Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches, the second series in the Anne Rice Immortal Universe at AMC, follows Dr. Rowan Fielding (Alexandra Daddario), a young neurosurgeon discovering newfound powers that could have very dangerous consequences. As she tries to comes to terms with who she really is and learns what it means to be the heir to the Mayfair family of witches, a mysterious presence complicates everything.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Daddario talked about how exciting it is to be a part of the Anne Rice Immortal Universe, the pressure that she puts on herself with each role that she takes on, building the character from a genuine place, the appeal of this role, Rowan’s battle between darkness and light, how Lasher (Jack Huston) is like the boyfriend you know you should resist but can’t, filming in New Orleans, and the coolest thing about getting to play a witch.
Collider: Thank you for talking to me about this. I’m excited about this whole Anne Rice universe we have going on now. It’s very cool.
ALEXANDRA DADDARIO: It’s very exciting to be part of it.
What sort of responsibility do you feel, in being part of all of this? As an actor, it must be exciting to get to play in that world, but also a bit terrifying because her work is so beloved. Do you feel pressure? Do you put pressure on yourself? How do you even deal with all that?
DADDARIO: I put pressure on myself anytime I go do a role, because people are going to see it and I take what I do very seriously, as much as I also try to have a sense of humor about it. I build my characters from a really genuine place. I do this because I love it. I read the text. I’ve done book adaptations before, and I’m aware of the love that people have. As an avid reader myself, I completely understand that. Everyone comes in with the best of intentions, in putting something into a different medium. It’s a different medium of art – a television show versus a book – and I’m really proud of the genuineness and the good intentions we came in with. I built the character in a way that I hope people see Rowan in her, and of course, there’s pressure to that, but we do it because we love it. You can’t stress out too much, otherwise you can’t do your job.
The Anne Rice of it all aside, what was it that made you want to take this on? Was it just something about the character? There’s something so interesting about a doctor who can both save lives and take them.
DADDARIO: It was the character, to start with. I also loved the people involved. I’ve never done a show like this. I hadn’t read any Anne Rice. Somehow, even in all of my reading when I was young, I missed Anne Rice, so I was really intrigued to learn about her. I thought it was a wonderful learning experience to explore this really complex woman who wrote these really incredible stories. I wanted to know who she was and why she wrote them, and where it all came from, so it was a really interesting opportunity to learn something new and play a new character, and be part of something that I hadn’t done before.
Was there anything you were particularly nervous about taking on, as far as the witchcraft of it or the surgery side of it? With all the layers to this character, was there anything you were nervous about learning or taking on, or was it all just really fun to get to figure out how to build all of that and put it together?
DADDARIO: It was both. There was a part of me that said, “Okay, I’m playing a doctor,” and I felt like I understood that. You wanna make sure that you have the doctor part down because that’s a very specific type of character. The show gets crazier and crazier, and the things that happen to Rowan are insane. So, it’s about, how do you balance? How is this person processing all of this information? At what point is she completely broken down versus compartmentalizing or handling all this information? She’s also grieving and she’s in mourning. And so, balancing all of that was complex, but also a fun and good challenge.
What was it like to figure out how to show hints and glimpses of what she’s capable of before she even understands what she’s capable of, and to figure out how big to go with some of that, as she’s discovering the different sides of herself? Were there a lot of conversations about how to have that come across?
DADDARIO: We had some conversations. It depends on the project, but I try to relate things back to what it is to be human. When you’re grappling with something that you don’t understand, I remember the feelings I had when you learn something new about yourself, or when you’re going through those formative years and you’re discovering what you’re capable of, or discovering your sexuality, or you’re discovering what you’re good at. You don’t even know what you’re good at. That’s what I tried to relate it to. It was, “Oh, my God, I have this new power that I didn’t know I had. How do you use it? What do you do with it? What is this?” I tried to relate it to that and the fear of that, and then not understanding it, and then going through the process of learning how to harness those kinds of powers or skills. It’s very human, so I just tried to bring it back to that.
Because it feels like Rowan is someone who, at least initially, is being pulled between darkness and light, will that be a constant battle for her, or is it going to become very clear where she wants to go?
DADDARIO: In this season, yes, that is a huge thing. That’s very human, but it’s fascinating. What do you do, if you’re given power and you think you’re a good person? Are you a bad person? Are you a good person who does bad things? Are you a bad person who does good things? What have you told yourself about yourself? I like to think that, if I were given powers, I’d only use them for good, but it must be tempting, at times. There’s the person that’s trying to scam you at the auto body shop, that with the flick of a wrist, you just knock over. I think Rowan realizes that maybe she’s not as good of a person as she thought she was, or maybe she doesn’t care. That’s an interesting thing that goes on, through the whole season.
Lasher is such an interesting character because he’s very mysterious to the audience, but also to the characters in the story. What can we expect from that character and that relationship? What was it like to explore that kind of relationship?
DADDARIO: I related it to the bad boyfriend you had that you couldn’t resist, but you knew you shouldn’t be with him. Jack [Huston] did an incredible job with the role. It’s not an easy role, and he did a really amazing job. They’re very connected and it’s very sexy, and there’s a reason that she’s drawn to him. It’s a whole metaphor for something else. I actually love that relationship, and I think that’s what happens in the books too. There’s an appeal to the relationship and the forbiddenness of it. She’s not allowed and she knows she shouldn’t be doing this, but she can’t resist.
New Orleans is such an incredible city to spend time in, but it’s also visually so incredible to look at. What has been the best aspect of working there, and what is the most challenging aspect of working there?
DADDARIO: I don’t know that you could have shot this anywhere else. It’s Anne Rice’s hometown. Everything that she writes about, every street she writes about, is there and is real. The people are amazing. The crews are amazing. It’s a fascinating city, with its political climate and the things that the city has to deal with, weather-wise, and the history of the city. The people are down to earth. They take care of each other, and are just really wonderful people. The heat is very hard to deal with, but people live in hot climates and you figure it out. But it’s definitely always hard to shoot in a very hot climate.
I love New Orleans. I don’t know whether or not I actually believe in ghosts, but it feels like there is a living spirit there and a living history that I haven’t felt anywhere else.
DADDARIO: I think anywhere you travel that’s old or has old structures feels like that. Europe is filled with places like that. If cities or objects or things hold energy, or you meet people that you can just tell have been through something, New Orleans is that kind of city, for sure.
What is the coolest thing about getting to play a witch?
DADDARIO: When you’re a kid and you’re fantasizing about the kinds of things you’ll do with your life, in a lot of that, you’re using the idea of magic or superheroes to understand your relationship with the world and what you’re capable of. There’s something really fun about tapping into that and thinking about, “Oh, God, I have this power that I can hurt or heal people with. I can use this person to help me harness my powers, so how do I use that person? How do I do this?” As an actress, you get to explore all these different aspects of human nature through a magical lens. What’s more fun than that?
Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches premieres on AMC and AMC+, along with BBC America, IFC, Sundance and WEtv.