“I worry a lot,” actress Kiernan Shipka said with a nervous laugh. “I’m a catastrophiser by nature.”
Shipka was perched on the edge of a red velvet sofa in the well-appointed Upper East Side sitting room of David Scoroposki, an astrologer. The room was all crown mouldings, gilded mirrors and porcelain dog figurines. The early-autumn light was sumptuous and fell at an angle across shelves filled with books about the occult and magic.
Scoroposki sat opposite her on a matching couch. Between them was a carved wooden table covered with crystals and a hand-drawn diagram of her astrological chart.
The good news: Everything is going to be all right, Scoroposki assured her, including her career and the release of Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, in which she stars.
Still, Scoroposki did foresee some hiccups on the horizon. He leaned in, eyebrow cocked. “Let’s talk about your love life,” he said.
“Oh, I do need to know about that,” Shipka said, eyes wide and nodding vigorously.
“I figured,” he said with concern, which prompted Shipka, who turns 19 in November (she’s a Sagittarius), to let out a gleeful cackle befitting, well, a teenage witch.
Romantic uncertainty aside, this is an exciting moment for Shipka, who is stepping into her first big leading role, and it’s a juicy one. She plays Sabrina Spellman, in a re-imagining of the 1990s sitcom about a half-witch, half-mortal high school student juggling homework, a boyfriend and a demon overlord keen on possessing her soul.
You know, typical teenage stuff.
The series comes from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, executive producer behind Riverdale, a soapy re-imagining of the Archie Comics series.
Like that show, Sabrina places adolescent melodrama in a supernatural milieu, drawing parallels between everyday teenage antics and otherworldly horrors.
There are also social overtones. Sabrina invokes witches as a metaphor for womanhood, and the challenges that girls and women face in a male-dominated world. “I loved the feminist quality of it,” Shipka said.
“Witches are such a thing right now, aren’t they?” she added. “I think it’s interesting how we keep returning to them time and time again. This feels like a very current take on the whole idea. What I like about the show is that it simultaneously feels like an escape but also a commentary.”
The role of Sabrina, with all its layers and contradictions, was also an exciting challenge. “The way that her character is so multidimensional and still so young, but driven and smart, brave and selfless at the same time,” Shipka said. “That was really fascinating to me.”
Shipka could have been talking about herself. With her wavy blond bob, sleeveless white Miu Miu shirt, slim black pants and velvet fanny pack, she cut a professional yet playful look.
“Young people deserve to be portrayed with depth,” she said.
She would know. After all, Shipka first came to fame on Mad Men, as Don Draper’s deeply complicated daughter, Sally, a role she played from ages 6 to 15. “I still remember my first day on set,” she said. “I was so giddy.”
Did she have an early inkling that the show would change her life? “Oh, never. I had no expectations whatsoever,” she said. “I remember leaving the first day of set, and my dad was like, ‘This seems pretty legit.’”
Maybe because she has spent so much of her life in the public eye, and in the company of adults, it’s no surprise that, in person she comes across as preternaturally poised. Her smile radiates genuine warmth and she has no hang up about hugging a reporter upon first meeting.
At the astrological reading, Scoroposki explained that Venus had gone into retrograde, causing a summertime romance to go haywire. “If you’re wondering what the hell happened, just remember that this, too, shall pass,” he said. “Use this time to reflect and think: ‘What do I really want? What do I deserve?’”
Next, Scoroposki consulted his tarot cards and had Shipka shuffle the deck. A recurring card was the King of Wands, which again alluded to the fading dalliance.
“This is telling me you’re right to think, ‘Oh wait, there’s some sort of imbalance here,’” he said. However, he did see that Jupiter was entering her sign, Sagittarius, for a year, which meant it was a prime time to focus her energies on work.
Shipka seemed to recognise that analysis, nodding profusely.
Shipka was tight on time. She was due at Comic Con later that day, and had only 30 minutes to spare. As Scoroposki wrapped up his reading, he welcomed Shipka to come back or call for a check-in. He also gave her a lapis crystal. “It’s sacred to Jupiter,” he said. “Carry it with you.”
Did he have any parting tips? “Go on hikes, get out in nature, be active,” he said. “That’ll be good for you.”
Shipka saw plenty of opportunity for outdoor adventures in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the show is filmed. She also keeps a small trampoline on set to help her stay active and shake off excess energy between scenes.
Lapis in hand, Shipka made her way downstairs and stepped out onto the sun-dappled sidewalk. She glowed with post-reading positive vibes, and if she was at all troubled about the news about her love life, it didn’t show.
Yes, she is single, but she is on Raya, the invitation-only social media app popular with celebrities, athletes and Instagram models.
“Oh, I love my Raya,” she said. “I’ve gone on dates from it, but nothing that’s come to fruition. We’ll see.”
Don’t miss it
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina begins streaming on Netflix from October 26.