any similarities between yourself and Macy as you’ve been playing her for longer?
MADELEINE: Yeah, and it’s kind of annoying because when she’s being awkward or a little bit tunnel-visioned, that’s me. It’s so funny, when we play these characters, and I don’t know if it’s on purpose, or maybe they just cast us really well, I’m not sure how it happened, but the more we’re on set playing these characters, the more we’re all like, ‘Hang on. This is so me.’ Sometimes it feels really rude because you’re like, ‘Hang on a minute, is this like a subtweet in a script? Is this a subscript?’ So we’re both very particular and I really appreciate the logic in things. The number of times on set I say, ‘I just need it to make sense,’ you wouldn’t believe it. I say it about six times a day. ‘But this doesn’t make sense, and at the bare minimum I just need it to make sense.’ Sometimes when you’re shooting TV it doesn’t make sense and they’re like, ‘Trust me, it’s going to cut together,’ and I’m like, ‘I trust no one. I need it to make sense.’
CDM: Do you still have your crystals and sage set up in your trailer?
MADELEINE: I do! And my candles.
CDM: It must be cool to help you get into character?
MADELEINE: I’ve found when I’m really tired, or when I’m feeling a little bit low, or not as vibrant as I’d like to, I really gravitate towards it in the morning. I really like having it there. The only thing I feel bad about is when we have to move to go on location, somebody has to pack all my shit up. <laughs> I’ve got so many snacks in there!
‘Charmed’ is airing weekly on Neon - watch the trailer for the show below…