A dose of magic has never been needed more. So it’s fortuitous timing for Netflix’s teen live-action drama Fate: The Winx Saga – which isn’t short on enchantment – to spread a bit of fairy dust on viewers.
The six-part series, from creator Brian Young, whose other work includes popular series The Vampire Diaries, introduces viewers to a world of magic and the lives of a group of fairies learning to use their powers, battle monsters, and navigate love and rivalries at magical boarding school Alfea.
Situated outside the realms of human life, in the Otherworld, the series is a re-imagining of the original animated series created by Italian author, illustrator and animator Iginio Straffi.
Two of the lead stars, actress Abigail Cowen, who plays fairy Bloom, and actor Danny Griffin, who plays Sky, reflect on bringing the series to a new generation with an inspiring message.
“I feel like the new generation, it’s quite a difficult and delicate topic, but I think a lot of people these days think they always have to be perfect, and do what other people do because they’re doing it and that seems to be right, so therefore I should do that,” says British star Griffin.
The London-born star, 23, adds: “I think the message in the show is you’ve got be who you are, and it’s the journey that’s exciting, actually. And it may feel awful and terrible and sad and you wanna cry, but all those things make up who you are, and I think in this show, we hammer home that message: embrace who you are, don’t try to follow the crowd.”
American star Cowen, who fans may recognise from her role as Dorcas in Netflix’s Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, concurs.
She says: “I think what does make this show unique and really relatable is that it shows people’s vulnerabilities, it shows people’s insecurities, it shows the good, the bad, the ugly, and I think towards the end you start seeing them really start to love themselves for who they are and I think who they are is what makes them different, and they learn to love that, and look at that as a superpower, because it is… so I think the message, too, is recognising that what makes you different is not a weakness, it’s actually a superpower.”
Show creator Young says the story extends beyond it being a “coming-of-age story”.
He explains: “I think the most universal question at the core of this story is simply, ‘Who the hell am I?’ Everybody has to ask that question when they’re young.”
And as roles often do, Cowen’s as fire fairy Bloom was not without challenges, but she is enthusiastic about it all.
“It was a very big challenge, but in the best way possible, because I learned so much about myself in that experience, as a person, as a friend, as an actor, and especially taking on a role like Bloom, she’s going through such a crazy time in her life so there are so many emotions to bring to the table – although that’s a lot of fun for me, as an actor, because I love doing that emotional stuff. It gave me an excuse to be emotional, but yeah it was definitely a challenge,” she says.
The series, which was filmed in Ireland, sees newcomers Eliot Salt and Precious Mustapha also making their mark, alongside Hannah van der Westhuysen, who plays light fairy Stella, and Elisha Applebaum, who plays Musa, a fairy who can feel the emotions of people around her.
Salt, who plays earth fairy Terra, was drawn into the role by the range it offered the characters across the board.
The 27-year-old says: “I think what jumped out for me was just the range that everybody gets to do in the show, which is, I guess, quite unusual for most parts, but I think especially when you’re generally playing young women, and the fact that we get to do comedy and tragedy and action and there’s a lot to get your teeth into, so that’s what really stood out to me.”
For Mustapha, who plays water fairy Aisha, the female-centric cast was central too.
She says: “I think the power of female friendship was something that really struck a chord with me, and I was like, ‘This will be really fun to do’ because we don’t often get shows that are centred around women, let alone five women, so that was something I was definitely really excited about being a part of.”
Given the positive reaction to the series so far, a second series (while not officially confirmed) seems likely.
Talking about the outpouring of love on social media, Griffin says: “In the UK we are in lockdown, we haven’t got much else to do, so to have lovely things said about something you worked really hard on and you’re really passionate about it and it’s your life and your job, to have nice comments and a bit of recognition for that is truly wonderful and it means the world.”
Cowen echoes the feel-good sentiment from social media.
She says: “I have had nothing but kind stuff, for sure. It’s been shocking, in a way, seeing the response. Definitely, I don’t think it’s set in, I don’t know if it will if I’m being honest – it might just be because we’re all at home doing this virtually, but it’s a crazy thing to experience, and especially having people be nice online, it’s a breath of fresh air.
“Because it’s so scary, you know. You forget, or at least I do – I forget, when I’m filming, because I’m so into it and I’m just enjoying the story and enjoying the process, I forget that this is going to go out to the entire world and for people to literally just… they can watch at any moment, and they have a right to their opinion and they also can contact you with it.”
Fate: The Winx Saga is currently streaming on Netflix.