Casting a pilot is hard enough without the added pressures of knowing your show is going to be a guaranteed hit, but this wasn't David Rapaport and Lyndsey Baldasare's first time casting a high-profile project.
The pair has worked on basically all of your favorite CW television shows, and they met their future Chilling Adventures of Sabrina cast members in some surprising places. There's so much that goes on behind-the-scenes, and the Spellmans aren't the only ones keeping secrets.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has been a fan of Kiernan Shipka since her eight-year tenure as Sally Draper on Mad Men. Kiernan honestly doesn’t look old enough to have done anything for eight years straight, but her time starring on the AMC period drama when most kids were in elementary school was wildly well-received by reviewers and caught Roberto’s attention. When Chilling Adventures moved from The CW to Netflix, David Rapaport expressed that Kiernan might be interested in the series. From that point on, Roberto shared to Entertainment Weekly, he started writing the role with Kiernan specifically in mind.
Somewhere, in an alternate universe, Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse probably never met. The young lovebirds should send an Edible Arrangements to Chance Perdomo for narrowly missing out on the role of Jughead and unintentionally allowing their love to blossom. The race for the Riverdale role was super close, and Roberto remembered Chance’s audition tape when he was writing the role of Ambrose. Unbeknownst to Chance, Roberto told The Hollywood Reporter he actually created the character *for* Chance, giving the British actor his big break.
When Gavin Leatherwood heard Chilling Adventures was casting for Nicholas Scratch, he was stoked. It was way more his speed than his first foray into the world of Archie Horror: an audition for the role of Harvey Kinkle. We couldn’t imagine this kinda short tall, dark, and handsome bad boy stepping into Ross Lynch’s shoes, and Gavin agrees in an interview with Grue Monkey. It only took five days for David to give Gavin the role he was *actually* meant for, and Gavin called his mom and cried tears of joy when he heard the news.
Chance’s first dream was to be the first black president of the United States, which was a long shot considering he’s British, so he decided to follow his *second* dream of becoming an actor. Still, he was pursuing a law degree while training with the National Youth Theatre in London. When he booked a children’s television pilot, filming conflicted with his law exams. He took a chance and chose the show, only to hear nothing for a year and a half. While it may have seemed like a crushing blow at the time, Chance decided to go all-in on his acting dream, which eventually led him to the U.S. and Chilling Adventures.
Going solely off of Tati Gabrielle’s real-life personality, the casting team was right to bring Tati in to read for Rosalind instead of the sinister Prudence Night. Tati has shared in the past that she’s so freaked by the occult aspects of the show, she refuses to say “Hail, Satan!” as a joke behind the scenes and does a nightly smudging to rid herself of the negative juju that might be summoned by the show’s decision to only use real pagan spells. Girl, same. She’s so scared of most horror films, she told W that she couldn’t even watch Jurassic Park until she was sixteen, but she was thrilled to be brought back in to read for the villainous wicked witch. It's called acting, look it up.
David Rapaport shared with Mandy that casting a pilot is a ten-week process. Two months sounds like a long time to find fifteen actors, but the team usually sifts through thousands of audition tapes before making a final decision, especially if you’re working with David, who likes to leave no stone unturned. Even if you do find someone who seems perfect for the role, if they tank their chemistry reads with already-booked actors, you’re back to square one. It’s a whirlwind that can culminate in a decade-long commitment.
Roberto might have written Sabrina with Kiernan in mind, but it wasn’t the first time he had tried to bring the Mad Men alum into the Archie Horror family. Lili Reinhart obviously ended up taking home the role of Betty Cooper, but RAS considered Kiernan for the iconic blonde before giving it to the virtually-unknown Lili. It could have been Chance and Kiernan taking on the Gargoyle King while Lili and Cole navigate the Church of the Night, but Lili ended up being the one to walk the Path of Light.
Apparently, DM-sliding isn’t just for thirsty teens and unwanted d*ck pics. Chance told Coup de Main and i-D that he heard back from David through an Instagram DM that just said “CONGRATULATIONS” before his manager had a chance to share the news. Chance called it a “very 2018” way to learn his life was about to change, but we always knew the Chilling Adventures team was hip with the kids. What else could we expect from a show with pansexual warlocks, school-sanctioned orgies, and a strange bastardization of the Catholic Church?
Acting isn’t a profession for the weak of heart or anyone that craves things like stability and knowing the next time you’ll be getting paid. Case in point: after paying her artistic dues before she even hit puberty, Kiernan Shipka was still worried about her career before finding Chilling Adventures. Kiernan explained to Refinery29 that she was “down in the dumps” before fighting to prove she could play the role that RAS intended for her to begin with. In Hollywood, nothing is guaranteed except your union-mandated breaks.
Kiernan’s cat allergy is no secret, but it was so bad that Roberto briefly considered making Salem a dog, he revealed to Entertainment Weekly. After a hot minute, RAS decided to keep Salem a black cat, which fits much better with the series dark and brooding aesthetic. Happy-go-lucky puppies seem more of a Riverdale mood, but we are sad to see less of Sabrina's historically wise-cracking familiar due to the allergy. Luckily, we have Ambrose to fill Nick Bakay's sarcastic shoes.
We could possibly see more of Salem if we could just narrow down witch which of the many, many Salems has been triggering Kiernan’s allergies. There are five different cats stepping into the role of Salem. Two of them walked the red carpet at Chilling Adventures’s premiere, and Chance has said his two favorites are named Boomers and Shaq. Some pictures from the opening night made their way to Vulture, and they are by far the cutest things we’ve ever seen.
Chilling Adventures has done pretty well in casting people of color for principal roles with four of the ten credited leads being played by non-white actors, but there’s always room to do better. The original casting call for Hilda, Zelda, and Sabrina asked for “All Ethnicities” to send in auditions, and even though we know now that Kiernan always had it in the bag, there’s no reason her aunts had to both be white as well. They’re literally magical, after all. This is what we in the biz call "a missed opportunity."
Chilling Adventures wasn’t David’s first rodeo. Greg Berlanti’s go-to found all of your favorite CW superheroes and the Riverdale Core Four, but one of his first big breaks was casting Gossip Girl’s “next Mischa Barton and the next Adam Brody.” He immediately thought of Blake Lively for Serena van der Woodsen, who was then primarily known for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but Penn Bagdley was his second choice for Dan Humphrey after Alden Ehrenreich was deemed too short for the role, David shared in Entertainment Weekly.
Gavin has been working professionally since he booked the children’s role of John Darling in a national tour of Peter Pan, but he found himself in a bit of a drought after his family moved from California to Oregon. Before a seven-month stint in New York City that Gavin himself admits was a failed experiment, the future heartthrob told MTV he worked at an Urban Outfitters in Oregon, where he returned to save some money before moving to Los Angeles. Before landing CAOS, Gavin had really only booked single-appearance television roles.
Sabrina Spellman’s road to Netflix was a long and winding road. Before her standalone CW series was conceived and years before the streaming giant would come into the picture, reports circled that Sabrina was poised to become a season one Riverdale villain. We’re not sure exactly how that would have worked, but we likely wouldn’t have seen Kiernan in the role. The actress has previously stated that she was drawn to Sabrina specifically because of the series’s feminist take on its source material, and it definitely sounds like she only gained interest in the show once it moved off of the CW. It doesn’t seem like she would have been down to play a side character on a network soap. KJ Apa once let it slip during season one that Sabrina Spellman showed up on the finale airing that year, making this a puzzle we do not have all the pieces to.
Chilling Adventures has a fairly young starring cast, with the oldest of our purported high school students being Gavin Leatherwood, Jaz Sinclair and Adeline Rudolph at 24 years old. Kiernan and Lachlan Watson are the only actual teens in the main cast. Kiernan was only eighteen when the series began, the youngest age the team was willing to cast in the grueling role, and Lachlan was born in 2001. Gen-Z is here, and apparently, they can act.
The Dark Lord, who we thought would be more of a Father Blackwood-type, as opposed to the literal 32-year-old stud Luke Cook, didn't exactly nail the audition. We know he’s playing, like, an immortal goat man or whatever, but that man is *not* old enough to have a teenage daughter. In an interview with XO Diva, Luke spoke about how his Chilling Adventures audition was his worst audition ever. The adorable self-deprecating actor (we’re in love!) said he walked out feeling like a terrible actor and considering booking a one-way ticket back to Australia (he’s AUSTRALIAN!). Thank The Dark Lord, it couldn’t have been that bad, because the cutie blessed our small screens and will hopefully return for part three.