What the world needs now is good energy and a little magic. Charmed actress Madeleine Mantock brings both to the television screen as the series with feminist themes returns for a third season.
Slice chatted with the talented British actress a day before she wrapped filming during the pandemic for the latest season of the CW series. Safe in Vancouver (while we were also safely distanced in Toronto), the star with purpose spoke to us about the evolution of her character, Macy Vaughn, positive representation and social justice topics being tackled in the upcoming season.
Filming in quarantine and growing alongside her character Macy Vaughn
When you are as dedicated to your art as Mantock, safety protocols are just something you do to make shooting happen. Lockdown in March 2020 delayed filming, and Charmed didn’t start shooting again until September when restrictions were lifted. With a can-do attitude, Mantock accepted the reality of set life during a pandemic and incorporated safety protocols right into her daily. “I leave the house, I have my mask on, I get into the car, I fill in my questionnaire about how I’m feeling — I just do all of the things that are part of my day,” says Mantock.
I think you can learn things from your character, you can learn things from the dynamics that you have — the things that they experience. I really like that about the job. Yes, it’s not real and it’s TV and magical — but there’s still definitely substance to it.
According to Mantock, there’s usually very little that can stop production, so she was shocked when lockdown hit back in spring. The actress has been grateful to refocus and get back to work — even though the new systems have their challenges. In fact, the Charmed team even introduced some things, storyline-wise, that enabled production to maintain distance on set.
Slipping back into character is easy when you respect and appreciate who they are. “I really like my character and I love playing her,” says Mantock, who feels there are elements of Macy that are very similar to who she is as Madeleine — and of course, parts that are not.
“There are some times when I’m like, am I really this analytical — or is this my character? Am I learning how to be like that because I’m playing someone who is? The lines can get a little bit blurred in terms of, wait, is this my quality I bring as Madeleine or is this a Macy thing that I’m tapping into,” says Mantock.
When you’re playing a character for years, it may be tough to pinpoint exactly where your personal characteristics end and your fictional character begins. “I think maybe in the future, when I look back at this role,” ponders Mantock, “I think you can learn things from your character, you can learn things from the dynamics that you have — the things that they experience. I really like that about the job. Yes, it’s not real and it’s TV and magical — but there’s still definitely substance to it.”
And she is exactly right. After all, representation matters and what we see and experience on screen can limit or expand possibilities in our real lives.
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This is how Charmed is getting women of colour representation right
Unlike the original Charmed, the three sisters in this series are all women of colour. Melonie Diaz plays the middle sister, a lesbian feminist with the power to freeze, Sarah Jeffery portrays youngest sibling Maggie Vera, the bubbly, kindhearted one with the power of telepathy and Mantock brings to life Macy, the eldest, driven sister with the PhD with the power of telekinesis.
On the show, this powerful trio of good witches come together to fight evil forces. In 2021, this includes evil social forces too. In tackling these issues, the ethnically diverse leading women of the show bring to screen the representation we need by opening up story possibilities that explore a range of social justice topics through the lens of complex identities.
“We have Melanie, myself and Sarah with this incredible opportunity to play these women who are weak and strong and right and wrong — and all of these things and it’s such a blessing,” says Mantock, “I’m really grateful we’ve been figuring out how to do that. I feel a strong kind of responsibility to keep advocating for more of that.”
This isn’t new advocacy for Mantock. Since the reboot launched back in 2018, the actress has been calling for more diverse casting and better representation in the industry in general. She’s encouraged more opportunity for women of colour and has spoken up about diverse storytelling. And she’s glad Charmed is getting it right in a lot of ways.
It’s interesting for me — I have this feeling of, I do want to tell these stories and that means I have to give of myself and be brave about it. When it’s not entirely fiction, it costs something, y’know, personally.
“One thing our show does get right, I guess it’s more of a behind-the-scenes thing — it’s that our writers and producers and showrunners — people in charge in making those decisions — are incredibly open to what we would like to see. They’re really doing what they can to make those things happen,” says Mantock. “For season three… I’m seeing that extension of what positive representation can be, in terms of like, how big is the pool of the underrepresented we’re choosing to show here.”
The pandemic, of course, is not helping to support these goals. With quarantine requirements and travel restrictions, expansion doesn’t feel especially easy to do. But Mantock says the show continues to try. “From the beginning, we’ve always had that goal and that desire to be a really kind of inclusive and forward thinking show — and there have been moments where we’ve been really strong on it — and moments when we had to focus on other things for various reasons.”
Mantock feels like now, Charmed is really finding their footing. She acknowledges the demand for more, but recognizes the reality of time. She’s happy with where they’re at and what they’re doing — because if she wasn’t, she’s not the type who’d still be doing it.
See also: Teaunna Gray spotlight: Why representation matters in storytelling and how this director is making it happen.
Responsible storytelling and bringing social justice to the screen is more complex than some may think
In season one, they had a witch in the writers room to help support storytelling and representation. In the latest season, they’re diving into some heavier social justice topics that sometimes demand more emotional energy from the cast and crew. Mantock mentions a recent table read, a double whammy — two episodes at the same time, one of which explores a specific social justice topic.
“It’s interesting for me — I have this feeling of, I do want to tell these stories and that means I have to give of myself and be brave about it,” says Mantock. “When it’s not entirely fiction, it costs something, y’know, personally.”
When art imitates life, it can be difficult for actors who have to relive personal experiences. “It’s, take a deep breath — ‘cause this is my life. Yes, this might be a scene that happens to Macy, and it’s on page 12, and you could look at it that way — but when you are kind of connected to your experience and you’re connected to your work, your character — like, when the lines start to blur, especially in terms of storyline… I get apprehensive, but I have to give myself over to it because I’ve said time and time again, those are the stories I want to tell. It just happens this story is similar in ways to the things I’ve experienced, either in my life or workplaces,” explains Mantock.
Mantock is generously giving herself over to it. “You understand it, and that’s OK, and you can take yourself out of it and really try and approach it as Macy and not, ‘oh my gosh this happened to me two years ago’ — but this is going to be a challenge for me because it is kind of close to home,” says Mantock.
But the actress is unafraid to take the jump. She understands the value and need for telling these stories — and providing the necessary representation. After all, exposure leads to understanding.
“As a show, we’ve never been coy about some of our social commentary,” says Mantock. “But in terms of the racial element, we haven’t necessarily delved that deeply into it — up until now.”
Charmed Season 3 premieres Sunday, January 24 at 9PM ET/PT. Viewers can also watch live and on demand via STACKTV.