Anne Rice’s Immortal Universe is growing at AMC with Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches. Alexandra Daddario leads an all-star cast in this haunting new drama laced with mythology and Southern Gothic influence. Like a glass of aged bourbon, Mayfair Witches is a show to be savored and not rushed. Take a sip, let it sit on your tongue for a while to give it time to grow and breathe, and you’ll be rewarded. Handsomely.
I had a chance to screen the first five episodes of the series, which will kick off with eight episodes in the first season. Mayfair Witches is a slow burn in the best of ways. Once you journey down the rabbit hole, there’s no turning back until you reach the end. I’m very excited to see where this journey leads.
Unlike its sister show Interview with the Vampire, which hits with the force of a freight train in the series premiere, Mayfair Witches has a lot more mythology to explore; to that end, the show has a decidedly slower pace that builds with each episode. I mention this because it’s important to remember that Mayfair Witches is its own show and showrunners Esta Spalding and Michelle Ashford have a lot of ground to cover to establish their own corner of the Anne Rice Immortal Universe for the network.
Mayfair Witches is based on The Witching Hour, Lasher and Taltos, the three books in Rice’s Lives of the Mayfair Witches series. The Witching Hour is a massive thousand-page tome that weaves together the story of the Mayfair family in the present day while also venturing deep into its storied past. A mysterious creature known as Lasher (Jack Huston) has been linked to a different member of the family for twelve generations and now he’s coming into his full power with the arrival of Dr. Rowan Fielding (Alexandra Daddario), who represents the thirteenth generation. Like her ancestors, Rowan is a witch, but she was raised away from her family so she doesn’t know it yet. All she knows is that she has abilities that she can’t explain, and she wants answers.
The series takes place in the present-day, the recent past and the ancient past. We meet present-day Deirdre Mayfair (Annabeth Gish) as well as young Deirdre (Cameron Inman). We travel back in time to the first generation of Mayfairs. I’m not kidding when I say that the series covers a lot of ground but it’s so compelling that you don’t notice you’ve been pulled in until you’re in the thick of the mythology, and it’s all so visually stunning that it’s easy to get lost in the show’s beauty. Like Interview, Mayfair Witches spares no expense when it comes to production design.
Daddario provides just the right amount of intensity and vulnerability to Rowan. As a top-rate neurosurgeon Rowan is self-assured and confident, and she knows she’s the smartest person in the room. Outside the operating room, though, Rowan struggles with connections and interactions. Daddario gives Rowan space to be confused by the things she can’t explain as her powers get stronger, reminding us that she’s a woman trying to figure out who she really is. It would be a lot to deal with under normal circumstances but it’s infinitely harder to deal with when you’re a Mayfair.
I was intrigued by Huston’s portrayal of Lasher and I’m very excited to see where he goes with the character. He’s simultaneously understated and commanding, mysterious and mystical. It’s impossible to take your eyes off of him whenever he’s on screen and I truly believe he’s the perfect fit as Lasher.
In the interest of full transparency, there are several significant deviations from the book that might seem startling at first, but as a longtime Anne Rice fan I have to say that I don’t think the series would be able to navigate many of the complex themes of rape and incest found in the books (to name just a few) and build a solid foundation for a new franchise without a bit of retconning. Two of the biggest changes come in the form of characters Ciprien (Tongayi Chirisa) and Cortland Mayfair (Harry Hamlin).
Chirisa plays Ciprien, a member of the Talamasca who has been keeping tabs on Rowan and the Mayfair family. Ciprien is a combination of Michael Curry and Aaron Lightner from the books and he hopes to offer guidance to Rowan as she learns more about her heritage. Chirisa does a fantastic job navigating the fine line between duty, obligation and desire to help a woman who has no idea about who she really is. He’s very fun to watch and I’m excited to see how he develops Ciprien as the story evolves.
Harry Hamlin’s Cortland Mayfair is the guy you want to party with during Mardi Gras. He’s forever at odds with Carlotta Mayfair (Beth Grant) and as far as he’s concerned life is one big celebration. He is very aware of Lasher’s presence and has his own reasons for wanting to help Rowan. In the books, Cortland is a controversial character who doesn’t live long so there’s no question that the showrunners are hoping to give him a new backstory and more to do in the series, which is a good thing because Hamlin plays this southern gentleman with great aplomb. I also love Jen Richards as Jojo, Cortland’s daughter. Hamlin and Richards are a phenomenal on-screen father-daughter pairing and if you offered me a Cortland-Jojo spinoff I’d take it in a heartbeat.
Beth Grant is delightfully wicked as Carlotta while Annabeth Gish brings a deep sorrow to present-day Dierdre. The supporting cast does a phenomenal job and it will be fun to watch them grow with the series.
There’s no question that Mayfair Witches is following in the footsteps of Interview with the Vampire and that both shows inhabit the same universe, with a crossover very likely at some point in the future. If you’re unfamiliar with Rice’s novels, as shows about witches go, Mayfair Witches is doing its own thing in its own corner of an established universe. It’s definitely not Charmed but fans of A Discovery of Witches will note a similar vibe. (Incidentally, A Discovery of Witches is an AMC import and available on the AMC+ platform and you should watch it if you haven’t already)
Overall, I’m very excited to see where Mayfair Witches goes. I’m impressed with the five episodes I’ve seen so far and can’t wait to see more.
Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches premieres Sunday, January 8, at 9pm ET/PT on AMC and AMC+.
For more about my thoughts on Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches, check out the latest episode of the My Nights Are Booked Podcast.