The Best of Witches
Catherine Bell has been a witch for some time, now, and that’s magic.
There is a subtle kind of magic about Hallmark Channel's Good Witch.
The series — returning for its fourth season on April 29 — features Catherine Bell (JAG, Army Wives) as Cassie Nightingale, a kind-hearted enchantress whose mystic abilities are more akin to the "highly intuitive" variety than the kind that sells out theaters in Las Vegas.
Up to this point, Cassie has moved to a new town, started two businesses — a shop and a bed and breakfast — and fallen in love with the man next door. This season she gets married. The character has just a hint of magic about her, which makes Cassie come across as an exceedingly perceptive person who utilizes her gifts to help those around her.
Arguably, the real magic is in the ratings. The supernatural series is consistently ranked in the top five shows on ad-supported cable on highly competitive Sunday nights. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Good Witch franchise, which began in 2008 with a string of seven television movies. In 2015, the character, and Bell — who also serves as a producer — were given their own series.
Emmy's Sarah Hirsch spoke with Bell about the show's longevity, its strong female characters and what Bell thinks of that oh-so-subtle magic.
You've played Cassie for 10 years now – how do you keep the experience of playing that character fresh for you as an actor?
Cassie has evolved a lot since the beginning. Over the course of the movies I went from being a stranger new to a town, to someone falling in love, getting married, adjusting to a new family and having a baby. Then when we started as a series, her life was very different — the baby was now a teenager, played by Bailee Madison. And my character was widowed. And a new handsome doctor was moving in next door.
So all of those things brought great opportunities to evolve as a character. There are new challenges of raising a teenager daughter, falling in love with Sam and blending families.
That was important to me in turning Good Witch into a series: that Cassie wasn't always perfect and didn't always have every answer or know how to fix everything. We felt that that might not be as fun to watch as a weekly series. So finding her "kryptonite," so to speak, has been fun.
There are many iconic witches in films, television series and books. Were any of them a reference for you when you first started playing Cassie?
Probably all of them to some degree. No one in particular, but maybe bits from several. Though at the end of the day, Cassie isn't really a witch...or is she?
Exactly. Cassie's magic is fairly subtle. Do you think she's actually a witch? Do you play her as if she is?
Yes, I believe Cassie is more intuitive. She is someone who is incredibly perceptive and gets "feelings" that probably a lot of us get. Except Cassie actually listens to them and trusts them.
Cassie and Sam are finally getting married! What are you most looking forward to about that change?
I just adore working with James Denton and I love Sam and Cassie's chemistry and relationship — it's adorable. And I love watching the show with my kids because they love it too and it's fun to see how they get pulled in to the characters — even though I'm their mom and they know I'm not really Cassie!
So more of Sam and Cassie is always good. I'm also looking forward to the conflict that those characters living together will present for their kids.
Have you considered directing an episode of Good Witch?
I hadn't until recently. It always scared me, but lately I've had some great and inspiring conversations with one of our directors and a producer friend. And I've realized that maybe it's something I'd want to tackle! I'd want to really study and work at it though — I have no false idea that it would be easy! I realize how much work it is and how many decisions a director needs to make!
There are a lot of strong female characters on this series. What is the importance to you of being on a show that celebrates women in leadership positions?
It's one of my favorite things about our show and about Hallmark Channel. There are so many incredible opportunities for women to be strong and intelligent. Cassie owns a bed and breakfast and runs her own shop. She's a single mom, strong, smart and hard working. I love that she's a great role model in that sense. Showing women you can do and have it all!
Good Witch is consistently one of the highest rated cable shows in its timeslot. Why do you think it has resonated so much with viewers?
I'm often told by fans how much they appreciate having a show that they can watch with the whole family, and that gives them some much needed lightness and hope in a time where maybe life or the news is presenting the "other side." Sometimes people need that escape, and an hour to just feel good about things.
Do you have a favorite scene that sticks out from the past 10 years?
One of my favorites was the scene where Sam proposed to Cassie. It surprised her, his getting down on one knee. It was so sweet and touching. I cried playing it and cried again watching it back. Just made me feel good!