“Anne Boleyn,” Kiernan Shipka announces. “Tituba, Mary Bradbury, Baab spelled with two As.”
Shipka is sitting in front of two bright lights and a camera, listing famous historical witches. The 5’2” actress is wearing a shimmery silver turtleneck, a shoulder-grazing blonde bob, and so many coats of mascara that from behind the camera, her eyelashes look like twin black widows. We’re here talking metaphysical women because Shipka is the star of Netflix’s newest cult teen series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which premieres apropos of the spooky season on October 26. The supernatural drama charts the story of spunky 15-year-old Sabrina Spellman, who was born half-witch, half-mortal. On the eve of her 16th birthday, Sabrina is forced to make a high-stakes decision whether to stay with her fleshly friends or transfer to a school for the dark arts, giving herself over to the twisted mystical world forever.
Chilling Adventures is a macabre take on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, the sitcom some of its audience will remember from 20 years ago. One person who does not remember, however, is Shipka—you have to remind yourself as you sit across from her that she is only 18 years old. In between looks at today’s photo shoot, we film a video in which Shipka has to guess fictional witches from modern history with the help of a few simple clues. Everyone backstage squirms as she struggles to recognize Teen Witch, Halloweentown, or Practical Magic, somehow failing to remember, though we’re all fully familiar with her bio and wrinkle-free complexion, that these movies came out 10 years before Shipka was even alive. (To end the challenge, the Chilling Adventures actress flexes her objectively more impressive knowledge of real-life witches—Anne Boleyn, etc.—redeeming her lack of ’90s pop culture.)
Shipka may be the youngest person on this set by almost a decade, but her relaxed sense of poise and professionalism—“Thanks, girl. So lovely to see you!” she says to every photographer and makeup assistant as they leave—make it clear this is not her first rodeo (or broom ride, as it were). The performer’s highest-profile role until now was little Sally Draper, the daughter of the main anti-hero on AMC’s period drama Mad Men. That series premiered when Shipka was only six years old and ended eight years later. Shipka didn’t spring into another project right away. She took a few a years to step back from Hollywood, and she owes much of her current self-security and -awareness to that choice. “Right when Mad Men wrapped, I was sort of figuring out my life,” she tells me in her dressing room as a stylist snips a few inches off her bob, “and I got a lot of time—from 15 to 18, when I started working on Sabrina—just to sort myself out, learn to practice self-love and self-compassion, and make a lot of mistakes.” Shipka says that going into Chilling Adventures, she felt armed with a well-developed self-care routine. “One that I liked and that worked for me because it’s not going to look the same for every person,” she explains.
Though she tries to keep her hopes low, Shipka knows this groundedness will help her after Chilling Adventures hits the web to the nail-biting reception of millions of young fans. With a similar target audience to the smash hit Riverdale, whose cast became overnight teen icons, Chilling Adventures will no doubt elevate Shipka to a level of fame much rowdier than the 30- and 40-something Mad Men viewership could ever create. Internet-obsessed teens, after all, are the most zealous breed of fan. (The Chilling Adventures trailer amassed almost four million Youtube views in less than two weeks.) “I’m ready for it,” Shipka says with an anchored disposition.
Our intimate dressing room exchange is mostly dedicated to what exactly the young star is doing to mentally and physically prepare for such an explosive life change. It is perhaps no coincidence that some of this self-care routine involves practices rooted in witchcraft. Here, in her own words, Shipka’s views on alternative wellness, perfectionism, skincare, and staying mortal on the precipice of otherworldly fame.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina seems to be coming at the perfect time because witchy practices are having such a huge resurgence in American culture. Do you engage with any witchy rituals yourself?
I approach everything with a little bit of skepticism, and I’m not going to call myself a witch by any means because I know that there are practicing witches out there. But I definitely do believe in and vibe with that kind of stuff. The last time I was in L.A., I saw a medium for the first time. It was something I’d always wanted to do. And I love looking at astrology. Whenever I need some advice, I’m just like, okay, what are they telling the Scorpios to do today? Sabrina is a Scorpio, I’m a Scorpio, our showrunner is a Scorpio—it’s a very Scorpio-heavy show.
I’ve got some crystals, too, and I’ve been using them as of late, mostly for healing purposes. I cleansed them under the moon; I did the whole damn thing. I mostly use my hematoid quartz. I have bad hips, so I’ve noticed that if I’m achy and I lie down and place the stones there, it really does help. But you have to set a clear intention for it. You can’t just expect a crystal to work; you have to really vibe with it and manifest. I also have a Dalmatian Jasper that I’m really into. It’s supposed to be a stone that’s really good for adjusting to change in your life. And since this show has been such a massive change, I think I’m gonna start leaning on that stone a little more.
The drink I make myself in the morning is pretty witchy, too. It’s a matcha latte that’s got ashwagandha and Cordyceps and all sorts of mushroomy powders and superpower-y things. I’m just getting into this stuff. I’m not super versed or anything. Just dabbling. But I definitely am into witches and all the different interpretations of them that there have been through time. They’re just cool, interesting women. There’s a reason they’ve been a fixture for such a long time. Bring on the witches.
Full interview: byrdie.com