'90s kids: Remember Sabrina Spellman's Aunt Zelda? The mostly responsible, magically-inclined guardian from Sabrina, the Teenage Witch will return to the small screen for Netflix's upcoming adaptation. Well, sort of. Aunt Zelda in the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will be a "foreboding character," according to some interesting comments from actor Miranda Otto, who plays Zelda in the new series. During a recent conversation with Entertainment Weekly, published Tuesday, Oct. 23, Otto offered audiences a glimpse into what the adaptation's decidedly darker take on Aunt Zelda is actually going to look like.
"At first impression I would say Zelda's quite a foreboding character," Otto told the publication, before segueing into a more comprehensive description of her Chilling Adventures of Sabrina character. Continuing, the actor explained,
"[Zelda's] quite controlling. She's a decision maker, and she's fiercely protective but also very pushy about what she thinks Sabrina should be doing and very domineering over her sister, Hilda."
OK, so the latter part of Otto's Aunt Zelda description doesn't sound like an aggressively stark departure from the Aunt Zelda fans came to know and love over the course of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch's seven-season run back in the '90s. (And a little bit of the early 2000s, too.) The original Aunt Zelda, played by Beth Broderick, wasn't exactly a free-spirited lady, either. Much like Otto's description of next-generation Zelda suggests, Broderick's character was also the no-nonsense, slightly more disciplined half of Aunt Zelda and Aunt Hilda's goofy guardianship over Sabrina.
Back in the day, Broderick's Aunt Zelda definitely spent a great deal of screen time lecturing her teenage niece and squabbling with her sister. But even so, pretty much anyone who watched Sabrina, the Teenage Witch could probably tell you that Broderick's Zelda —though unmistakably Type A — still doesn't sound anything like the hardened character Otto described to EW. (Foreboding? Really?)
That said, Zelda's transition from plain old strict and anxious in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch to "foreboding" in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina also doesn't sound like an entirely unbelievable stretch. Especially given the new series' vibe, which is generally pretty foreboding, in and of itself. So much so, in fact, that even Hilda cracks, eventually.
"Hilda can't be forever cheerful," actor Lucy Davis, who plays Aunt Hilda in the new series, told EW during that same conversation. Continuing, Davis teased ominously,
"Then we'll just see [Hilda] one day on the news, you know what I mean? She just snapped."
Netflix's upcoming Sabrina adaptation will depart from the mostly whimsical, sitcom-style Sabrina narrative that most 90s kids grew up with. Instead, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina promises "a dark coming-of-age story that traffics in horror, the occult and, of course, witchcraft," according to the network's official series description. Which, for the record, also describes the upcoming adaptation as "tonally in the vein of Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist." Yikes.
But, judging by the remainder of Netflix's plot description — not to mention the exceedingly creepy Chilling Adventures of Sabrina trailer and all those spooky promotional posts on social media — it sounds like the new series' darker tone might very well be a reflection of its equally dark new premise, and all the spellbinding stakes that accompany it. As Netflix's description went on to say,
"This adaptation finds Sabrina wrestling to reconcile her dual nature — half-witch, half-mortal — while standing against the evil forces that threaten her, her family and the daylight world humans inhabit."
In light of the new series' apparent affinity for magical catastrophes, it does sound like Otto's "foreboding" Aunt Zelda character fits the bill pretty evenly. (Davis' less-than-cheerful Aunt Hilda, while perhaps a little tough to imagine right now, definitely does too.) After all, if there's evil afoot, audiences had better believe Aunt Zelda and her foreboding witch nose will sniff it out in no time. And, since it sounds like the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will tout more than enough evil to go around, it makes sense that the Spellman trio's unofficial —but also kind of official — caretaker is at least a little distressed about it.