A Discovery of Witches
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NYCC: A Discovery of Witches author Deborah Harkness talks adapting the books for TV

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Oct 5, 2018, 9:06 PM EDT (Updated)

Witches and vampires are set for a showdown in A Discovery of Witches, the television adaptation of Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy novels. The first episode was screened Friday at New York Comic Con, and a U.S. premiere date of Jan. 17, 2019 was announced for the British import.

The plot centers around the forbidden love of witch Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer) and vampire Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode), set against escalating tensions within the supernatural community over ownership of a mysterious spell book.

As the show begins, a long-missing book suddenly appears for Diana, a history professor from the U.S. specializing in alchemy who's doing research in England (and trying desperately to avoid using her witch powers). Suddenly witches and vampires sense a disturbance, and both factions begin maneuvering to get the book. As Matthew continues to press Diana about the book's whereabouts, a steamy chemistry begins to develop between the pair, culminating in an interaction in the premiere that is simultaneously erotic and creepy.

Following the screening, Harkness talked about the adaptation of her series, which was originally optioned to be a theatrical film. "I think that TV's ability to linger on stories, to develop characters, to give you that sense that you're on a journey with them, it's just is so much more feasible to tell a story of big, epic scope with a big cast of characters on a television series than it is on a 90-minute movie framework," she said. "So much would have to be cut out to have a simple narrative arc, and the one thing about A Discovery of Witches and the other books is that they don't have a simple, narrative arc."

In addition to special effects she didn't envision, the author was impressed with the way the writers of the show expanded the scope of the story. "Because the books are all in the first person of Diana, we only know what she knows," Harkness said. "But the writers were able to brilliantly bring to life [the rest of the story]. It gives you an ensemble feeling. If I could go back and do a do-over this is how I'd do the books, just so I could get all that juicy, fun intrigue into them."

A Discovery of Witches' eight-episode first season has already started airing in Britain, and will make its American debut this January on both Sundance Now and the horror-themed streaming service Shudder.

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