The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina may have one name in the title, but the people surrounding the leading witch are what make the show thrive. One of the characters in the upcoming Netflix show, based on the comics by showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, is the character of Susie Putnam, played by non-binary actor Lachlan Watson.
On a recent set visit to Vancouver, SYFY FANGRRLS spoke to Watson about how Susie's non-binary identity is portrayed in the show and how their own journey has been impacted by playing Susie.
In Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Sabrina struggles with the duality of being both witch and mortal. How can she choose one identity over the other when she is fully both? Susie also has an inner struggle with their identity throughout Season 1. Watson has lived this story and had discussions early on with Aguirre-Sacasa about playing the role.
"I dived in head first and some of the conversations [with Roberto] were just about my thoughts on gender and my personal life and my transition, very strange transition as it was, and kind of the person that I've become," they said. "And I almost feel like he was vetting me a little bit to see if I can hold my own in an interview later on. I think he was sort of like, 'How well can you speak on gender? Are you willing to do it for the rest of your life?'"
When the first season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina hits Netflix later this month, there will likely be those conversations, since non-binary representation on television is nearly non-existent. Watson's own experiences with their gender has shown them that there isn't necessarily an end-point to the story arc when it comes to identity.
"A lot of people, and especially with my journey, there were a lot of points in my life where I thought I knew who I was but I didn't. I really didn't at all," they said. "I knew who I thought I was supposed to be. I knew how I thought I was supposed to identify and how I'm supposed to act and how I'm supposed to dress. I knew that and I think that may be a bit where Susie is right now, is that they think they know that they've landed where they need to be but I think a queer journey in ongoing, a little bit."
Watson says that journey is being portrayed in a way audiences probably haven't seen it depicted before.
"I feel like sometimes when characters come out, it's just like, 'Boom, I'm a man now." And you don't really ... if you go back it's very much like, 'Okay I'm stopping this life and I'm starting another one,'" they said. "But the story that hasn't been told as much is, Susie was never Susie. Susie was always this other person in Susie's body. And I think that's really beautiful and it's something I've had a lot of fun with."
While Watson has used their own experiences to portray Susie, it's also a two-way street, they said. Susie has taught them a lot about themselves.
"Susie has a lot of bravery that I wish I had. Susie has a lot of bravery, borderline recklessness, that I've never really found in myself. I grew up really timid anxious kid and I never really had to stand up for myself. I never really had to fight. I never had that flight or flight reaction and when I did I flew. I left. And Susie is the opposite. Susie has this incredible way of just staring down danger, staring down fear."
There's plenty to fear in this new world where Susie must face both supernatural and mortal issues — like bullying.
"They fight for what's right, and they stand up for who they love," Watson said. "And that's something that's really helped me grow as a person and finding that in myself and looking back on my life, looking back at people in my life and going, 'That's not who I am anymore.' I can learn from that. I can stand up and learn from that. I don't have to take it anymore. I don't have to let it get to me. And it's really helped me a lot right now just reading those words, saying those words being that and then finding that in myself."
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina also stars a character named Ambrose, played by Chance Perdomo. Ambrose is Sabrina's warlock cousin who has been trapped in the Spellman house for 75 years. He's pansexual, something Perdomo acknowledges as a responsibility to portray as an actor.
"It dawned on me that, and I don't take it lightly, that there's a responsibility that comes with the role and I'm honored to be able to play with this role and be a part of this inclusivity that's... I don't want to say a new wave of inclusivity, because that makes it a buzzword, but these new narratives that weren't necessarily spoken of or given light," Perdomo told us.
Like non-binary representation, pansexuality hasn't been portrayed often on television. And it's not necessarily an "issue" discussed in the show — it's just who Ambrose is. Our world is made up of many different types of experiences and normalizing those representations on television is something Perdomo thinks it's time for.
"It's about time, for lack of a better word, to say that we've seen the heroic, white, male story perpetuated throughout Hollywood since time immemorial, right?" he said. "So now to have a pansexual person of color played with depth, and played as a multifaceted individual that not only is artistically satisfying but it's gratifying to be able to showcase that; and I hope so with grace but without artistic license; a human being that's more representative of the world we live in."
Season 1 of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will be available on Netflix starting October 26.