Thursday, September 8, 2011

CW conjures 'Secret Circle' as 'Vampire Diaries' companion

By Sergei Bachlakov, CW for USA Today

CW is pairing the third season of its hit Vampire Diaries on Thursday nights with another supernatural show, freshman series The Secret Circle (Sept. 15, 9 ET/PT). The shows share source material — both are adapted from L.J. Smith book series — and an executive producer, Kevin Williamson (Scream, Dawson's Creek).

"I hope that there's a thirst out there for this type of story," says Williamson, joking that the Circle office is just 5 feet from the Diaries office. "It allowed me to tell a witch story that hasn't been told before."

The Secret Circle centers on Cassie (Life Unexpected's Britt Robertson), a teen who moves to her mother's hometown in Washington state after her mom dies. Many people take an interest in the new girl, including her school principal (Natasha Henstridge) — the show's wicked witch of the Northwest — and a group of kids.

Cassie learns from Adam (Thomas Dekker) and this magic-loving bunch that she's actually a witch, too, and they're the latest in a long line of covens made more powerful when they're together.
"It's like the ultimate clique," says Dekker, whose character becomes embroiled in a potential love triangle with Cassie and his girlfriend Diana (Shelley Hennig). "I've been in a couple myself, and they never cease to entertain."

Williamson developed The Secret Circle to be a teen romance/family drama, but like Vampire Diaries, it can be a horror show, too. In the first six episodes, almost every one has a "big scary set piece," he says, and the series offers a different creep factor than its sister show.

"Vampire Diaries is very masculine in a weird way," Williamson says. "They're ripping hearts out, decapitating heads — there's a bloodiness. Witches don't necessarily have to rip your neck out. They can cast a spell and make your hemorrhage from the inside out."

Henstridge revels in playing a powerful puppet master. "I can't deny it's fun," says the mother of two new Circle fans, Asher, 9, and Tristan, 12. "The boys know me, playing that character. I just get it out on set!"

Though the effects will hook horror fans, Cassie's emotional story appeals to a younger generation that finds social power in groups of friends. "She becomes a part of this pseudo-family who take her in and show her this new world," Robertson says. "From an audience standpoint, some teens will be able to watch that and be like, 'Oh, that could be me!' They can relate."

Williamson counts Bewitched as a favorite show, and when he thinks of witches, he often defaults to empowerment tales such as Practical Magic or The Witches of Eastwick. But he wanted a far more sinister story for Circle; Williamson is enjoying, for example, the witches on HBO's True Blood this season. "I lean toward the darker black magic, the dirty magic, where it gets really creepy and very violent. I like how downright deadly and scary (witches) can be."

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