TV

Kiernan Shipka is set to charm us all over again in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

She stole the show in Mad Men, now Kiernan spills on her latest role

As far as high-profile first jobs go, they don't come much bigger than Mad Men.

For six seasons between 2007 to 2015, Mad Men – the American period drama set in an advertising agency on New York's Madison Avenue in the 1960s – was the gold standard for the "golden age of television".

It proved an amazing opportunity for Kiernan Shipka, who was 10 when she landed the role – after just two auditions – of Sally Draper, the eldest and often most troublesome daughter of Betty (January Jones) and Don Draper (Jon Hamm).

Growing up on set, Kiernan's performance showed a depth well beyond her years and in the fourth season, she became a series regular.

By the time the show finished, she was hot property in Hollywood, but didn't want to make any rash decisions.

"I wrapped Mad Men when I was 15 and after that had time to figure myself out and what I wanted to do," Kiernan tells TV WEEK Close Up. "But I knew that eventually I wanted to get back to television. I love TV and think it's a wonderful place to develop a character over time."

She didn't have to wait long for her big return to the small screen, with the now 18-year-old actress scoring the lead in Netflix's reboot of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch called Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina.

The original show, starring Melissa Joan Hart, was a cult hit in the noughties and Kiernan is confident fans of the program will find a lot to like this time around.

"I didn't have a lot of experience watching the show growing up," she admits. "I wasn't aware of its big cult fan base. It's been eye-opening how many people completely dug the first one. I'm excited for those people to watch this one, because it honours all the best elements of the old show."

Kiernan (centre) could not have had a better acting debut than on hit series Mad Men.
Kiernan (centre) could not have had a better acting debut than on hit series Mad Men.

Kiernan notes that the show's creators wanted to retain the unique parts of the original while adding their own take.

"One of the main charms – no pun intended – of the original Sabrina was that it was so funny, and this show maintains that in a lot of ways," she says, revealing that "in pretty much every table-read, there are just roars of laughter".

But Kiernan cautions: "At the same time, it's super-dark and super-scary."

While the Netflix version sounds decidedly more ominous – we see Sabrina go through some seriously scary changes – we'll see the return of two familiar faces from Sabrina: Harvey and Salem!

"Salem is back, though I'm allergic to cats, unfortunately, which I learnt on the show," Kiernan confesses with a laugh.

"And Harvey [Ross Lynch] is back too – he's my boyfriend in the show," she reveals. "It's a really beautiful relationship. Harvey is just adorably naive to the whole thing, which is kind of wonderful. It's really one of my favourite parts of the show."

Also returning to the Sabrina set-up are two grown-ups who guide the young witch through the magical transformation taking place.

"She's been raised by her aunts Zelda and Hilda," Kiernan explains. "They're played by [Australian actress] Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis, who were just wonderful."

Tapping into the audience's appetite for juicy drama, Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina is part Riverdale, part American Horror Story with a dash of Sabrina-magic for good measure.

A scene from the new Sabrina.
A scene from the new Sabrina.

"It's a story about a teenage girl growing up and, in so many ways, it's analogous to a teenage experience," Kiernan says.

"But it has all these elements of fantasy. She's dealing with two separate sides of herself and it turns into this beautiful ride between her mortal friends and her witch world. You're going to be on the edge of your seat the whole time."

When she's not casting spells on the small screen, Kiernan is trying to maintain some semblance of a normal life despite her rising profile.

"When I'm back in LA, I love hanging out with my friends, cooking and trying to keep up with TV and whatever's happening right now," she says. "Usually, I try to keep myself busy when I'm not working, but since Sabrina started shooting, I'm pretty comatose by the weekend."

With a hit show on the horizon and a packed social schedule, it seems the only thing Kiernan is missing in life is someone special to share it all with.

"They're out there somewhere, but who knows?" the actress says with a laugh. "I fantasise about someone who's funny and smart and nice – who checks all the boxes. I'll get back to you when I meet them, but it definitely doesn't look like it's in my sphere right now."

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina premieres on Netflix on October 26th.

Want to read more interviews with your favourite TV stars? Pick up a copy of this months issue of TV WEEK Close Up. On sale now!

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