Madchen Amick heads up 'Witches of East End'

VANCOUVER, B.C., - "I'm runnin' around set far too naked, far too often," says Madchen Amick.

The actress, still best remembered for her role on "Twin Peaks," has one of the title roles in the new Lifetime fantasy-drama "Witches of East End." It premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. ET.

On this day, Amick is not running around the set naked. She's at home, sick, and speaks to three reporters on the set listening in on speaker phone.

The 42-year-old jokingly blames her strep throat on her nearly-nude scenes. Her character, Wendy Beauchamp, can shift between human form and cat form and while shedding her clothes in the process.

"You know, ironically, I'm very allergic to cats," says Amick.

Amick is missing a busy day on the set. Julia Ormond ("Mad Men"), who plays Wendy's sensible sister Joanna Beauchamp, rehearses a confrontational scene straight out of "Dynasty" opposite recurring star Virginia Madsen ("Sideways"). Madsen plays snooty town socialite Penelope Gardiner, who locks horns with Beauchamp and her bewitching daughters, Freya (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) and Ingrid (Rachel Boston).

The two have a tense exchange in the town's century-old library. Madsen ends it with Alexis Carrington-sized air kisses.

Gardiner doesn't want those witchy Beauchamp girls messing with her blue-blood sons, Dash (played by Eric Winter from "The Mentalist") and Killian (Montreal native Daniel DiTomasso). Winter and DiTomasso provide the token testosterone in this decidedly female-driven tale.

The series is inspired by a bestselling novel of the same name written by Melissa de la Cruz. It's all set in Long Island, but Ormond, for one, is glad to be back in Vancouver.

It was in Vancouver and Calgary where Ormond broke through 20 years ago as the heroine of "Legends of the Fall." That film cast her opposite Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins.

She's been able to settle in and see more of the city this time, hiking in places like Deep Cove.

"It's been an incredible added bonus for us to be here," she says. "It's such a beautiful city."

Ormond acknowledges that it's a switch to play a witch.

"I tend to get cast as English posh," she says.

Early roles in romantic dramas such as "Legends" and "Sabrina" typecast her, as did her delicate beauty.

"Witches of East End" is not a deliberate attempt to shake that image, although it will. Ormond's face transforms in certain scenes, with makeup and effects temporarily giving her glowing red eyes and demon-like features.

She has, in fact, played witches before; once in a pilot that never took off and again on stage in "The Crucible."

On "Mad Men," she plays Marie Calvet, the very French and flirty mother of Don Draper's young Canadian wife Megan (Jessica Pare). The 48-year-old actress, who won an Emmy for her supporting role in the HBO drama "Temple Grandin," was nominated for a second as Calvet.

The native of Surrey, England, must be a good actress because she claims her "school French is terrible, and that's the degree of my French."

Even her Queen's English is a little less pronounced after years of living in L.A.

"My accent really does go all over the place," says Ormond.

The executive producers, including Maggie Friedman ("Eastwick"), encouraged Ormond to use her own voice, reasoning that her hint of English accent only serves the mysterious, 600-year-old character.

Dewan-Tatum, wife of actor Channing Tatum, says she gets lost in the sound of Ormond's voice.

"There's something very otherworldly about her," she says. "It's not just the accent. I just watch her and I'm like, oh my God, she's so bewitching!"

Dewan-Tatum says she felt an instant rapport, too, with Boston, who starred a decade ago on "American Dreams."

"We read together for her screen test and it was a no-brainer to me — she's my sister, clearly," says Dewan-Tatum, who gave birth to a son four months ago.

The raven-haired actress thinks there's something to all this witchcraft talk, although, she quickly adds, "I haven't explored it myself!"

The Connecticut native says she shies away from horror movies — she was frightened of "The Wizard of Oz" as a kid — and so even she's surprised she's in "Witches of East End."

"I've filmed three horror movies, it's so bizarre!" she says. "I like filming them; I don't really like watching them!"

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