50 Shades of Scratch: Sabrina star on Nick's BDSM turn in Part 3, and wilder Part 4
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3.
Gavin Leatherwood is a little under the weather. Wrestling with inner demons, wrestling with an actual demon, tripping on enough drugs to down a small army, and venturing into the BDSM scene, understandably, takes a lot out of you. The 25-year-old Oregon native turned Netflix thirst trap fights back a cough as he tries to wrap his head around the character arc for warlock Nicholas Scratch on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina‘s Part 3. The BDSM, especially. “What a wonderful world to dive into it on camera!” he says.
In the finale of Part 2, the teen witch’s boyfriend finds himself transformed into a flesh Acheron cage for the Dark Lord (Luke Cook). For the month that followed, every day was torture for the young warlock, who found himself battling Satan himself internally for command of Nick’s body. Once Sabrina finally frees him from this Hell-ish reality, Nick is then plagued by PTSD, which he drowns in alcohol, magically-enhanced drugs, and, oh yes, romps with sex demons. If Part 3 is Sabrina at its most Riverdale-ian absurdity, Leatherwood doesn’t even have words to describe where the show will go next.
Leatherwood spoke with EW on some of Nick’s most bonkers moments in Part 3, as well as teases for Part 4.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The only way I can really describe Part 3 is wild. Did it feel wild when you were going over the scripts?
GAVIN LEATHERWOOD: Yes, certainly. Wild is a really great word I would use. Even within the character, I feel like there’s a part of him that’s unleashing moments of anger and snapping and trauma, as well as in the world of Greendale. A lot of s—t’s hitting the fan in this Part for sure.
What initially stood out to you when you were reading the scripts and talking with the producers about where Nick was going this season?
We typically get the scripts episode [by] episode, actually. So, we don’t really know where things are going to be heading from the get-go. We have sat down and chatted at the end of Part 2 with [showrunner] Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa] and I had a conversation where I was like, “Man, what the Hell is gonna happen for Nick? Is he gonna be a part of the Devil now? Is he going to remain in Hell with Madame Satan?” I had loads of questions. And then we had a meeting again over our big hiatus. There were also hints that nothing was ever secured, nothing was ever certain. It’s really fun to see the episodes from moment to moment, episode to episode, how the characters grow and it’s actually a bit of a challenge.
It seems like you were having a lot more fun this season. I think I choked when you told Sabrina, “Call me daddy.” Is it difficult to keep a straight face on set when you’re dealing with so much soapy absurdity?
Absolutely. It’s something that the fans don’t get to see too much of. I wish we could release a gag reel or something because there’s so much silliness and fun to be had on this set. With those sex scenes, for one, all being chained up together for limited mobility, attempting to be sexy while covered in prosthetics for the sex demons while I’m getting spanked. How do you not enjoy that and laugh your ass off about it?
I have to ask about your wrestling scene with Satan. What was that like, especially with Luke Cook being a personal trainer.
He’s also 6’5’’, he’s also incredibly athletic and strong. [Laughs] Luke and I, on the day we were filming that scene, while we were waiting I was pretending to do all these workouts to try to look like “I’m trying to catch up to you, man.” That’s the fun thing about it. I knew that would be an intense scene, so it was an inspiration to get in the gym and take care of myself so I didn’t look like a completely small child next to him. But just as far as keeping up with the day and having some kind of conditioning to do that kind of physically taxing work, it is a good motivation.
Did he give you pointers on hitting the gym?
Oh yeah. All the supplements I have in my cupboard are from him, he showed me plenty of workouts, we worked out together. Yeah, he’s been an incredible wealth of information as far as all that goes. We’re lucky to have him around for that.
How would you compare the demands of Part 3 versus previous episodes?
If we were without our amazing crew, I feel like it would be much more of a challenge. But to be able to do this amazing stuff — and like I said before with all the lightheartedness that happens in between takes and what not — you feel like you’re in a safe space to play. But, yeah, those moments of being hurt from the trauma and all that, I think having a good sense of preparation going into it and reading the script and coming up with ideas and playing with certain things, and then doing what you can to feel no resistance when you’re on set. They do such a great job of keeping us as comfortable as possible. We have a lovely team constantly checking in on us to make sure that we’re doing all right.
A rep for Netflix was explaining that Parts 1 and 2 were part of that first season order, and Parts 3 and 4 are technically season 2. Do you get breaks in between filming or is this like a long witchy bootcamp where you film both Parts all at once?
It’s definitely an interesting challenge in that regard. We shoot 10 months out of the year. We do have time off. We get Christmas and Thanksgiving off which is wonderful. We’ll have some short-term hiatus’ where it’s like a week here, a couple weeks there. But, I mean, it takes a lot to film a TV show which is something that I wasn’t totally privy to considering this is my first real consistent job. At least, personally, I feel like if I’m working on something like this, I really gotta be here. Fortunately, my family is in Oregon. They are a 7-hour road trip south [from Vancouver, British Columbia, where the show films], which is super convenient. When I have five days off, I’ll go and spend some time with them. Some peoples’ families are all over the place and I think finding that bond and that community here has been all of our saving grace… I think all we can really do is take the best care of ourselves and that’s something that this job has taught me to keep up on self-care and self-love. It’s only been until these past couple years that I’ve taken up meditation and going to the gym on a regular basis and doing a lot of writing and reading. I feel like it’s taught me a lot of good habits. There’s nothing else I would rather do on this planet other than play make-believe characters and playing in an imaginary world and to create. That’s really my No. 1 prerogative and so long as I can do that, it fills joy in my life.
I noticed you didn’t get to partake in the musical scenes in Part 3. Was that something you had been looking forward to?
Yes. My musical theater part inside always wants to sing and dance. That’s the truth. That’s something I get to do some more of in Part 4, though. It’s fun. Singing is fun. I play a lot of music in my downtime, I play a bit of guitar and write some songs and any excuse I can get to go to a recording studio with a bunch of professionals to see how it’s done is really a cool lens into the music world… The first thing I did was Arthur Miller’s All My Sons when I was 6 years old and that was really this crucial moment in my life when I realized I could stand on a stage with an adult who believed in this imaginary world just as much as I did, and we got to play. It was adults taking “play” seriously. That was just a monumental moment in my life where I was like, “Holy s—t! I wanna do this.” Then I did the 2004-2006 national Broadway tour of Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby and we traveled the States for two years and saw a lot of the country and performed at Madison Square Garden. It was such a crazy, wonderful experience that I hold very near and dear to my heart and always will.
Is there anything you can tease about your musical number in the new episodes?
There’s a couple of them.
Should we expect a belting number from you?
I was really hoping for that. It’s more of a sultriness to the music in Part 4. But crossing fingers for that belting moment. I’m sure at some point down the line there will be.
So, let’s talk about BDSM for a second. Was that surprising to see in the scripts for Nick’s arc this season?
Yes, absolutely. I… yeah. What a wonderful world to dive into it on camera! There are a lot of moments in this Part where I’m gonna have to tell my mom to close her eyes during, that definitely being one of them. But it was so fun to play. Yes, shocking. I felt like I was shocked at a lot of things that were coming up for Nick or at least surprised me in a way. You just learn to communicate with the people you’re working with and finding ways to accomplish the scene at hand… I think it’s fun that the limits aren’t really on and that we are allowed to go to these places. There was a line I remember reading where Nick says to Sabrina when he’s talking about the Devil, he said, “It was a total mindf—,” and I remember thinking, “Can we say that word on our show? I guess we can.”
Are there any overarching themes or anything general you can tease about the Part 4 episodes you’re working on right now?
The world as we know it, the obstacles and challenges and enemies that we faced so far, in my opinion don’t really hold a candle to what’s to come in the next Part. The world continues to expand in a wild way. You used the word “wild” to describe Part 3. I don’t know if there’s a word yet to describe Part 4. You should give me a call when it comes out and let me know what word you choose for Part 4.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3 is now streaming on Netflix.