“Witches of East End,” Lifetime’s latest drama, premieres Sunday (Oct. 6) at 10 p.m. (9c).
Like Lifetime’s other freshman drama, “Devious Maids,” it aims to be a fun, sexy, slightly guilty pleasure. Based on a best-selling book, “Witches” is a saga about a contemporary family of female witches who struggle to balance their supernatural powers and responsibilities with their day-to-day lives.
Here are five things you need to know about “The Witches of East End”:
1) It Has An A-List Cast
Lifetime is still fighting the perception that it’s a channel where has-beens star in true crime movies. But this cast is impressive. Julia Ormond, whose credits include “Legends of the Fall” and, most recently, Megan’s mother on “Mad Men,” plays matriarch Joanna Beauchamp who lives with her two daughters, the conservative Ingrid (Rachel Boston, “In Plain Sight”) and the free-spirited Freya (Jenna Dewan Tatum, best known for marrying Channing Tatum).
The men on the show include Eric Winter (“GCB”) and the one newcomer, Daniel DiTomasso.
Ormand explains why she was attracted to the role. “As an actor, what you look for is great scripts and great story and something that you want to be part of … This is a really fun one in terms of the daughters that I have. It’s a single mother dealing with these very strong, strong women and female energy and a very troublesome sister who doesn’t always agree with me.”
2) It’s About Family, Not Witchcraft
At its heart, the show is a family drama. Joanna has not told her daughters that they are witches because she believes it’s their best shot at a normal life. Wendy disagrees, and tells Ingrid and Aida about their identities, encouraging them to embrace them.
The tension is as much about intra-family dynamics as it is about spells and enemies. According to showrunner Maggie Friedman, the focus on relationships is what sets the show apart from other supernatural shows. “It’s about mothers and daughters. It’s about sisters. It’s about, you know, a multigenerational family and how it’s four very distinct women and how they each deal with their powers and gifts. And I don’t think we’ve seen a show like that.
“Julia’s character is a mom who has to learn how to let go of her daughters and let them make mistakes and put them in harm’s way, but that’s part of the learning process. And I think it’s kind of a metaphor for motherhood that every mother has to go through, is letting your child out into the world to experience things even if you want to keep them safe and hold them close.”
3) Each Witch Has A Distinct Power
In this universe, all witches are not created equal. Each women has a different set of powers. Friedman explains, “Joanna’s curse, the Julia character’s curse, is she is immortal, but she has to give birth to the same daughters again and again and again. So every time they die, she suddenly ages back 30 years, 25 years, however many years, and becomes pregnant again and births them again and again and again.
“With Mädchen’s character, with Wendy, she’s a cat. She has nine lives. So that works in its own way, and she sort of ages at a different rate. And the girls, they age like regular people, and they, you know, reach a certain age, and then they die.”
Amick elaborates, “My gift and curse is I shape-shift in and out of being a cat. So that’s pretty great, but it also means you have nine lives. So you have to be pretty careful about your deaths and how many stack up.”
4) There’s a Red-Hot Love Triangle
Freya is torn between two men, her wealthy boyfriend Dash (Eric Winter) and the literal man of her dreams, Killian (Daniel DiTomasso) who happens to be Dash’s brother.
Winter explains, “I’m engaged to the beautiful Jenna Dewan, Freya, and I have a very complex relationship with my brother, Killian, and it creates a whole other level of drama and depth in Dash’s life having this conflict and battle throughout time with his brother, and now they can sort of somehow maybe come together for a greater family purpose but, at the same time, trying to keep my fiancee happy and keep that part of my life and adapt to these women’s lives.”
5) The Story Spans Hundreds of Years
Because Joanna and her daughters are destined to be reborn again and again, their story spans centuries. This allows for flashbacks to their previous incarnations that inform the present.
Boston explains, “We have lived so many different lives and that’s part of the journey that you see in the preview. I see a photo of myself back in the 1800s, and it looks like me, but I don’t know if it’s me or if it’s an ancestor. So it’s two women also piecing together, “Wait a minute. I remember something from the 1800s. I don’t know exactly what that is, but I’m incorporating it into my life today.”