Imagine the Harry Potter movies but with subtext comparable to X-Men, and that’s the general idea of the Netflix series The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself. Based on Sally Green’s novel Half Bad, the violence and body horror is a far cry from Hogwarts and chocolate frogs.
But that’s all to the strength of the fantasy series, which follows several teenage witches whose powers start to blossom. Two of the characters, Annalise and Jessica, get some particularly noteworthy abilities. Jessica can turn herself into other people on a whim, an ideal extension of her mean nature. For Annalise, well, you can read how actor Nadia Parkes explains it below.
Parkes and Isobel Jesper Jones, who plays Jessica, sat down with us to explain how they filmed some of their most audacious scenes, their reactions to the story, and how the user sometimes doesn’t want the magic. We asked Jones about the new Hunger Games movie as well, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, and she tells us a little of what’s coming.
The Digital Fix: Your two characters, I think, have the most fun powers, which is a funny thing to say, given it’s a show full of witches. I’m wondering what were your first impressions when you read the capabilities your characters had?
Nadia Parkes: I thought it was amazing that Annalise had the character power that she had because I think you don’t expect it. She shows no signs of evil traits or deadliness, darkness even. And then inside her is one of the darkest powers that are which can get. So I was really pleased to know that she’s got this secret to grapple with and deal with and try and control.
Isobel Jesper Jones: I love what it’s called as well. I love that it’s called ‘The undoing’.
NP: Yeah, it’s great.
IJJ: I think shape-shifting, particularly into other people, is a fascinating power to have. Because I went down a whole thing of what that must do to identity like and the actual idea of like being able to turn into other people, and how powerful you would feel being able to do that. It really gave me a key into Jessica and how she moves through the series.
Isobel, with the shapeshifting powers, some of your scenes are incredible in that, you’re playing other actors, and there’s actors that are playing you. Can you tell me about how you collaborated with the other performers and putting together those scenes?
IJJ: Yeah, it was amazing. It would be such a bizarre experience. For example, in the changing room scene with hazel and her boyfriend and her dad, it would kind of work that I would do the scene as Jessica, how Jessica would do it, and then the other actors would watch. And then, I would have the amazing experience of watching them do Jessica, and it was really collaborative.
I think it was also really interesting to see how different people interpret her and her nastiness. But it was also a lot of, like, crouching down next to people’s waists and waiting to pop back up. So I spent a lot of time like on the floor waiting. So it wasn’t very glamorous, but it was amazing to film.
Nadia, you mentioned there, you have this surprise entrance. You think she’s not a big player, but then she takes on this major role, and it’s one of the most gruesome scenes in the show. Can you describe sculpting that whole entrance and making sure that it’s a full surprise for the audience?
NP: It was really important when we were mapping out that journey that you just don’t expect it from her. We hint at it because obviously, we see her in the car with David, and we don’t really know what happened there, and then we see something happened to her pet rat. Beef, RIP.
IJJ: RIP [laughter]
NP: But when it comes to the moment in episode 3 with Steve, the security guard, I think it was just really important that she was just as shocked in a way as the audience was. Because then, she goes on a quest with Nathan and is constantly dealing with this power that is inside her and the kind of power that she’s frightened of.
She’s really frightened of how powerful she is, and I don’t think she ever wanted it or asked for it, and I think in Jessica’s dream, she would get a power like that. So it was amazing to film and seeing it in its full form in the edit; wow. Like, I didn’t expect it to look as good as it does. It’s just incredible.
Isobel, we’re going to be seeing you next year in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the new Hunger Games movie. What can you tell us?
IJJ: Absolutely nothing. [Laughter] What I can tell you. I don’t have any powers in it. I play Mayfair Lip, who’s the daughter of the mayor of District 12, and yeah, that’s kind of all I can say, sorry!
The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself is available to stream on Netflix October 28.