Alexandra Daddario is moving from the sunny beaches of Hawai’i to a much darker world (quite literally, too) in her new TV adventure. The actor, who scored an Emmy nomination for season one of The White Lotus last year, stars in AMC’s Mayfair Witches. In the adaptation of Anne Rice’s 1990s trilogy, Daddario plays Dr. Rowan Fielding, who discovers her lineage consists of witches and an undeniable connection to a sinister demon. The show follows Rowan’s journey to understanding her ancestry and her newfound powers.
Daddario, of course, is no stranger to the thriller genre or even to book adaptations, having starred in the Percy Jackson movies and shows like True Detective. However, Mayfair Witches—the second AMC drama after Interview With The Vampire to expand the Anne Rice Universe—is the first time she leads her TV show. It allows her to showcase a range she hasn’t had much opportunity to portray yet, despite being in the industry for a couple of decades.
Ahead of the Mayfair Witches premiere on January 8, The A.V. Club spoke to Daddario about her affection for the genre, how she shaped Rowan for the screen, and whether we’ll get a crossover with Interview With The Vampire as both shows progress.
The A.V. Club: After The White Lotus, what drew you to Mayfair Witches?
Alexandra Daddario: I wanted to continue working with good people. I loved everyone involved in Mayfair Witches. I’m fascinated by Anne Rice even though I hadn’t read any of her work before booking the show. I wanted the opportunity to dive into who she was and why she wrote these stories. I had also never been the lead of my own TV show, which felt cool. I’m looking for anything instinctually right at the moment, and this did it for me.
AVC: The Mayfair Witches trilogy is one of Anne Rice’s most famous pieces of work. Were you nervous about adapting it for TV, and what changes did you discuss for the on-screen version?
AD: I’ve been part of book adaptations and I’m well aware, as an avid reader myself, fans have a deep love of the story and characters and want it to be true to the books. I’ve always found they are two completely different mediums with different structures. The idea is to go in with the best intentions and try to be true to the story; it’s why they’re adapted in the first place. It’s how we approached it. Of course, there’s pressure to that. I read the books before and while I was filming the show, and it helped so much to develop Rowan and bring in extra things to her. You have so much information about a character on the page that you can’t put it all on a TV show.
AVC: In the initial episodes, Rowan is grounded in reality. She’s professionally skilled yet faces constant microaggressions. How did you approach Rowan as this modern woman who learns about her witchy ancestral roots?
AD: The reality is if you’re a woman in this world, there are things you’re going to face, and I’m sure you’ve experienced it too, but no matter how accomplished she is, she has to face these microaggressions. Rowan isn’t exactly the friendliest at times, but there’s a reason. It’s because she’s struggling and compartmentalizing so much. I tried to approach her as the mess she is, and how the world reacts to who she is. I thought it was well-written because she faced tough struggles even before finding out the truth about her family.
AVC: One of the most controversial but essential relationships in Rice’s trilogy is between Rowan and Lasher. What was it like to develop that dynamic with Jack Huston?
AD: I love Jack Huston. He did an amazing job with Lasher. It’s an interesting thing because it’s a tough role. I kind of fell in love with their dynamic in the book. If you look at it in a grounded way, he’s the boyfriend you really shouldn’t date. But I think their connection and her being drawn to him, whether it’s manipulated or real, there is something incredibly intoxicating over their power over each other. I know I’ve been in that type of situation with someone I really shouldn’t have been with, probably a lot of us have been. I enjoyed exploring it because it is the twisted connection where you understand it but know it shouldn’t happen.
AVC: Much like the books, the show embraces the freakishness of the story with each passing episode. What was it like to dive into the horror aspect of the show?
AD: It was intense. I’ve done some horror before, so I know you must do a lot of screaming and crying. You also have to balance out how scared you are in each moment because it can’t be the same, you have to build to something and how you would genuinely react in such circumstances. There’s nothing to relate to since it’s fantasy. But it’s amazing because you can reach and explore emotions and fear you wouldn’t usually experience. That’s what I’m intrigued about most when it comes to horror, personally. It helps you understand your relationship with fear and the world around you. I thought the show handled it beautifully.
AVC: Witches have been explored in pop culture for a long time. Do you have a favorite? Or was there anything you watched to prepare or get inspired by?
AD: Nothing super specific apart from Rice’s books. The relationship to witches in the world, there are a million different incarnations, from the Salem Witch Trials to Halloween costumes. It’s people being afraid of women, people trying to oppress women. All of that is fascinating to me. In this case, and playing this character, it was about exploring what a person does when you get that power. Are you a good person who does bad things and tries to justify them?
I think there’s a fantasy entertainment element to it. When you dive into the reality that in this country, although it was a long time ago, it does have to do with power, fear, and oppression. I approached it from both the perspective of this being a fun show, but having relatable themes and problems in this world. There were a couple of Wiccans on set, and it was fun learning about what it is. It’s essentially about our relationship with nature.
AVC: Do you think we’ll get a proper crossover between Mayfair Witches and Interview With The Vampire?
AD: That’s an intention, but it’s baby steps down the road. We hope to build something people love and then we can explore all the crossover stuff. I don’t have a say in that, but it would be great fun.
AVC: Is there anything else you can tease about how season one progresses?
AD: It gets crazy. As I read it, the suspense kept building every episode, so I kept thinking, “I can’t believe I have to do that this week.” It gets weirder and weirder with the twists and turns.
AVC: We have to talk about The White Lotus, of course. Do you think working on it and landing an Emmy nomination opened new doors for you?
AD: Oh, yes, of course. I’ve been doing this since I was a child, so having something like an Emmy nomination under my belt means a lot. Being an actor means ups and downs, but you hope for that accolade. It’s a nice acknowledgment of people saying, “Okay, wow, we loved you in this show.” It did open up doors. I couldn’t have been more shocked and happy about that.
AVC: Did you keep up with season two of The White Lotus?
AD: I’m such a jerk, I haven’t had time to watch anything, even my favorite reality shows, which says a lot. I’ve been reading a ton about season two, though, and it looks fun. As soon as my husband is back in town, we will watch it together. I’m so excited.