In 1998, a show debuted on the WB that brought a little magic into people’s lives for one hour every week. The story centered around the Halliwell sisters -- played by Alyssa Milano, Holly Marie Combs, Shannen Doherty, and Rose McGowan -- a group of witch siblings who were tasked by the powers that be to defeat the supernatural evil beings that posed a threat to our world. For eight seasons, Charmed dazzled us with episodes featuring angels, demons, and other mythological friends and foes.
At the center of the show, however, was a story about three strong women navigating their way through the trials and tribulations of everyday life on top of handling their incredible responsibility. In many ways Charmed was otherworldly, but for the most part it was very relatable to twenty-somethings at the time. The fantasy series was wildly popular with audiences, with viewers being drawn to its strong female protagonists and captivating story arcs. When it ended, it was the second longest-running drama to air on the WB network, as well as one of the longest TV shows in history to be spearheaded by women actors.
Like all popular shows, though, the stories about its creation and what went on behind the scenes are just as interesting as the ones which took place on-screen. From infighting to budget issues and more, Charmed’s untold story is every bit as fascinating as battles between witches and the forces of Hell.
Without further ado, here are 20 Wild Details Behind The Making Of Charmed.
Even the most popular shows experience financial burdens. As Charmed grew and its stars became household names, their salaries increased. That’s not to mention all the money spent on special effects and props as the series’ storytelling became more ambitious.
According to The Book of Three, these cuts meant that series’ stalwarts were let go or weren’t given as much screen time. As a result, Dorian Gregory, the actor who played Inspector Darryl Morris, was written out of the final season. In addition to Gregory being let go, Brian Krause, who played Leo, was written out of several episodes. He did, however, return for the final two episodes to bring closure to the story for fans.
If recent reboots and revivals have taught us anything, it’s that no popular TV show ever truly ends. Someday, they’ll return in a new iteration. Before reboots and revivals, though, some shows with strong fan bases continued in comic book form. Charmed was no different. Between 2010 and 2016, the franchise continued on the page, courtesy of Zenescope Entertainment.
Unfortunately, the series was met with a mixed response from fans, many of whom complained about the story and appearance of the characters. The latter criticism wasn’t Zenescope’s fault, however. Shannen Doherty didn’t give them permission to use her likeness as there was no money involved. Other cast members were cool with their image being depicted, but they didn’t seem too enamored with the content.
Here’s a fun fact: Holly Marie Combs, who played Piper Halliwell, was the only star to appear in every single episode of the series. She just beat out Alyssa Milano, who played her character’s sister Phoebe, by one episode.
Not only did Combs appear in every episode, but she also played multiple characters. In season two, she also portrayed P. Baxter, a bygone witch and the great grandmother of the Charmed Ones. On top of that, she played various supernatural beings that stole Piper’s appearance, including Cynda, Terra, Zile, the Zen Master, Cole Turner, Leo Wyatt, Mabel Stillman, Zankou, and Pilar. Needless to say, she was an absolutely vital part of the show during its long run.
Despite their legacies thanks to the show, not everyone involved in Charmed’s creation have fond memories of their experience. In Rose McGowan's autobiography Brave, she described her time working on the series "soul crushing." Her views were echoed by her co-stars as well. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Combs revealed that "The WB never treated us well, so we didn't expect a lot of farewell wishes and flowers or cards."
In the EW interview, Combs also voiced her frustrations with how the show was promoted. “When the press mentions The WB, they mention Buffy, Felicity and Gilmore Girls, and yet one show that has been on longer than all of them is never mentioned."
Before McGowan was cast as Paige Halliwell, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Tiffani Thiessen were reportedly at the top of the wish list to replace Shannen Doherty following her unexpected departure from the series. However, according to Brad Kern, McGowan was the only person who auditioned for the role. "Rose McGowan was the only person we saw for Paige. We didn't audition anyone else," he told TV Line.
As for the aforementioned names, Kern revealed that were considered because they had major star power. "We were replacing Shannen Doherty, who was a star, and there was some talk about how well the show would do without her. There was resistance from some quote-unquote stars to take that risk."
If Charmed isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think about pop culture witches in the '90s, then chances are The Craft is. The teen horror shares many thematic similarities with Charmed, and both have been praised for the way they successfully blended feminism with fun supernatural storytelling. However, there is one connection that stands out more than most -- the song “How Soon Is Now?” by Love Spit Love.
Most viewers remember the cover of The Smith’s hit as the theme song to Charmed, but it was originally recorded by the band specifically for The Craft. Both The Craft and Charmed are Warner Bros. properties, so the decision to repurpose the track for another witchy hit could have been intentional.
For all Doherty’s outstanding qualities as a performer, she does have a history of reportedly being difficult to work with. When it was announced that Doherty was picked as one of the leads in Charmed, some TV fans were undoubtedly surprised given, her controversial history with the show’s producer Aaron Spelling.
Prior to Charmed, they worked together on Beverly Hills, 90210, a show from which Doherty was written off, reportedly due to her on-set conflicts with cast and crew members. Seemingly, there was no ill-will on Spelling’s part when she was given the Charmed gig. In fact, according to an interview with InTouch, Spelling was very supportive of the decision to cast Doherty as the eldest Halliwell sister.
Prue’s passing was heartbreaking for fans, but losing one of their favorite characters wasn’t the only reason why they were upset. You see, Prue vanished from the iconic photo of the sisters, but there's a very valid reason.
In an interview with TV Line, Kern said: “I tried like crazy to get her in flashbacks and to have photographs of her on the walls, but what I was told — and I've subsequently been told that this is not the case — by the studio that we would have to pay her per-episode fee, which we couldn't afford, if we were even just going to use a photo of her."
It’s hard to imagine Charmed without Alyssa Milano as Phoebe, but that was almost the case. In the unaired pilot, the character was portrayed by actress Lori Rom. However, she parted ways with the show after filming the pilot.
Following Rom’s departure, Aaron Spelling contacted Alyssa Milano and offered her the part. The rest is history, as they say, and the decision clearly worked out in the end, as many fans cannot imagine Charmed without Milano. Interestingly, Rom is one of two actors who quit the show after the unaired pilot; Chris Boyd, who played Andy Trudeau, was the other.
When Doherty left the show, the future of her co-stars was also up in the air. In fact, her friendship with Holly Marie Combs led some to believe thatCombs would follow Doherty out the door.
Following Doherty’s departure, she sat down with Entertainment Tonight and revealed that Combs was unsure about her future role in the series. “[S]he doesn't even know if she's going back to the show because she doesn't want to be there without me." Ultimately, Combs did stay on after re-negotiating her contract to earn a reported $60,000 per episode. She also became a series producer in season five, but she wasn’t shy about discussing how poorly she felt Doherty’s departure was handled.
The Charmed creators were obviously big fans of the galaxy far, far away. Belthazor was the demonic persona of Cole Turner, a half-demon who fell in love with Phoebe and wanted to eliminate her sisters. He was well respected among demon types and renowned for conquering witches, innocents, and demons alike.
He also looked like Darth Maul, and the make-up was clearly inspired by the Star Wars villain. This wasn’t the only connection to the franchise employed by the show’s creators, though. In the episode “Prince Charmed”, there’s a reference to A New Hope when a demonic leader says “I find your lack of faith disturbing” to one of his minions. This line, of course, was originally spoken by none other than Darth Vader.
Piper's pregnancy in season five made for an interesting storyline, but it wasn’t the plan going in. In fact, it was only written into the show because Combs was carrying a child at the time. In an interview with TV Line, Kern revealed that the situation raised "fierce concerns" from both the network and the studio, but he managed to convince them to roll with it. Suffice it to say, the decision paid off.
He explained: “I felt strongly that, by that point in the series, we'd given the show a foundational reality. We tried to play out life events as real as possible. The series could, and should, play real. That's how we buy all the magic, because the sisters are real.”
Season eight saw former 8 Simple Rules star Kaley Cuoco join the show as Billie Jenkins, a witch who was at odds with the sisters before becoming a regular ally.
Kern told TV Line that the character was created "to lighten the load, screen-time wise, of Alyssa, Holly and Rose. We needed to give someone else some of the work; our stars were dog tired after seven years. Just as Rose was brought in after Prue died to infuse fresh energy, Kaley's character was supposed to try to bring new blood to an aging show." Fans also theorize that Billie was created with spin-off ambitions in mind. Even though they never materialized, the network may have wanted new blood to potentially set up new shows in the Charmed-verse.
Rose McGowan has never been shy about speaking her mind, and that’s especially true when it comes to her Charmed experience. In her tell-all memoir, Brave, she implied that she wasn’t on the best terms with her co-stars. In one passage, she wrote: “I opted out of infighting. I refused to play games that were beneath me, but it didn't stop the constant watching of our set. I cannot tell you how many times I was asked if we the Charmed Ones hung out after work. The answer was no.”
Earlier this year, McGowan slammed Milano over her involvement in the #MeToo movement. In an interview with ABC’s Nightline, she said "I don't like her. Cause I think she's a lie."
Reboots always split those with a strong affinity for the original. When it comes to the Charmed reboot, the stars of the past aren’t the biggest fans.
Combs, in particular, has been vocal over her disapproval of the reboot. In a lengthy Twitter rant, she hit out at the reboot’s perceived ageism: “Let me say first that I appreciate the jobs and opportunities the Charmed reboot has created. But I will never understand what is fierce, funny, or feminist in creating a show that basically says the original actresses are too old to do a job they did 12 years ago.” Milano agreed. Combs also took umbrage with the suggestion that the new show would be more feminist. As if the original was not.
Despite the show’s female-centric appeal, behind the scenes, it was a boy’s club. In Brave, McGowan claims that she was only ever directed by one woman. Furthermore, she also revealed that the male cast and crew were very disrespectful towards her.
“Only one female director was hired in the entire five years I was there, and the crew sank her. This was a show about three young women, and they had not in all the time I was there had a female director. But the mostly male crew, I think without even realising what they were doing – they just cut the female director's legs out from under her," she wrote. In the same chapter, McGowan revealed that most directors were “all-average” and “all-white.”
By the time Charmed entered its third season, audiences had grew accustomed to a more serialized format and more season regulars. This was partly down to the arrival of Julian McMahon as Cole Turner, who quickly made a strong impression.
"One of the challenges on the show was finding strong male characters that did not disempower our stars," Kern explained to TV Line. "When you’re doing a show that focuses on female empowerment, the tendency is to get emasculated male characters, which is not good either.” He continued: “Julian was exactly what we were looking for. It was only supposed to be a seven-episode arc, but that arc turned into a two-year gig because he was just so fantastic."
Although Wicca is a legalized religion in the United States, it’s rare to see its beliefs, customs, and practices represented in popular entertainment. According to Investigating Charmed, however, the series sought to rectify this. Whether or not it was successful in portraying Wicca accurately depends on who you ask.
Throughout the series, the sisters explore various aspects of Wicca through objects and spellcasting. However, the decision to include demons and angels infused the show with Christian beliefs as well, meaning that the Wiccan representation wasn’t 100% authentic. Of course, the Christian elements were an economic necessity for the story, but Wicca provided the basis for the sisters’ beliefs and few shows have paid that much attention to the religion since then.
Remember the book that bestowed the sisters with the Power of Three? It was pivotal in their fight against evil and served them well throughout the years. Well, as it turns out, behind the scenes that book was no ordinary TV show prop.
In the documentary Book of Shadows, it was revealed that, in an effort to make the book seem like the real deal, three different artists were commissioned to draw and paint it by hand. Furthermore, Alyssa Milano was so impressed by the designs that she reportedly commissioned one of the artists to paint murals in her home. As for the actual book? According to Holly Marie Combs, showrunner Brad Kern isn’t letting the magical tome out of his sight.
Their characters might have been close, but the sisterly bond between Shannen Doherty and Alyssa Milano wasn’t shared off the screen.
Milano discussed how she felt alienated from her co-stars. She told Huffington Post that “Holly [Marie Combs] and Shannen were best friends for like 10 years before the show started so it was very much sort of like high school. I would hope that in our thirties it wouldn't feel like that anymore…” Combs really wasn’t happy with this statement. These days, however, they’re good friends. After Doherty was diagnosed with cancer, the pair reached out to each other and made amends.
Have we missed any details about the making of Charmed? If so, sound off in the comments!