Charmed director Vanessa Parise talks to Awards Daily about The CW reboot and what it means for women and people of color on television.
2018 has been the year of the ’90s TV reboot, with shows like Murphy Brown and Roseanne coming back from the dead.
And one show that has been appropriately resurrected (based on the bewitching plot alone!) is Charmed on The CW, a feminist reboot of the 1998 series about a sisterhood of witches. Notably, the 2018 cast consists of all women of color, including Melonie Diaz, Madeleine Mantock, and Sarah Jeffrey.
I connected with Charmed director Vanessa Parise, who took some time between shooting to answer my questions about the need to remake the show, what TimesUp and #MeToo have done for television, and what we can expect in upcoming episodes.
Awards Daily: Were you a fan of the original Charmed? Do you have a special connection to it? How did you come to be the Producing Director/ CoExecutive Producer on the reboot?
Vanessa Parise: The extraordinary Alyssa Milano was starring in the original Charmed when she starred in my first feature film, Kiss the Bride, which was about four sisters and their dysfunctional but very loving family. I watched the original series voraciously at that time. It was about sisterhood, and it was engaging and smart.
I’ve always tried to write interesting, multidimensional female characters in my scripts, and to hire as many women and people of color as possible when I’m directing or producing. To be given this opportunity [as Producing Director and Co-Executive Producer] on Charmed, a show that is likewise about sisterhood, feels like an amazing culmination of my work to date. I’m beyond grateful to be working with this brilliant team on a show that’s political, topical, and inclusive—all told in an elegant, poignant yet humorous way.
AD: The CW is known for its superhero and supernatural shows, many of which feature women. Do you think that the genre empowers women both in front of and behind the camera?
VP: Definitely. Although I think any show with a female lead is empowering for women everywhere—with or without the supernatural element.
AD: The stats on The CW network demonstrate that it’s so ahead of the curve when it comes to representation of women and minorities behind the camera and in front of the camera. Why do you think that is?
VP: The CW and CBS studios [who make Charmed] are committed to inclusion. The executives [working on Charmed] are awesome people actively seeking to hire more women and POC. Which is how change is finally happening.
For years, there has been talk of change and rising awareness. But now, with TimesUp and #MeToo—and I think in solidarity against what’s going on in Washington—at last this talk is translating into actual hiring. It’s simultaneously shocking and thrilling to be in the midst of this monumental change. After years of navigating around the obstacles, suddenly there are new paths opening up. We’re realizing that the world can be different. As a creative group, everyone working on Charmed is striving to make a fierce statement for open-mindedness and inclusion.
AD: You’re directing 3 of the first 9 episodes of the series. What’s been the most challenging scene you’ve filmed?
VP: The most challenging sequence so far was the mirror sequence in 102. Some of the mirrors were real, and some were CG!/ green screen. We were working off the concept art I’d created with our production designer and art department and some great storyboards. Both of which we blew up and posted on set. But it took a lot of brain power from everyone—cast and crew—to keep on the same page about what we were shooting, and what the scene would ultimately look like. Plus, we were dealing with mirrors, so we were of course having to find ways not to see ourselves [the crew] in the reflections. All of which became dizzying after 10 hours of shooting!
AD: As Producing Director, is it difficult to keep the style of the show consistent with each different director? What do you do to keep the style consistent?
VP: Let’s see, I created a visual look book at the beginning of the season. We make sure each new director receives all of the shows that have been completed so they can see what we’ve been doing. I meet with each director early on in prep to discuss visual style and share what’s important, to keep our style, tone, and feel. When I’m not directing myself, I spend a lot of my time prepping with the new directors. I also make sure to spend time on set every day. We have an incredibly strong pilot episode as our guide.
AD: I know you were named one of the 10 Female Directors Breaking Stereotypes. What do you do to break stereotypes as a director and how is Charmed an example?
SheKnows is a powerhouse organization working to get to 50 percent women [directors and writers] by 2020. I feel honored by their recognition. I’m always inspired to continue to break stereotypes. I come from a large multicultural [Italian Jewish Colombian] family myself. I’m committed to bringing more female and diverse directors to the table. This means helping to raise awareness, and vouching for people I believe in. We know as women or POC, we have to work harder—to help level the playing field. And we are. We will move forward together!
AD: Can you tease anything coming up this season? Or for your episodes 108 or 110 (airing in 2019)?
Cocoons … and Hell ☺
Charmed airs on The CW on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.