Discovery of Witches: Secrets from the Set - Sensual costumes, giggling and the best sets in the world

The stars and creative team behind A Discovery of Witches reveal filming secrets from the second season of the hit Sky One series - now set in Elizabethan London.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 1 January 2021 - 10.00am
Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer in A Discovery of Witches season 2

Watch A Discovery of Witches season 1 and 2 on Sky One with NOW

Discovery of Witches fans have had a brilliant start to 2021 with the full second season available to binge on Sky One with NOW.

After the dramatic conclusion to season 1, the new episodes begin with Matthew and Diana hiding in time in the fascinating and treacherous world of Elizabethan London.

Enemies are everywhere, Diana’s unleashed magic has taken a dark and frightening turn and Matthew is struggling to re-inhabit the dangerous life he led over four centuries ago.

Danger is closing in on all sides, not least in the form of a vicious foe from Matthew’s past, one whom no one expected to see again.

As fans discover the twists and surprises of season 2, we look back at the making of the series and hear from the cast in their own words about the incredible journey they took to bring the show to life.

From modern fantasy to period drama

The biggest change for season 2 is the new locations and sets as Matthew and Diana head to Elizabethan England.

Brought to life by Production Designer James North, the focus of the action is now on the streets of London – which were built on a piece of land in Newport, Wales.

“Everything takes a fraction longer as inaccuracies are not as forgivable,” said Matthew Goode, who returns as Matthew De Clermont.

“Any period drama does, be it by the costume or the hair. Working on James North’s sets transports you as an actor. If those elements weren’t nailed, I wouldn’t have been able to slip into character as easily. Apart from that, you’re also just trying to get your lines and movement right.”

Talking about the challenges of producing series 2, Teresa Palmer said: “One of the main differences is that in Elizabethan London, people looked different. For us actors, this meant longer periods of time getting ready.

“Hair and make-up usually take two and a half hours. My hair is curled, and then intricate pieces are woven into it, as well as a certain period make-up look. Then there are the dresses – most of the fabric that Sarah Arthur uses to create our costumes is sourced overseas. Sarah will travel to places like Prague and bring back beautiful patterns and fabrics.

“Then she has a team working around the clock to stitch them together. Even navigating people getting dressed in the morning takes longer. So, there have been some challenges but we’ve all really enjoyed stepping into this period.”

Getting the giggles

Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer in A Discovery of Witches

The on-screen sizzle between Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer is one of the essential ingredients to Witches success.

And it’s no surprise that chemistry between the pair continues once the cameras have finished rolling.

“It’s funny because Matthew Goode and Matthew de Clermont are so similar in so many ways that the line gets blurred a lot of the time,” said Teresa.

“Matthew just *is* Matthew de Clermont. The way he walks, talks, what he emotes – he’s just so brilliant as Matthew de Clermont.”

The Australian said: “Goody, as we call him, is just such a laugh. He’s a wonderful human with many layers and complexities, which serve the character well.

“The two of us are constantly giggling. Philippa Langdale, one of our directors, sent us a four-minute clip of the two of us laughing.

“We both have three kids, so we have a lot in common and we both turn up to set exhausted! He’s my partner in crime and we have each other’s back. It’s a beautiful collaboration.”

The best set design in the world

Teresa Palmer in A Discovery of Witches

Production designer James North only had just over six weeks to transform his designs into reality and bring the London of 1591 to life on screen, but despite those constraints it’s fair to say the cast were blown away by the final results.

“James North is the best production designer in the world – I am just going to put it out there,” said Palmer.

“I have never seen anything like what I’ve seen this season with our sets. They are incredible and the attention to detail is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

“They’ve built the streets of Elizabethan London on a piece of land in Newport, Wales. The first time I walked onto the set I burst into tears. It was the most magnificent thing I’ve ever seen, it felt like I’d walked back in time.

“I took my parents onto the set after telling them they couldn’t visit Wales without seeing it.”

Tom Hughes in A Discovery of Witches as Kit Marlowe

Tom Hughes and Sheila Hancock, who joins the show for season 2 as Kit Marlowe and Goody Alsopp, were equally taken aback by the jaw-dropping sets,

“The exterior of Elizabethan London is on a farm and when you turn up you can see the outside of the set and you wonder how it will look inside. Then you walk in and it’s genuinely like you’ve been transported to another world,” said Hughes.

“So much of your work as an actor is done when you have good costumes and sets. It’s about the suspension of disbelief and amazing production design achieves that.”

Sheila Hancock added: “When I first walked onto set, I couldn’t believe it. Honestly, I really couldn’t. I did get in a bit of a state of it on my last day because they’d built this medieval London in the middle of a field in Wales and they said they were going to pull it down after filming.

“I said, ‘You can’t, this is artistry at the top level’. It broke my heart because it was so ravishingly beautiful.”

Sensual costumes

Teresa Palmer getting into costume for A Discovery of Witches

The new time period gave costumer designer Sarah Arthur a new challenge for season two.

“I had a lot of direction, for instance Jane Tranter (Executive Producer) wanted a realism to the costumes and didn’t just want it stuck in 1590, she wanted it to be exciting for current day viewers,” said Arthur.

“Everything has been made for the main cast. With Matthew, a jacket he wears is similar to an original jacket but slightly earlier than 1590. I actually sourced everything, even down to the buttons and travelled far and wide to find all components.

“We’ve made all our shirts, everything is hand stitched. We’ve had the hats made, collected lots of feathers from here and there. Not to mention, hand-made shoes, head gear, hand embroidered slippers.

“For Teresa, her costumes have lots of embroidery. We’ve had three pairs of boots made for Diana based on a pair of riding boots of Elizabeth I. As you can imagine, it’s a very long process before you even start filming.”

James Purefoy, who joins the show as Philippe de Clermont, said: “I was delighted with my costumes! Who isn’t going to be happy with a pair of thigh-high boots in the softest leather? Nobody!

“We’ve got an incredible costume department, right from the top to those members who help me, and my colleagues get dressed every day. Their heart is really in it and you can tell that by the quality of the costumes.”

First look at A Discovery of Witches

Talking about she brought the sensual passion of the series into the show’s wardrobe, Arthur revealed: “We used soft colours and even the heavier velvets. Diana’s start was quite dark because it was Elizabethan London, but we expanded her wardrobe with colour when we went to Sept Tours.

“Then we had different colours in Prague. So, we tried to individualise those colours. For the slightly more casual undress scenes, we had lovely pearl beaded chemises, bare skin, beautiful lace collars on the chemise and the night shirts.

“That’s how we tried to make it a bit gentler and less trussed up when they were indoors and out of public eye.”

She added: “With Matthew, we contoured the doublets to his body as he has a great physique and he’s tall. The other jackets, such as the leather and suede, we made for him are very fitted and from very soft skins. We did the black and then a softer brown, and that softened him when they got married.

“We went for the brown skins because they are a softer feel and then with his wedding jacket we decided on a lighter colour to get away from the darkness of London at the time.”

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