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‘A special magic that lives on’: We asked the Charmed cast what the show means to them 25 years later

EXCLUSIVE: "It's been my honour to be part of raising magical beings all over the world," says Rose McGowan, as she, Alyssa Milano and more speak to Attitude about the fantasy drama's enduring legacy

By Ryan Cahill

Charmed's cast share their memories of the show (Image: Design by Jack Pengelly)
Charmed's cast share their memories of the show (Image: Design by Jack Pengelly)

I was 8 years old when I was first introduced to Charmed by my grandmother, who switched on a new show she’d been watching about “three sisters who find out they’re witches.” First airing in 1998 on The WB, it was set in San Francisco and followed three powerful women named Prue, Piper and Phoebe aka “The Charmed Ones”, as they come to terms with their newfound powers and navigate love and life amongst a backdrop of demons and warlocks. The show’s first episode broke The WB’s ratings record, attracting a sizable 7.72 million viewers. 

I’d only caught the last twenty minutes of that first episode before I was entirely hooked. The following week, I was prepped and ready to sit down and watch it on Saturday evening on Channel 5, and as each week went by, I fully immersed myself in the world of the Halliwell sisters, played by Shannen Doherty, Holly Marie Combs and Alyssa Milano. Rose McGowan joined the cast at the start of Series 4 following Doherty’s exit. 

What started as appreciation for the show soon grew into a full-blown obsession. I had the entire Simon and Schuster book collection (many of which were always on my person), the DVD boxsets, both iterations of the action figures and a signed script. My parents even tried to buy me a replica of the Book of Shadows on eBay, only to be enraged when it was delivered via FAX machine.

In recent years, I’ve been looking to evaluate where my obsession with the show came from. As a child I believed it to be the 90s special effects and thrill ride of weekly demon slays, but upon reflection, I think that as a closeted kid growing up in a homophobic environment, I could really resonate with these three individuals who had a secret of their own – a secret that eventually became their source of strength. I could relate to their internal struggle, their desire, at times, to be “normal”. I could recognise their reliance on one another, and their friends, to keep this secret and to help them understand it, to come to terms with it.

Watching the show as an adult still evokes the same feelings it did when I was a child. There’s a sense of comfort and escapism. Despite having seen each episode multiple times, I still find myself fully immersed in that world, and for 40 or so minutes, entirely forgetting any problems that might exist in life. And I’m not the only one. Thousands of people flock to conventions attended by the original cast. Their Instagram comments are packed with Charmed fans asking about reunions and reboots. 

Alyssa Milano, who played Phoebe Halliwell, attributes this prolonged dedication from fans to the leads’ relatable sisterly bond. “The backdrop of Charmed was the witchcraft, but in the forefront was the relationship between these three sisters and the dynamic between these three women, and that is what made the show successful,” she tells me. “As one of the cast members who worked 70-hour weeks and was unsure if it was resonating or finding people, the fact that I have heard from so many people that it did find them and helped them to evolve into the person that they are is a really beautiful thing.” 

(Image: Charmed)
(Image: Charmed)

Each year, the cast attend conventions around the world. During the first half of 2023 alone, many of the actors can be found at various States across America, as well as Wales, Paris and Brussels. Their events are often sold-out, a testament to the long-lasting impact that their characters have had on the fans. “I just don’t know that this happens for an artist or an actor more than once in their career. Where they’re able to touch people in a way that is so profound. That you have to hold them while they’re crying when you meet them.” Milano continues. “The thing that is so special about Brian, Holly, Shannen and Rose is that we realise that those moments can change someone’s lives. We allow ourselves to be accessible to that. We allow ourselves to be open to those moments.” 

“I saw the fans differently, as just people. I don’t think they understand how much joy I get from meeting them”

Brian Krause loves attending these conventions. He played Leo Wyatt on the show, an angel capable of healing who eventually becomes the husband of Piper Halliwell. He’s a fundamental part of the primary cast. “It’s amazing at this time in my career, in my 50s, to have been on this show that’s still on-air. Without Charmed, it would very much be a different path.

“It’s just amazing to see the response and hear the stories from fans. As an actor, you wonder, why do we do this? The money and fame? No! It’s because people watch you disappear for an hour and forget about their real life. We offer an escape. It takes us out of our real lives and it allows us to dream,” he explains. 

“My mother passed away in 2013. I was at a convention and I was across the country so there was nothing I could do. I could only fly the next day and everyone was like ‘why don’t you leave? Go back to the hotel room.’ I was like ‘to do what, sit alone in my room?’ And I was reminded of what my mother told me growing up. When reading fan-mail, she would say: ‘This is why you’re acting, to engage with the fans. They are why you are.’ And so I thought about it and I turned all my attention to the fans and the audience and I saw a piece of my mother in everyone. I saw the fans differently, as just people. I don’t think they understand how much joy I get from meeting them.” 

That fanbase has also continued to grow over the years, in part due to the steady success of syndication. It currently airs on TNT, Pop and SyFy in the States and Amazon Prime and All 4 in the UK. In 2012, it was the second most binged show on subscription video-on-demand services. This was six years after the series finale, which evidences the continued interest from new-found fans. Older generations are introducing it to younger generations. The prolonged interest even led to a reboot in 2018. But it only aired for four seasons before being cancelled. (Many fans felt the reboot couldn’t live up to the magic of the original.)

(Image: Charmed)
(Image: Charmed)

Rose McGowan played the long-lost sister of Piper and Phoebe who helped to reunite the Power of Three in season four of the show. Rose’s remarkable strength and resilience is apparent both on and off-screen: the actress-turned-activist, who has been an outspoken voice against sexual impropriety and violence for years, will go down in history as an instrumental voice in the still-continuing MeToo movement. (Here, Rolling Stone US offers a comprehensive timeline of her achievements and public statements in this space, as well as her allegations against convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein.) When she joined the show in 2001, it was already a ratings success for The WB and had acquired a sizable fanbase.

“Joining an established show was intense in a way that I only realised afterwards. I was told I’d fail and that the show would fail. Well, I didn’t and it didn’t!” She says. “It was a special and unique time. There is nostalgia for when we were filming. But so many fans still love Charmed that it doesn’t really feel like the past. I’m proudest of having a place in so many people’s lives, truly an amazing accomplishment. It has been my honour to be a part of raising magical beings all over the world. I love meeting fans and hearing how much Charmed and its magic has meant to them. I would describe it as a special magic that seems to live forever.” 

There is nostalgia for when we were filming, but so many fans still love Charmed that it doesn’t really feel like the past” 

In recent months, a new rewatch podcast, The House of Halliwell, has helped to whet the appetite of Charmed fans craving new content. Presented by cast members Brian Krause (Leo), Drew Fuller (Chris) and Holly Marie Combs (Piper), the podcast sees them rewatching the show and offering thoughtful reflections on their experiences of filming, sharing fun anecdotes and inviting guest actors to discuss their own experiences of working on Charmed. It’s already amassed tens of thousands of followers on Instagram, with bonus content accessible on Patreon

The podcast was the brainchild of Fuller, who had himself become immersed in podcasts and felt there was an opportunity for one covering Charmed. “What has kept this going and got us really excited is the feedback from the fans. It’s unbelievable. The message boards and what people DM us. Some of the things that they say honestly moves me to tears. I’ve cried several times over messages about how much it means to them and how excited they are. This has turned out to be one of the great joys of my professional career. I love engaging with these beautiful fans and getting to relive this magical show that has affected so many people. It’s incredible” 

It might be 25 years since the first season of Charmed aired, but there’s no denying the long-lasting impact that the show has had on fans, both new and old. Through incredible on-screen chemistry, an array of unique and ever-evolving characters, nostalgic special effects and thrilling storylines, the show has managed to capture hearts around the world. It’s especially become favoured amongst queer communities, who appreciate its undiluted campiness and flamboyance. For me, the show played an instrumental role in achieving self-acceptance. It’s my safe space. It has also taught me that it’s OK to be different, that there is something powerful about breaking the mould, and I’ve no doubt it’ll help others break the mould for generations to come.