HomeAll postsEsta Spalding on adapting Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches for television

Esta Spalding on adapting Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches for television

Esta Spalding, a blonde woman smiles. Photo by Denise Estes PhotographyThis is a Dark Matter Zine podcast and I’m your host Nalini Haynes. Today I interview Esta Spalding, co-creator of the television series Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches.

Dark Matter Zine Acknowledges this recording is taking place on the unceded Country of the Bunurong Peoples’ of the Kulin Nation as Traditional Owners and Custodians of this Country. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Esta Spalding

My guest Esta Alice Spalding is an American author, screenwriter and poet who won the Pat Lowther Award in 2000 for Lost August. And, as I said before, she’s a co-creator and writer of Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches, which is sure to be a cult classic.

You can find Esta Spalding on Twitter and her website.

Alexandria Daddario as Rowan Fielding stares at dead ravens on her car in Anne Rice's Mayfair WitchesAbout Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches

I found a website that seemed to imply Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches was released in the US in January. Its first public release in Australia was yesterday. However, yours truly has seen THE WHOLE FIRST SEASON.

I love it.

Hubby also thinks it’s great.

We are BOTH looking forward to next season, especially after that CLIFFHANGER ENDING.

Second season incoming

Esta Spalding says they’re halfway through making season 2 already so that’s reassuring. Especially when too many streaming services are opting out of scripted series in favor of cheap nasty unscripted series including reality tv that I loathe with a passion. I ONLY watch scripted series. Honestly, I tried that Ryan Reynolds Ted Lasso knockoff but got partway through episode two before turning off the tv and counting down the months until Ted Lasso season 3 was released.

Contemporary and terrifying

While trying not to give any spoilers, I’ll say that I think Mayfair Witches is a brilliant TV series with a lot to say about contemporary society. I found the first episode or 2 a bit confusing, trying to place the 3 main women characters: were they the same woman at different times? Different women? Turns out the teen and the middle aged woman were the same woman and the doctor was her daughter.

In the current political climate I found Mayfair Witches‘s men burning witches TERRIFYING. Terrifying because men like that really exist but they don’t want to burn witches, they want to murder or at least injure people who value democracy and decency, two things we used to take for granted. Christian Lives Matter and other neo-Nazi groups currently terrorize decent Australians in 2023. (News.com.au article. CLM is literally attacking pro-trans groups. CLM doxed pro-Queer activists. Murdoch’s Sky News reports on CLM and includes a newspaper page stating that Thorpe (Indigenous federal senator and Queer ally) was “pulverised by police”.)

Regal trans woman

In contrast to Mayfair Witches‘s men who want to burn witches, Esta Spalding and co cast trans actor* Jen Richards as a woman. (* I use ‘actor’ regardless of gender because ‘actor’ is gender neutral.) Richards’s character, Jojo, is consistently AND WITHOUT COMMENT treated as a woman, equal with and as empowered as a woman and a Mayfair witch. The only reason I realized Richards is trans is because of her beautiful voice; she has those generally trans harmonics. Beautiful. I’d love her to narrate audiobooks; I could listen to her voice for hours.

Other representation

Anyhoo, the series is an excellent representation of women, of a multitude of races, of trans actors – apparently there’s another that I missed – plus a bisexual character… and probably more. The problem, the source of conflict, is men who want to burn witches. And men who seek to usurp witches’ power.

Unfolding mystery, wait for it…

Mayfair Witches begins a little in the vein of a mystery where the viewer must pay attention. By episode 2 or 3 I’d figured out the 3 women in the beginning, then a 17th century backstory started unfolding. As hubby said, unlike many USA tv shows Mayfair Witches respects its viewers and doesn’t spoon-feed detail. Creators assume viewers are intelligent and engaged. And the series is well worth the effort.

I wasn’t interested in Ted Lasso. I only watched it because Tim Ferguson and Steve Kaplan both raved about it. As it was, it took until episode 3 for me to become really engaged. Then I cared. I even cared about this fictitious football team and their matches. When I told my son this, knowing me so well HE was amazed. In contrast, I started watching Everything Everywhere All At Once but, when it seemed to be just a family drama, I quit. Probably minutes from the fateful trip to the tax office where it all gets interesting. Don’t be like me. Mayfair Witches may be a little like Lasso and EEAAO – needing a little extra effort in the beginning – for viewers who, like me, haven’t read the books. Don’t quit after 10 minutes. Watch at least 2 episodes. Or, in the case of EEAAO, at least 20 minutes.

Fear of shark-jumping vs need to read the books

Apparently season one of Mayfair Witches is an adaptation of the first book. So, like with Ted Lasso, I’ll be watching, waiting and counting down the months until the next season. (Season 3 is Ted Lasso‘s last. I’ll be a little sad but I’ll be glad they didn’t prolong it only to jump the shark.) If I can find time, I’ll read Anne Rice’s books. Listening to audiobooks is more likely right now: reading tends to be for review books only.

If you wonder why we were taught to fear witches and not the men who burned them, you may also enjoy this interview of Bianca Marais. Her book, The Witches of Moonshyne Manor, asks the same question.

Acknowledgement of Country

Dark Matter Zine Acknowledges this recording is taking place on the unceded Country of the Bunurong Peoples’ of the Kulin Nation as Traditional Owners and Custodians of this Country. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

(I have occasionally acknowledged Country in podcasts. This year I aim to lift my game in many areas, so I plan to Acknowledge Country in every podcast. An Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners can be done by anyone. It’s a way of showing awareness of, and respect for, the Aboriginal Traditional Owners of the land where a meeting or event is held. For more information about Country and respect for Australia’s First Nations, read this post that also has links to useful websites.)

Thanks

Thank you for listening. And thank you to Esta Spalding for chatting about Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches, adaptations and her research motivated by respecting the genre! My next podcast will feature Ilsa Evans’s book launch of Family Baggage at Robinson’s Bookshop in The Glen.

Nalini
Nalinihttps://www.darkmatterzine.com
Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.

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