Based on the best-selling trilogy, Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches
premiered last week on AMC. The series follows Rowan Fielding (Alexandria Daddario), a neurosurgeon who discovers that she comes from a family of powerful witches.
Annabeth Gish plays the role of Deidre Mayfair, Rowan’s biological mother. The actress was very familiar with the book series, having read them when they first were released. “I just was so fascinated and intrigued by this particular world of Anne Rice in The Witching Hour
, that I even wanted to option it to play Rowan,” the actress told SciFi Vision during a recent interview. “…It was mystical and ethereal, but also [had] female empowerment and intellect. So, it had all of these elements that I was fascinated by and still am.”
The role came with a lot of physical challenges, as for a lot of it, Deidre is catatonic and confined to a wheelchair. Gish also had to wear contacts that were hard to see through.
When it came to what she connected to with the character, it was the fact that Deirdre, like Gish, is a mother. “At the beginning, she is a victim, but then she's reawakened with her power through a monstrous force,” she explained. “So, yes, there are lots of things to get through with Deirdre, but the goal of seeking her daughter and the empowerment of finding Rowan is the motivating factor, and as a mother, I certainly can relate to that.”
During the interview, the actress also talked about connecting with the character’s strength. “I think what I love about Deirdre Mayfair and a lot of the Mayfair women is that they are resilient beyond what their legacy affords them,” said Gish.
She also took a lot of inspiration from her surroundings. “[A]nother really integral part of it was New Orleans itself,” she told the site. “It's such a character to draw from, whether it's the heat or the Spanish moss or the just the Creole vibe. I mean, that house where we filmed, the First Street house, it just has this Gothic feel. So, that really informed my senses, and it's just there's so much in Anne Rice that I don't think anyone would ever be short for input.”
Before Mayfair Witches
, one of the roles Gish was most known for was Special Agent Monica Reyes of the popular series The X-Files
, which she returned for when it was rebooted in 2016. Although she admitted that some of Reyes actions in the new series might have been a bit out of character, she was happy to come back to the role. “[M]y love for Chris [Carter] and Frank [Spotnitz] and Gillian [Anderson] and David [Duchovny] and everything X-Files
, I will always say yes to working with them.”
“I'm always impressed that they do,” she added. “I think that it's a testament to Chris and Frank. They were forecasting the future in so many ways…It’s enduring for sure.”
When choosing roles, it’s important for Gish that she connects. “Especially as a mother, it has to be worth my time to be away from my children, even though they're getting older now,” said the actress. “There has to be some connection, in the character, in the messaging of the story, something that's intriguing and challenging for me to try on that's different and new. Kind of the gift of this profession is that you get to really try on so many different coats.”
For more from the actress, including tidbits about the effects from the shocking scene in the elevator in tonight’s episode, whether there is still the possibility of a return to the series, memories from The X-Files
that still stick out in her mind, and much more, read the full transcript below. Be sure to catch all-new episodes of Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches
Sundays on AMC and AMC+.
SCIFI VISION: How familiar were you with the book series when you got the part?
Well, I am so familiar that I read it when it came out in 1991. I was twenty at the time. I just was so fascinated and intrigued by this particular world of Anne Rice in The Witching Hour
, that I even wanted to option it to play Rowan, because I was so obsessed with just what a wonderfully - it was mystical and ethereal, but also [had] female empowerment and intellect. So, it had all of these elements that I was fascinated by and still am. So very, very familiar. I was going to ask you why you took the role. I guess that answers that question, then. Was it hard for a lot of it though to kind of act and convey her emotion? Because for a lot of it, you're just sitting there, and you don't really do a whole lot physically. I would think that that would make it kind of difficult.
Yes, there were multiple challenges for me with this role in particular, not the least of which is that I'm supposed to play someone who is Thorazined out and catatonic essentially, but also, for the first episode and a half I'm in a wheelchair, and a very wickery rickety one, [laughs]
because it was sort of antiquated. Then, I have these contact lenses that I'm wearing, which are also another sort of veil to try to work through. Instrumentally, acting wise, it was very hard, because I couldn't see either. So, it was very challenging and had a lot of physical challenges to get through.
Other than the physical things, were there parts of her character that you had trouble connecting with other than that she’s catatonic?
Well, I mean, I think Deirdre is a woman who, her spirit and her recklessness and her sexuality and everything that was who she was from a young age was cut short. At the beginning, she is a victim, but then she's reawakened with her power through a monstrous force. So, yes, there are lots of things to get through with Deirdre, but the goal of seeking her daughter and the empowerment of finding Rowan is the motivating factor, and as a mother, I certainly can relate to that. Other than taking from the book and the script, and you said about being a mother, but is there anywhere else you kind of drew from? And how do you with a story like this that has such a rich backstory, how do you balance what you pull from that versus what you're able to add on your own creatively to her?
Well, that's the joy of it, to be able to take all those elements, but another really integral part of it was New Orleans itself. It's such a character to draw from, whether it's the heat or the Spanish moss or the just the Creole vibe. I mean, that house where we filmed, the First Street house, it just has this Gothic feel. So, that really informed my senses, and it's just there's so much in Anne Rice that I don't think anyone would ever be short for input. Do you have like a favorite place in New Orleans that you got to go to while you were there? I've never been, but I've heard a lot of really cool stories from different people that were working there.
Well, to my right there's a print from my favorite hotel in New Orleans. It's called the St. Vincent hotel. It's an old, beautiful, historic building, where it was a home for wayward women way back in the day. They've redone it, and it's like old New Orleans with new New Orleans but has this essence; it just captures it. So, I stayed there, and it's definitely my favorite place in the lower Garden District for sure. I was going to say that that picture, it actually kind of made me think of Monica Reyes (from The X-Files) right away. It's kind of got that vibe.
Yeah, listen, I'm drawn to these esoteric roles for a reason. I think my own curiosity about the scientific supernatural world is real. I haven't read the books, so I don’t know to what extent, but I assume it's sort of the same story, but is there anything that kind of from the book you had wanted to put in that you couldn’t, just because of time and how it was written for the script?
Oh my God, listen, my hats are off to Esta [Spalding] and Michelle [Ashford] and Shaun [Reycraft] and all of the writers, because the material of Anne Rice, and in these three books in particular, it’s immense and almost impossible to try to get everything in. They do a great job of going all the way back to 1681 in Scotland and trying to weave it all in, but it's almost an insurmountable task. But that's also why I think [it works] to read the books as a companion to the show. But the show, it's modernized. It takes creative liberties to sort of make it relevant for today, but the books, the source material, is so incredible. Who's someone that you would have liked to have gotten more scenes with on the show?
I didn't get to do anything with Tongayi [Chirisa], and I think he's wonderful. I didn't get to do anything with Jen Richards who also is. I think the cast is great. And one of the standout performances in the first episode is Erica Gimpel, who plays Rowan's adoptive mother, and she's so good. She's so grounded. So, I think those are my three that I wish I had gotten to do more with. Beth Grant is phenomenal and is sort of the unapologetic antagonist, the crazy old aunt. Can you talk a bit about filming Deidre’s death at the elevators. I don't know how much of it, if any, was practical effects, or if it was all digitally added. It's kind of hard to tell. There's a lot of blood, but I assume some of it was real fake blood.
The special effects team, which [is] award winning, for sure, made this [fantastic], crazy double of me, like literally a synthetic, prosthetic being...But they use all of that for the double, for the death elevator scene. So, thankfully, I did not have to endure. I think there's one scene where Alex runs into the elevator with me that we did in real time. So, I got Alex in my ear screaming [laughs]
; that was pretty real, but everything else was digital. I didn't know it was going to happen. That was definitely a shock. And sad too, I was like, “She finally got to meet her mother...nope.”
I know. I mean, not to be ridiculously more important than I am, but we laugh, because it's sort of the Sean Bean Game of Thrones
character who's in the first two episodes and then dies. [laughs] I assume you did some kind of life cast or something to make the double? You've probably I'm sure done that before, but that, to me - that would freak me out. I couldn't do it.
You have to practice meditation skills, because it is. It's very claustrophobic, but they're great. They're professionals. They're prepared. They know how to kind of talk you through every step. Now it's become almost like getting an MRI or something where you just have got to do it. It's part of the job. It becomes this oddly like, if you make it such, it can become a practice meditative experience, but it's not a preferable thing. [laughs] Is there the possibility that you may be returning in flashbacks or whatever after this episode?
How's that for an answer? Yes, I am in more episodes. Deirdre appears in different iterations. Obviously you’ve read this awhile ago, but is there anything that Deidre has sort of taught you, just as like a lesson you've learned from playing her?
I think what I love about Deirdre Mayfair and a lot of the Mayfair women is that they are resilient beyond what their legacy affords them. They fight. Their spirits are fierce, and it is that sort of unruly feminine power that I think makes the story really - whether women are oppressed in the family, they fight back. I think the Mayfair women they always fight back, and they're resilient. Definitely. Is there anything you learned from an acting standpoint from working on the show? [laughs]
Contacts are a bitch. I learned to Latin chant. I had to speak Latin for the invocation of Lasher (Jack Huston). When you do something like that, do you just learn it like word for word from the script, or do you go into the meaning and that kind of thing?
No, absolutely you go into the meaning. We had a Latin instructor who recorded the proper pronunciation. We had to translate it, because I want to be able to know what I'm invoking and saying on multiple levels, the least of which is I don't want to do something that, you know, sitting around chanting, you have to protect yourself, in any form. That's true. That's true. Well, before we go, I did want to at least ask you at least one thing about The X-Files. Obviously, it's been off for a while, but what's sort of the one memory that still sticks out to you when you think about it or when people ask you about it?
I have so many wonderful, fun, funny memories, whether it's Gillian Anderson and I running at two in the morning alongside a big ship in Long Beach that we're filming, and we're running in high heels and giddy with sleeplessness, or some of the stunts I got to do for “Audrey Pauley” when I fall, [or] Robert Patrick, all the fun we had. Then, of course, meeting my husband on the show. So, I have just so many, so many good memories. Were you surprised when you got called to come back to do the newer series? Which, unfortunately, did not last long enough for me. [laughs]
I know. I was hopeful; I was happy, despite the fact that Monica might have done some things that I wouldn't, the OG Monica. That's very true. We won't go there.
But really, again, my love for Chris and Frank and Gillian and David and everything X-Files
, I will always say yes to working with them. Yeah, I've been like a huge fan from the beginning…It's been so long. It's crazy.
Isn't it amazing how ahead of its time it was? People still talk about it. Are you surprised that people still ask about it and talk about it?
I mean, I'm always impressed that they do, and I think that it's a testament to Chris and Frank. They were forecasting the future in so many ways. I love that it has. It’s enduring for sure. Yeah. Streaming probably helps that too, I'm sure. Who knows? Maybe there'll be something again, we don't know.
You never know. I did want to ask you too, when you're getting a role or going out for role, is there anything in particular that you look for to help you decide whether you want to do it or not?
Gosh, yes, there are lots of elements. I mean, especially as a mother, it has to be worth my time to be away from my children, even though they're getting older now. There has to be some connection, in the character, in the messaging of the story, something that's intriguing and challenging for me to try on that's different and new. Kind of the gift of this profession is that you get to really try on so many different coats.