A Discovery of Witches (TV series)

For Matthew Goode, filming A Discovery of Witches on location in Oxford was a bit of a full-circle moment.

The actor, 40, earned a lot of attention back in 2008 for his leading role in the much-buzzed-about remake of Brideshead Revisited.

Based on the Evelyn Waugh novel of the same name, the film tells the tragic tale of Charles Ryder (Goode) who befriends the wealthy and eccentric Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw) when they meet as fellow students at Oxford University. Romantic complications ensue when Sebastian bring Charles home to Brideshead to meet the rest of the family, including his gorgeous sister Julia (Hayley Atwell) and his devout mother, Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson). The film, which was first made as a wildly successful miniseries starring Jeremy Irons, put Goode on the map in a major way as a leading man and involved extensive location shooting in Oxford.

It’s fitting then that A Discovery of Witches, the forthcoming series based on Deborah Harkness best-selling All Souls Trilogy, finds Goode portraying a highly respected DNA scientist and Oxford professor, who also happens to be a vampire. “Thank god I’m in love with Oxford because I’m going to be spending some time there,” Goode told EW in the midst of shooting. “I’m very fond of it. I’m very fortunate.”

The location shoot gave Goode a heavy sense of deja vu. “I did get a flashback when we were filming by the [Radcliffe] Camera because one of my first shots was walking down that lane and boom, that was it,” he explains. “That was my first shot when I was playing Charles Ryder and then there I am again, ten years later, standing almost in the same spot. It felt really nice actually. I missed Ben Whishaw.”

A Discovery of Witches
Credit: Sky One/Bad Wolf Productions

Goode spent several days shooting on location in Oxford, filming exteriors around the Bodleian Library, Radcliffe Camera, Great St. Mary’s church, and other iconic landmarks. He also frequently shot along the Cherwell river and on bridges in the surrounding area, which gave him the opportunity to indulge in some fishing, as well as take in the local pubs while his costar Teresa Palmer was busy rowing.

“I’d been sat in the pub, with a drink, watching her through the window for hours, and I just thought ‘Oh, I could be out there fishing right now,” he recalls. “Luckily, unit base is right by a fishing tackle shop, so the next day I went in and bought myself a fishing rod. Then when we were filming, it was all on Teresa for a couple hours, I just sat there…I had a brilliant time and I intend to bring my rod with me now every time.”

The actor also marvels at what a beautiful backdrop the university town made for their series. “We caught it at that wonderful time as well, the cusp autumn, and it was just all the trees were perfect,” he reflects. “It just looks magnificent, the color of the stone. It has a really cool vibe, Oxford. It’s full of extraordinary people, some of them completely odd, but wonderful. Especially when all the students are back, it’s a great people-watching place, but the history as well grounds our show.”

In addition to the joys of actually filming in Oxford proper, Goode was also blown away by the art department’s ability to recreate the interior of Oxford locations, most particularly the Selden End and Duke Humfrey’s Library inside the Bodleian. “You walk in and it makes your heart sing,” he says of the Bodleian set, built entirely on a soundstage at the studio in Cardiff, Wales. “There’s nothing worse than walking into a set and going ‘This looks really fake.’ You wouldn’t think you could fake the Bodleian library — it’s just staggering.”

For a taste of the Oxford magic, A Discovery of Witches debuts in full streaming on Sundance Now and Shudder beginning Jan. 17.

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A Discovery of Witches (TV series)
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