There are no cauldrons, pointy hats or broomsticks in sight. Instead, as I wait to interview a coven of witches, I’m in an anonymous conference room.
Months ahead of the season premiere of BBC Three’s highly anticipated new drama Domino Day, a handful of lucky journalists have been invited to chat to the young cast and explore the set in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. I’m quivering with excitement, not least because one of the stars, Poppy Lee Friar, played Eve in CBBC’s series of the same name. I loved that show.
Domino Day is shaping up to be another fan favourite. Written and produced by the BAFTA-nominated Lauren Sequeira, Domino Day focuses on a young woman who is on all of the dating apps. But there’s a twist, and a big one. Here we have an exciting portrayal of witches on screen: supernatural, seductive and with serial killer sass.
“It’s sexy, it’s dark, it’s also funny,” Sequeira tells me. “In moments, it’s very witty and totally out there.”
Lee Friar agrees. “I think reading a script about the group of witches in the modern world, living amongst our society in Manchester, it’s just a really interesting juxtaposition, really cool and fun.”
Spanning six episodes, Domino Day focuses on the titular character, played by Siena Kelly. Previously seen in the Channel 4 drama Adult Material, Kelly finds herself in a new city. She’s not your average singleton though, swiping through dating apps looking for love. She’s on the hunt, haunted by her need to feed on the energy of others to fuel her powers. Meanwhile, a coven of witches are tracking Domino’s every move. The tension between Domino and the coven proves to be a captivating narrative of suspense, intrigue and magic.
Back in the chilly conference room, the coven explain their roles and what drew them to the show.
“The witches are all very individual,” says Lee Friar. “Collectively, they are all very unique, but they’re bound by this magic and by this idea of a covenant, which is a group of people that are looking out for each other and celebrate each other’s differences and move through the world. They’ve got each other’s back.”
Leading the coven is Alisha Bailey who plays Kat.
“(Kat) believes that she knows what is best for the covenant and I think that, even though her actions at times might be questionable from others in the covenant, I genuinely believe she thinks that what she’s doing is always going to be right for everybody involved. I think that it comes with a lot of responsibility as well. I don’t think she takes it lightly. I think that it’s tough.
“I think we all go on a journey through the piece and you would hope that audiences would kind of resonate with one of them or all of them. And I think that, by the end of the series, you would hope that there is lots of rediscovery, that coming back to yourself, I guess. I think that they all complement each other.”
Of course, you can’t have a supernatural show about witches without a villain. Here it is Silas, played by Sam Howard-Sneyd who says that he wanted to play Silas because “he’s not a very nice guy and he doesn’t do very nice things”.
Exploring the set
Then it was time to leave the coven behind and meet Domino Day herself. But it’s not all about the glamour as I discovered while climbing into the back of a minivan. Along with my fellow reporters, we were transported to a top-secret filming location, an experience I’m unlikely to forget in a hurry.
Crawling out of the vehicle, I find myself in familiar territory. I’m down one of the side streets in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, eyeing up a building with scaffolding and a tattered wooden door. Inside, cameras, lights and props are littered across a tall, wide room. I hear someone yell CUT!
As we’re ushered onto the set, I scan the room, absorbing every detail. Cracked wallpaper is visible under eerie dim lighting, and sketches of symbols and scribbles are pinned against the chimney breast. A mattress reclines lazily on the floor, and a screwed-up pink blanket is scrawled with tigers and flowers.
Producer and writer Lauren Sequeira is waiting for us along with her leading lady Siena Kelly and co-star Percelle Ascott who plays Leon. The two actors are still dressed in character, sitting on directors chairs ready for their interview.
My first question is for Domino Day herself. What drew her to the role?
“I really could empathise with Domino, not having the resources to help yourself when you don’t know what’s going on no matter how hard you try,” says Kelly. “It felt very real world to me, it didn’t feel that it only existed in the supernatural. It felt very rooted to real life and I really empathise with anyone in that situation, feeling you can’t control yourself.
“It’s very dramatic, very supernatural. Also, the problems are very much rooted into reality. You do not need to be a supernatural person to experience these things, and there are clear metaphors of all the things that go on, it’s very relatable.”
Ascott adds: “Expect the unexpected. But don’t look at my face [make-up] for any spoilers right now.”
For a show that is firmly rooted in Manchester, it’s surprising to learn that the city was not the writer’s first location choice (spoiler: it was London). Molly Harris who plays Jules, a coven witch, sums up the final locale perfectly.
“Manchester has the exact vibe needed for the show. There’s a variation of locations, it has a very New York grungy vibe…It really is a character in itself for the show.”
Main image: Siena Kelly as Domino Day. Image: Dancing Ledge Productions, Sophie Mutevelian.
Images: Dancing Ledge Productions/Sophie Mutevelian