“I feel like I’m just riding this massive tidal wave and I’m just coasting over this thing with my little surfboard,” says Tongayi Chirisa of AMC and AMC+’s Mayfair Witches success.
EW sat down with Tongayi Chirisa to discuss the inspiration he found in the Lives of Mayfair Witches books, other pieces of Anne Rice’s work, and his good friend Jack Huston.
Your character Ciprien Grieve is a combination of Michael Curry and Aaron Lightner from the book series. How do you feel your character represents both of these beloved characters?
TONGAYI CHIRISA: Well, in a couple ways. I think [showrunner and executive producer] Esta Spalding did a great job in just taking the main elements of these characters. So obviously with Michael, his powers and the gloves that he wears, and then with Aaron being an agent for the Talamasca. What was interesting when you just look at the themes and the dynamics within the book is that both men seemingly had this type of affection towards Rowan.
Both men seemingly had the same agenda, whereas, it altered slightly with Michael trying to discover like what his purpose was by being driven by this premonition that he had and Aaron who had history about the Mayfair women. And what’s happened with agents that have always been tasked with taking care of, watching, observing the women. So ultimately they were all trying to get to the same conclusion. And so I think Esta did a great job in just getting the foundational work, but it was really up to me, with her guidance, to then mold Ciprien into what I felt was right and to fit into the narrative of the story.
What did you do to prepare for this roll? Did you watch any other witch content?
I’m a huge fan of fantasy, so I’ve probably seen a lot of this genre and kind of understand the world that I’m stepping into. And then when I finally found out that it was Anne Rice, cause the first time I’d ever heard of her was from the the movie Interview With the Vampire with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, and then I watched Queen of the Damned with Aaliyah.
So when I heard that it was Anne Rice’s work that they were bringing to life, I was just like, absolutely. I think I know what I’m doing. So it was a dream and just to work with all kinds of elements of drama, the suspense, the comedy, which I think with fantasy you find a lot of. And working with Alexandra Daddario, that’s a homegirl right there, that’s a homie. It doesn’t feel like work when you connect with people on a level that just surpasses the profession.
Before getting into the chaos of episode 5, that episode 4 cliff hanger was crazy. What was it like filming that scene in Carlotta’s flammable dining room?
It was a thrill. Movie magic for me, it never gets old. We had to choreograph that a little bit, you didn’t want to crash into co-stars at full speed because the scene has me breaking in and that momentum carries you. To see Cips character, have this massive pivot all of a sudden from nowhere is just like whoa. And to see what then happens after that unfortunate incident, it’s stuff that you relish. I was looking forward to filming this episode because you kind of have an idea what comes into the next episode.
Episode 5 all takes place all in Carlotta’s house. We see Lasher toying with Cip and Rowan, altering reality. And at one point he becomes Cip while the real Cip is basically dying downstairs. How did you play both versions of the character in that one scene?
Oh man, he’s cold. First of all, I think what I loved about that particular scene, and the block in general, was that we were able to film our scenes linear. So it would allow for us to really chart the emotional journey and the emotional path physically, emotionally, mentally, for Ciprien. After day five of being in this mental state, I was physically and emotionally tired, so it just played well. His health is deteriorating rapidly, and I’m just walking a lot slower because I’m physically tired. I was fortunate enough to work with Jack Huston on another project, and we’ve become really good friends. Just observing him in his element as Lasher, I just copy and paste it.
What can fans look forward to seeing going into the rest of the season?
Well, now that you’ve seen episode five, the stakes keep getting hotter and hotter and higher and higher. This is the beginning of the end in so many ways, I think people’s true characters and intentions are now starting to reveal themselves. Anybody could be the victim and the perpetrator of what’s about to happen next, so stay tuned.
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