Zelda and Hilda Spellman are two of the most iconic witches in pop culture, don't @ us. Having watched Sabrina the Teenage Witch religiously, Sabrina's two bewitching aunts and mentors stood out. And if there's one comparison that can be made between the late 1990s/early 2000s sitcom and the upcoming Netflix show Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, it's the importance Zelda and Hilda play in the world.
On a recent set visit to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina in Vancouver, SYFY FANGRRLS spoke with Miranda Otto (Zelda) and Lucy Davis (Hilda) about their fascinating relationship with each other and how they guide Sabrina through her half-mortal, half-witch, full-teenager life.
Much as in the previous series, Zelda is more serious and strict while Hilda is loving and silly. But Otto says Zelda's tough love attitude when it comes to Sabrina is actually rooted in respect.
"As much she says things to Sabrina about 'Oh, don't behave in that way' or 'You shouldn't have done that,' I think she secretly loves the fact that Sabrina is strong-minded," said Otto. "I think she actually respects that, but she feels she has to tell her not to do those things. But I think she's more subversive than she seems."
When it comes to Zelda and Hilda's relationship, it's often hard to see the bond between the sisters, who are very different from one another. But Davis said those differences are part of what makes their dynamic work.
"I love our differences, and I think the reason that you will like them is because the other shows you the opposite of the other, does that make sense? So I don't know if you would find Hilda as funny if it wasn't for Zelda's reaction and vice versa, and I think they complement each other a lot," she said.
Otto says the differences between the sisters aren't as cut and dried as they might appear.
"I think that's what's so interesting about it is that when they set up the characters, it very much seems like Zelda is in control, because she's the loudest, and she's domineering, and she takes up a lot of space in the room," she said. "But underneath that, I think Hilda is very strong on the other side of that."
Much of the tension between the sisters centers around Zelda's loyalty to the Church of Night, which insists on Sabrina's dark baptism for her 16th birthday — the catalyst for the beginning of the show. Zelda and Hilda's differing levels of devoutness are part of what gives them different motivations as Season 1 moves forward.
"I think that the family when our brother Edward [Spellman, Sabrina's father] was the high priest of the Church of Night, he was a more progressive leader, and I think that the family had a real status within the Church of Night," said Otto. "And since his death and since Father Blackwood being the leader, they've lost a lot of status. So a lot of Zelda's drive is about trying to regain that status, and a part of her need for Sabrina to toe the line so much is about the family regaining status. I think they got very much pushed to the side as, sort of, inconsequential. And she is trying to be important again. I guess I think of her in that way. She's quite political in what she's trying to do."
Throughout Season 1, Zelda's loyalty to the Church of Night and how that intersects with the Spellman family dynamics is a point on contention. For instance, Hilda isn't so devoted. She'd much rather do her own thing.
"She's scared of Zelda but she isn't, because she does everything that she wants to do," explained Davis. "You'll often see little scenes where we're with Father Blackwood and there's always a little raise of the eyes. And when everyone's going 'Praise Satan' she's a beat late, do you know what I mean? Like, 'Praise him, praise him, definitely. Good idea.'"
The relationship between Zelda and Hilda teeters on whatever the sisters' version of "frenemies" would be. Sure, they love each other, but they clash more often than not. But one of the most interesting aspects of that relationship is the fact that they share a bedroom. That's right, they've got a Ricky and Lucy twin bed setup in a house with numerous rooms. Davis says she and Otto came up with a reason for the whole situation.
"We have thought that we, at times, haven't lived together, haven't shared a room. But we also think that if one of us were to ever marry, that the husband and wife should still be in the bed, and maybe that would be Zelda, 'cause we think Hilda's a virgin, and maybe that'll be Zelda and someone and they'll be getting on and I'll be just like, 'What's happening?', with my little book," she recounted. "That's what I would like. But I have to remember sometimes we're in a drama, as I add my little things."
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 1 will be available on Netflix October 26.