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Mayfair Witches Showrunners Explain Why They Wanted to Adapt Anne Rice’s Work (Exclusive)

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The second installment of AMC’s Immortal Universe, Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches, debuts on AMC and AMC+ on Sunday night. The series follows close behind the network’s hit, Interview With the Vampire and while both series are based off the late author’s novels, the source material is very different. Mayfair Witches is based off the trilogy The Lives of the Mayfair Witches, with the first season mainly focused on the first novel, The Witching Hour, a complex and lengthy novel that spans generations of women, telling their stories just as much as it does its more central character, Rowan. Adapting a book like The Witching Hour is a massive undertaking and in an interview with, showrunners Michelle Ashford and Esta Spalding explained what made them want to take on the beloved and complex novel to bring it to life on the small screen.

“This started with Mark (Johnson, executive producer), who is our fearless leader in all things Anne Rice and he brought it to me and then I quickly brought it to Esta. Esta and I have worked together before on Masters of Sex, and I just knew this was something that we needed to do together because it taps into some really, really fascinating, and relevant topics about women and power and how power is used,” Ashford said. “And it’s so swirling around us in every way and has been for the last number of years and it just seemed like a great opportunity. Plus, witches, of course, are so cool and you read those first hundred pages and you’re like, ‘This world is wild.’ And so yes, we were just hooked. We were absolutely hooked.”

“When Mark first talked to us, he said, ‘We really want to make the show based on this character Rowan,’” Spalding said. “So, we had that as a kind of guiding light. “We’re going to tell Rowan’s story. Wo, unlike the book, she’s not going to be introduced some large number of pages or episodes in. We’re going to really focus on her. But we wanted to pull in the feeling of those first few hundred pages without her, that New Orleans atmosphere and so on. We decided to do that through the story of Deirdre. So, Rowan and Deirdre are the two women that we were focused on at the beginning. And then we knew that we wanted to get to that phenomenally great set piece at the end of the first season. It’s like, ‘Okay, you’re starting with the origin story of this woman who’s discovering that she has powers and you’re going to take her all the way to this amazing thing that happens at the end of this book.’ So that’s your story spine.’ And it was like, ‘What can we get within that? How do we guide her journey but also find as many delicious set pieces from the book and give the atmosphere of the city and of that family that’s in the book in our eight episodes?’”

Spalding and Ashford credit Johnson with the idea of centering the show more directly around Rowan and for Johnson, he said that he felt that it was the obvious choice, especially with the story examining the idea of women, power, and men who struggle to deal with the idea of powerful women.

“I think it’s just so obvious. We are all constantly, hopefully in some form of auto examination,” he said. “‘Who am I and where do I come from?’ And this woman who begins to realize that she was not adopted in the circumstances she thought and digs and digs and starts to find out things about herself that both scares her and fascinates her. And you’re right; we’re fascinated by witches. I can’t help but feel that witches are created by men who are having trouble dealing with powerful women and the only way they can explain it is they’re something other than just human beings. And Michelle and Esta, I know, embrace this because of how strongly they feel about telling women’s stories.”

Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches debuts Sunday, January 8th on AMC and AMC+.

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