Why A Discovery of Witches had to make some big changes to the book for season 2

The second season of the Deborah Harkness adaptation goes in a few new directions – but they had the author’s blessing, says star Matthew Goode.

Matthew Goode Teresa Palmer

Sky original drama A Discovery of Witches has found success in bringing the smash-hit novels of author Deborah Harkness to the small screen, with the team at Bad Wolf Studios working closely with Harkness to help her tale of warring vampires, daemons and witches come to life.

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However, despite this close relationship the stars of the series have now revealed that some big changes from the text are in store for season two – with Harkness happily on board when it comes to the alterations.

“They’re incredibly difficult books to adapt, so there are going to be people who are huge fans of the book that might be like I am, where you’re not disappointed but you’re like, ‘Why isn’t that in there?’” series star Matthew Goode, who plays vampire Matthew de Clairmont, told RadioTimes.com on the set of season two, when we visited in late 2019.

“Obviously you have to make those changes and they can be occasionally quite broad. But we think we’ve made something so far that’s going to appease both sides.

“It can be a difficult story to follow. So we’ve had to change the order of events. We now go to see my father first and then head on to see the emperor, as opposed to coming back and then… you know.”

The biggest change, however, comes from the inclusion of a second timeline. As in Harkness’ book Shadow of Night, the story shifts in season two to 1590s England as Matthew and Diana “time-walk” into the past – but in a change to the text, season two also continues the present-day storylines alongside Matthew and Diana’s story.

“We have massive modern threads,” Goode told us. “In the original – in the second book, it doesn’t go back to modern times. So we wanted people to know what was going on with those characters too.”

Such a change could have been controversial – but to Harkness, it was an easy request to say yes to. After all, in her mind it was really just an extension of what she’d been planning to do anyway.

“There’s definitely a contemporary storyline in the book too,” Harkness told RadioTimes.com during a streamed panel discussion for season two. “Those moments propel us towards series three, which was the purpose of them for me narratively.

Deborah Harkness
Author Deborah Harkness (Getty)

“But they were really kind of touchpoints that were related to an anomaly where the past had suddenly bumped up against the present.

“Those were the places where the screenwriters had a lot more latitude, because it wasn’t on the page, to explain how we got from place to place.”

In other words, season two is able to fill in the gaps of what happened to the present-day characters while Matthew and Diana were living in the past, getting them to the point where Harkness picked up with them again in her third book. For example, episode four of the new series takes place entirely in the present day, following Edmund Bluemel’s Marcus as he faces a new challenge.

“Doing an adaptation is always a challenge, and tricky, because you have to stay within the bounds of what exists, right?” Harkness told us.

“But what was great, I hoped, with the contemporary lines is that it did give them a bit more latitude to play and invent.”

Matthew Diana Discovery of Witches
Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer in A Discovery of Witches (Sky)

“It’s all under the guise of Deb Harkness, which is great,” Teresa Palmer, who plays witch Diana, told us. “And Deb, she gives suggestions to make sure the world works within [her vision].

“Man, it comes with its challenges, absolutely. But knowing that she’s steering this ship, it takes the pressure off, I think, because the fans really look to her to dictate how the story goes, and what’s included, and what’s not.”

“Permissions have been sought,” Goode added.

Overall, it sounds like the new series will just add more to the world that Harkness created – and might even bring some surprises for her most dedicated of fans.

“Provided we still got from point a to point b to point c, how we got there was not established within the covers of Shadow of Night, which is the second book,” the author told us.

And we’re sure that how will be a big draw for viewers as A Discovery of Witches turns time upside down for season two.

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Sky original drama A Discovery of Witches Series two is coming to Sky One and NOW TV on 8th January 2021, with all episodes available at once. Want something else to watch? Check out our full TV Guide.