This fall, The CW is doubling up on their Thursday night supernatural romances. The new show The Secret Circle is joining The Vampire Diaries, from the same executive producer Kevin Williamson and based on books by the same author, L.J. Smith.
Britt Robertson stars as Cassie, a teenager whose mother is killed by mysterious magic. She moves to Chance Harbor with her grandmother, where a group of young witches teaches Cassie about her family powers. They need her to complete their circle. Adam (Thomas Dekker) is a predestined partner through family lineage. He’s dating Diana (Shelley Henning), who quickly becomes Cassie’s close friend. Faye (Phoebe Tonkin) aggressively pushes witch powers, setting cars on fire and causing thunderstorms.
Fans of the books, of Robertson and of Williamsons’ ouvre are already excited about The Secret Circle. Robertson spoke with us after a Television Critics Association panel for a preview of the new fall series.
Q: Were you interested in the supernatural before this show?
BR: No, once getting the part I obviously read the books and I’ve become more familiar with it. I didn’t want to do too much research in the witchcraft world considering my character’s so new to it all but I think learning as my character develops was probably the best decision at the time and still is. But I really didn’t have much knowledge of it at all. I knew Kevin’s work and I love scary movies, but I’d never really even seen Vampire Diaries up until meeting with him and I was like, “Oh, I’ve got to get into The Vampire Diaries.”
Q: Which book was your favorite?
BR: For me, the most helpful, because mainly it’s just research, that’s the way I would look at it, Part One was very helpful because I just got to know who my character was coming into this new world and that was the biggest thing. I just wanted to know who she was, how did she respond to all of this, what was her relationship with these characters? I try not to get too stuck on it because I feel like it could change at any moment because it is a television show and we do have to stretch it out hopefully if the show continues. It was nice to have a good, solid base.
Q: Are you prepared to answer Twitter fans’ Secret Circle questions for years?
BR: I hope so. Right now I’m learning Twitter. I just got one recently so I’m trying to slowly prepare myself for those kind of things I guess. I don’t know, I’m not very good at it so far so we’ll see how it works out.
Q: What is your Twitter?
BR: It’s @RealBritt_Rob.
Q: Who is Cassie in a nutshell and what are the earliest witchcraft she gets to do?
BR: In the beginning, in the pilot she comes into this city and she’s completely shell shocked by her circumstances after her mom passes. She meets Thomas’s character Adam and all these other people who are actually part of the coven and then she finds out that she is also part of this coven. She’s part of this new generation of witches. Her first experience with magic is when Cassie and Adam go into the woods after she just found out and he tries to introduce it to her. They make water float from a leaf. It’s very romantic and very sweet and sexy and cool. It’s such a beautiful scene, after watching it back, it was the first scene we shot of the entire show so there was a lot riding on it but I think it turned out pretty well.
Q: What’s her initial reaction to magic?
BR: To run away from it. If someone was to tell you that you were a witch, I think that it would be somewhat of like, “Okay, you’ve got to be kidding me, all right, I’m out of here, you’re crazy.”
Q: Does witchcraft freak her out?
BR: I think she knows nothing about it. Her mother was very guarded about that whole world. Her mom ran from it and didn’t want any part of it. I think she has no knowledge of what it truly is and that is her conflict, learning what it’s about and how to deal with it, to embrace it or to run from it or what to do. That’s her conflict.
Q: How long will she be resisting this power?
BR: I mean, you can only resist the power for so long when it’s all you have. She has no family, she has nothing else to reach out to so the circle has become her surrogate family. I think that very quick you’ll see that she steps up and becomes her destiny.
Q: Are you looking forward to playing the moment where she embraces her power?
BR: Yes, I truly am. We’re working with it now trying to figure out when that moment actually is. I think there’s probably a progression to it but also it’s about the relationships that she develops. The more she’s able to trust those within the circle, the more she’ll be able to stand up for herself.
Q: How dangerous is Faye going to be for Cassie?
BR: I think in these first couple episodes you see that Faye is a big force in Cassie’s life. She’s a big force in the circle and we butt heads. We butt heads all the way. Like in the books, you’ll see those relationships grow and develop and enrich.
Q: How is her friendship with Diana going to be tested by time she spends with Adam?
BR: Yeah, our relationship like Thomas said, it’s written in the stars. It’s in our history, it’s in our bloodstream, it’s in everything that we know, it’s inherent in who we are, in who these people are. I think Diana’s aware of that. She is just as informed as he is of this and I think she understands our tie together but ultimately trusts him and trusts Cassie to not betray her which ultimately could be a bad thing because you never know when people are going to stab you in the back. But hopefully that’s not the case so we’ll see what happens.
Q: After a busy day on set, what do you do to relax?
BR: I come home to my roommate Phoebe [Tonkin] who’s on our show. She plays Faye and we make food, we work out and then we make water float. We do some magic tricks.
Q: You’re actually roommates with Phoebe, how did that work out?
BR: Yes, both of us wanted to save on rent. No, we were in Vancouver, you know no one and Phoebe and I get along really well. We both wanted a roommate and I was going to just find some random on Craigslist or something but she was like, “Why don’t we just room together?” Then we found a place and that’s how it came to be.
Q: What do you cook together?
BR: She does amazing salads and she makes beautiful teas. She makes me tea every night. She’s like my mother.
Q: Do you cook?
BR: I’m trying. I’m trying to learn how to cook. She’s helping me out a little bit but I’m a lost cause I think at this point.
Q: What’s the dynamic between the group? It seems like a lot of antagonism.
BR: I think the more dynamics we can play, the different dynamics we can play, the more interesting it will be and the more audiences are going to want to watch my relationship to Faye or my relationship to Diana, to Adam. I think that creates such a different dynamic for the show and because it’s such an ensemble, it can be very interesting to play with all those different variations.
Q: Did you have to audition or did Kevin see your work?
BR: I think he had seen my work and then they sent me the script. The day after, I had a meeting with Kevin and I met with Andrew and everybody who were working on the pilot at the time. So I met with him and then the next day I went and read for Warner Bros. and CW. Literally as I came out of the audition, they came out and they were like, “You got the job!” It was a three day process of, “Rah, I’m on another CW show!” but it was cool. It was very short and sweet and totally worth it.
Q: Would it be a curse or a burden to have the power to do magic?
BR: I think so. Maybe, I don’t think that I’m the type of person who would be capable enough to know what to do with it and I think that’s similar to my character’s conflict in The Secret Circle. Her biggest fear is to be out of control of her powers and to do something that she is not intending on doing. I think that would be the scariest thing for me as well is just for it to go so completely wrong and you end up hurting somebody and you end up doing something evil or what not.
Q: Do you still hear from fans who are bummed that Life Unexpected got cancelled?
BR: I do, but it’s still very positive about the new show. They’re bummed that Life Unexpected was cancelled but they’re happy that I’ve moved on and that Chris has moved on and that we’re doing new shows and they’re excited to see the new shows.
Q: When Life Unexpected ended, were the roles you were offered change dramatically?
BR: After Life Unexpected ended, I wanted to do something that was completely different from Lux and from the show because I wanted to be able to keep my fans but not have them confused about who I was or what my character was. I’d never worked in the supernatural genre, never done anything like that. Something that Kevin was a part of in that world seemed so appealing to me because he would be in my opinion considered the king of television supernatural and I think that working with him would be such an honor and such a privilege. All of those things combined made it the right decision for me at the time.
Q: Is there a lot of green screen on the show?
BR: I think there will be. A lot of it is computer generated. A lot of it is CGI. A lot of it is indeed green screen for sure, like all the storm stuff. I think that will be a big part of our show for sure.
Q: Had you ever done that before?
BR: I’d never done that before.
Q: How hard was it?
BR: It’s something to get used to. Again, it’s a challenge. It’s keeping me on my feet. I’m challenged by it every day but it’s something that I’m learning to embrace and explore and hopefully master at some point.
Q: Are you having the best time?
BR: I am. It’s so cool and I’m having such a great time with the cast. It’s so good to be a part of a group that you just feel constantly pushed. Everyone is pushing each other and we’re such an ensemble and we get along so well. It’s cool just to be a part of this group. I’m really happy.
Q: Is it nice to know there are already so many fans who are interested in the show before it’s even on?
BR: Yeah, that’s the crazy thing. Going to Comic-Con and these places where there’s fans already. How are you a fan of our show? We’re not even on yet. The coolest thing is just to be able to work every day and hope that we make them proud and that they enjoy our show and continue to be fans of the books an ultimately our show.
Q: What part of Greenville did you grow up in?
BR: Travelers Rest, right across from Furman University. Literally right across the street.
Q: Did you go to Carolina or Furman?
BR: No, I didn’t. I was in L.A. already so I went to school in Los Angeles.
Q: Are you a Gamecock or a Tiger?
BR: Well, this is the crazy thing. Half of my family’s Gamecocks and half is Tigers but I have to go Gamecocks because that’s my grandparents. Gotta respect the elders.
Q: Are you athletic? What do you like to do?
BR: Well, I’m a big baseball fan. I don’t play baseball but I watch baseball. When I’m in L.A., not Vancouver, I love to surf and I love to be by the beach and all those fun things. But growing up I played tee ball and football with my friends in the neighborhood.
Q: What stunts are you doing on the show?
BR: We just got finished doing a couple of really cool stunts. I don’t know what I can reveal about them but Adam sort of ends up being my instructor a little bit through this whole magical experience and so we got to do a couple of cool stunts together.
Q: Are you working with a trainer?
BR: We have a stunt coordinator but off set I started working with a trainer. I’m trying to get buff. Not really.
Q: What do they have you do?
BR: My trainer in Vancouver is awesome. She actually worked with Shiri Appleby on Life Unexpected when we were up there so I knew of her and she’s great. She just has me do the basics. We do boxing, we do hikes, we do weight training and trying to keep a mix, pilates, what have you.