TWH — The Power of Three is meeting the power of the reboot as Charmed returns to small screens on the CW network at 9 p.m. eastern time on Sunday Oct. 14.
This time around the series about three sisters who discover they are hereditary witches will have the power of – gasp! — a real-life witch in the writing room.
The new drama has also spawned, well, some drama: A Witch war – OK, maybe a Witch tiff – broke out when cast member Holly Marie Combs of the original series, which was created by Constance M. Burge and aired from 1998-2006 on the WB network, became miffed that the originators were not asked to be a part of the reboot – or to do the reboot.
More drama ensued after the creators revealed the sisters would be Latina, but that only one of the actresses portraying the sisters actually identifies as Latina. Comments from one of the show’s creators indicated that the new series’ sisters were meant to be more multi-ethnic and multicultural, rather than strictly Latina, after all.
Like the original series, the Charmed reboot tells the tale of the these three sisters who, after the death of their mother, discover they are witches, also known as the Charmed Ones. Each sister learns she has a specific magical power, while together they possess the “Power of Three.” As the sisters learn to harness, use and focus their powers, they also find themselves thrust into battling all sorts of demons and supernatural nasties.
According to executive producers Jennie Snyder Urman, Jessica O’Toole, and Amy Rardin, the reboot also has the power of an actual witch. They spilled the magical beans in August at the Television Critics Association’s press tour, a semi-annual event in which TV writers for major media gather in Hollywood to interview stars and creators about upcoming shows.
“We actually have a Latino witch on our writing staff,” Rardin said, as reported by Jacob Oller and Tara Bennett on syfy.com. The “W” word ignited a buzz almost as huge as an “F” bomb, as numerous media went crazy reporting the news of a real Witch working on a show about fictional witches.
The Charmed writing staff “would meet once a week and do spells and put energy out there towards goals that they wanted to accomplish,” O’Toole said on the syfy.com post.
However, O’Toole sought to de-sensationalize the revelation and to dispel any notion that the writer, later identified as Marcos Luevanos, literally believes in all the supernatural elements portrayed in the series.
“Look, they’re witches, but humans, you know,” O’Toole said. “We have all kinds as far as belief systems in our room. We have people who really think, if you manifest something, it happens. We have more traditional religious people in the room. We have skeptics. It’s very much like what we have on the show. So I think it’s wonderful to hear everyone’s feelings. This is a room where we meditate at the beginning of the day . . . . Our writers have been amazing. They’re sending us spells they found, they’re watching exorcism and witchcraft movies.”
While syfy.com reported Luevanos is “a member of a coven” (as did numerous other media outlets), Luevanos’ website, marcosluevanos.com, and the public portion of his Facebook page make no mention of his being a Witch or pursuing Witchcraft. [Following an interview request from The Wild Hunt, one of Luevanos’ agents replied that he “unfortunately . . . won’t be able to participate.”]
Luevanos’ Facebook page lists his television credits as “Producer at Charmed on The CW, former Co-Producer at Life in Pieces, former Executive Story Editor at Telenovela, former staff writer/story editor at The Game on BET.”
The original Charmed starred Holly Marie Combs as Piper, Shannen Doherty as Prue, and Alyssa Milano as Phoebe — the three demon-fighting Halliwell sisters. Piper’s power was to stop time – to freeze everything in her surrounding environment. Prue possessed the power of telekinesis. Phobe had the ability of premonition.
Doherty’s character was killed off in the third-season finale, and Rose McGowan joined the cast as their long-lost half-sister Paige, who could teleport objects from one location to another.The reboot stars Madeleine Mantock as Macy, Melonie Diaz as Mel, and Sarah Jeffery as Maggie – the three demon-fighting Vera sisters. In the story arch of the new series, the Charmed Ones are half-sisters, born of a Latina mother but each having a different father. Macy discovers she possesses the power of telekinesis. Mel can stop time. Maggie can read minds.
The reboot features other changes from the original series: Instead of San Francisco, the new series is set in the fictional college town of Hilltowne, Mich. Mel is a lesbian in an on-and-off again relationship with Niko (Ellen Tamaki), a Hilltowne police detective.
The CW initially marketed the new show by saying, “This fierce, funny, feminist reboot of the original series centers on three sisters in a college town who discover they are witches. Between vanquishing supernatural demons, tearing down the patriarchy, and maintaining familial bonds, a witch’s work is never done.”
That description, as well as the fact that none of the principals of the original series were asked to be part of the reboot, set off Combs, who tweeted on Jan. 26: “Here’s the thing. Until you ask us to rewrite it like Brad Kern did weekly don’t even think of capitalizing on our hard work. Charmed belongs to the 4 of us, our vast amount of writers, crews and predominantly the fans. FYI you will not fool them by owning a title/stamp. So bye.”
When Entertainment Weekly tweeted “Charmed reboot gets CW pilot order, adds ‘feminist’ storyline,” Combs sarcastically replied on Twitter: “Guess we forgot to do that the first go around. Hmph.”
Heather Greene, in her book Bell, Book and Camera: A Critical History of Witches in American Film and Television, notes that the original Charmed “has attracted much academic discourse over the years, specifically concerning feminist themes and witchcraft conventions . . . . Charmed is one of the texts that demonstrates a change in the cinematic treatment of witchcraft and women’s agency. Like The Craft, the show provided options for its female characters . . . . witch narratives began to pose questions concerning the negotiation of female empowerment within contemporary society.” Charmed, Greene continued, is one of the witch-themed productions of the 1990s which “challenge boundaries and sometimes upend them.” [Note: Greene is the editor of The Wild Hunt.]
Combs later softened her stance somewhat, writing in another widely reported tweet on May 22: “Let me say first that I appreciate the jobs and opportunities the Charmed reboot has created. But I will never understand what is fierce, funny, or feminist in creating a show that basically says the original actresses are too old to do a job they did 12 years ago. I hope the new show is far better than the marketing so the true legacy does remain. Reboots fair better when they honor the original as opposed to taking shots at the original. Reboots also do better when they listen to a still passionate fan base which is what it’s all about, isn’t it? That’s why we do reboots. The fans are why we all get to do what we do. So we wish them well and hope for success.”
The Charmed reboot has since garnered more controversy, as Entertainment Weekly writer Patrick Gomez posted in an opinion piece on ew.com on Oct. 12: “I was . . . thrilled when it was announced that they were considering actresses of all ethnicities when casting the three leads and ultimately landed on making the sisters Latina.
“Then came the backlash . . . from the fact that Melonie Diaz, who plays the middle half-sister, is the only Latina playing one of the Charmed Ones. Madeleine Mantock, who plays the eldest half-sister, identifies as Afro-Carribean and Sarah Jeffery, who plays the youngest half-sister, identifies as African-American.”
Gomez goes on to note: “While not clear in the pilot episode, it seems that each of the Charmed Ones share a Latina mother but three different fathers, so, ultimately, the actors may be infusing a bit of their own heritage into their roles, which is often what happens in episodic television.”
Reboot executive producer Jennie Snyder Urman, who previously created the telenovela-inspired Jane the Virgin, seemed to deflect such criticism, intentionally or not, when her comments at the Television Critics Association press tour in August tacitly implied the new Charmed was never intended to be a Latina reboot exclusively.
As writer Emma Dibdin reported on cosmopolitan.com, Urman said: “We’ve had the chance to see three white witches. And coming off Jane, I knew so much more about what it means to be on screen, to see yourself represented, to see yourself as the hero of the story.”
The sisters in the reboot are “multiracial, the family is, and the girls do have different fathers,” Urman continued. “We want to explore each of their unique heritages, and the interesting ways that different cultures intersect with witchcraft.”
Charmed begins October 14 at 9pm on The CW.