The Secret Circle: Gale Harold Talks Crime and Punishment
(Chevron One) It’s 11 am in LA and I’m chatting with Gale Harold about The Secret Circle’s Charles Meade and where the show will take his character over the remaining episodes of the current season. Initially billed as the witchy teen drama’s ‘Big Bad’ Charles has instead evolved into one of the show’s more complex and human individuals, albeit one with a couple of major misdemeanors to his name. Fans of the show will know that Charles is responsible for the deaths of both Amelia Blake and Nick Armstrong over the course of the season. In the land of TV, bad deeds rarely go unpunished for long, and I begin by asking Gale if he sees some retribution for Charles coming down the line any time soon.
“I think the most straightforward answer to that question is Charles’ retribution is to be left to be Charles, you know?” he says with a laugh. ‘Specifically? I think that something, or several things will happen. It’s just a matter of time. He’s always looking over his shoulder. Things have moved on from some loosely formed plan with Dawn to Charles being on his own. Then there’s this situation with his daughter too. If you’ve got a daughter in high school and you killed her friend’s mother …” he laughs.
“There’s always been a specific way I’ve tried to approach this show – and you may have heard this answer before – but the show is about something that’s not every day. They’re practicing something that’s outside of the social norm. I try to put my thing as close to every day reality as possible. There was all that mustache twirling, evil deed thing but that didn’t really manifest itself in the way it was originally intended to, but yes. there are definitely some things that aren’t going to be pleasant for Charles coming.”
I put it to Gale that perhaps a one-note, mustache twirling villain is less preferable to the Charles audiences have grown to know and understand this season. With many characters basically in the same place as when we first met them in the pilot, perhaps it is Charles who has undergone the greatest progression in terms of character from those opening moments.
“For me, that’s just really nice to hear,” he says. “I know we were speaking about Ireland earlier, and I’m just so late into it, but I’ve only now just seen the first two episodes of Game of Thrones. It’s such an incredibly well written show and the story behind it is so complicated that the pace at which something can develop is kind of odd. It limits itself a little. As much as you can do is completely transform in one or two episodes – or die! You can’t really move too fast.
“Charles has got kind of a cool thing because he’s sort of peripheral right? He comes in and out. The main characters of the show are constantly up against a disaster all the time. They’re basically just trying to stay alive. It’s an odd counterpoint in a way. Even though they have all the action, they don’t have the time within it to make those character changes as much as a character like Charles on the outside can. He’s more responding to the overload as opposed to worrying about things like staying alive – or going to high school!
“I’m glad that he has that ability. I thought that he too was going to be this big bad horrible murderer. That’s how it was presented to me initially. It evolved in a way that was slightly unexpected but it’s been fun to play.”
The cast addition of Joe Lando as John Blackwell has shifted the dynamic of the show dramatically in recent episodes. Blackwell has everyone around him under his thumb, either by force of his personality, or by blackmail or by magic. He brings an almost chess game element to each episode. Charles seems to be the only one not capable of being manipulated by him. Could this work as an advantage?
“If he plays it well it certainly could be. You’re just on the verge of seeing some interesting things,” teases Gale. “I can’t spoil too much. Blackwell is definitely using some form of blackmail. He understands and knows things. There are also things we just have to assume he knows. Charles and Dawn have history wrapped up with him. They’re just not sure how much others know what they know about him. You’re almost getting into an espionage kind of a thing ala who knows what?
“With the character of Jane, I was always interested to know what happened with her because I wasn’t sure how much she knew. And I wasn’t sure how much her reactions to how much I had done to her had been a sort of poker-faced way of dealing with it.
“I know these are the kind of questions that must be so frustrating because the project is limited to a certain extent to its fan base and the people who have read the books and what they’re expecting to happen with so many of these characters. But I will say a lot of it goes to Ashley Crowe who plays Jane. She’s such a complicated actor. The way that she plays Jane I was never really sure from what she was giving where she was going, you know? Was she really nuts or was she just trying to hide something? So I had to be really careful that I didn’t go with it in advance of what it was,” he laughs.
“But this whole thing of Charles saying “I’m going to heal you. I going to do this so you’re going to help me defeat Blackwell” … it all seems like it could happen but I’m not confident that’s what we all going to find out is actually true. It’s somewhere in between what is she doing, how strong am I in making her do what I want her to do and how much control does Blackwell have over the situation already. He’s a guy with a preexisting involvement in multiple aspects of the story.
“Going back to the original question, I think that Charles - and this is based on what you said about his demeanor and the complexity of what’s happened with him – I think that he is the classical paranoid character. He doesn’t know that he’s actually got the skill to do what he wants to do but he can’t help himself from acting out these impulses. Can he do it? He could possibly, but it all depends on how much he covers or lays things out on the table.”
Charles is becoming more isolated. He’s made an enemy of Ethan, and things look far from happy where Dawn and her plans are concerned, and obviously he hasn’t been able to share any of what he’s been up to or going through with his daughter Diana. In one sense, he seems to be standing quite alone. Under those circumstances, might it be possible that Charles will reach out to someone as a potential ally?
“It think it would make sense that he would try to do that. I think he is definitely becoming more isolated and a lot of that has to do with Dawn. Dawn has crossed him multiple times in various problematic ways!” he laughs.
“She has, in some ways, made him believe she’s totally with him, and then where the murders are concerned, he suddenly finds himself totally on his own. She’s put him in a totally exposed position and she never backs him up. She has him do one thing and then once it’s done she crosses him behind his back. Just from that perspective he knows that he can’t trust her. So it’s a combination of things, isolated and also this incredible suspicion. So everything has to be looked at from five different angles. And that’s an even more isolated position to be in.
“His relationship with Diana is almost technically like a non relationship because he appears to be her father. He appears to be the one who takes care of her and that seems to be how she sees him, but he knows that he’s not able to really do that day by day, so you’re absolutely right. He’s becoming more and more isolated day by day. And I think that’s either going to result in an error on his part because of a blind spot that he has – or multiple blind spots – or it’s just gonna push him in a direction that is, for want of a better word, sloppy.”
Some recent episodes see events happening within the current Circle echoing events from the previous generation’s Circle – including a love triangle and the threat of the Witch Hunters. And of course, now we have Blackwell back and he has a foot in both Circles. I ask Gale if he thinks we’re going to see a convergence between both Circles at some point, or if there always be a separateness and a notion that the adults never quite know what their kids are up to.
“I can really only answer that question if I kind of take a more outside objective way of looking at it,” he says after a moment’s consideration. “If I was watching this as a member of the audience I wouldn’t think they could maintain that separation for an extended amount of time. It’s just with human nature and the way that life is there’s no way that that separation can be maintained. There are too many opportunities for overlap. I know that’s a very simple way of saying it, but in some way or another, either through what’s going on with Charles and Dawn or with Ethan, or more likely through Blackwell or even bad luck it’s going to happen. And once that happens if they don’t merge – if there’s not some sort of unification between the two groups, then it kind of becomes a lot like a mafia gangster type of story,” he says with a laugh.
“When two factions of the families get separated by circumstances or whatever, they’ve either got to make a deal or they’ve got to destroy each other. They can’t actually just be neighbors. They can’t just be like ‘You do your thing and I’ll do my thing. I’ll see you at the Christmas party, right? We’ll have a good time. It’ll be nice.’ You know that sort of way?”
“Yes,” I say, laughing.
“Well it can’t be that way,” he laughs. “It has to be one way or the other as soon as the information is on the table. Just from a dramatic point of view it’s gotta be heading in that direction. I don’t know when. I don’t know where. I don’t know how, but yes. I think it’s going to be a matter of how the damage control gets played through.”
I admit that I can’t actually imagine what the show will be like if it does happen. I have no concept of what that might entail.
“I know,” says Gale. “I can’t imagine how it will be resolved either, but at the same time I can’t logically see how it can go on. I don’t know how the separation can be maintained … unless there’s some massive massive spell that is put on everyone simultaneously.”
“And they all forget what happened” I offer.
“Exactly,” he laughs.
In episode 17, Curse, audiences saw Charles tell Jane he was about to restore her memory with a crystal. Isn’t that quite a dangerous move for him to make? Especially if Jane remembers that Charles and Dawn were involved in Henry Chamberlain’s death?
“Yes absolutely,” agrees Gale. “And I think that from a plot perspective and in terms of storytelling, they’re setting up great potential for drama. So, yes it’s dangerous but that’s all Charles can do. He’s aware now that Dawn made that slightly idiotic move to give Ethan a crystal. So all bets are off. She’s opened the floodgates and now the problems are just rushing in, so from that point of view Charles doesn’t really have a choice. Even if he never spoke to Dawn again he has to get back into Jane’s mind because that may be the clue. It’s a gamble.”
“That’s where it goes back to what you said earlier about it being like a chess game. I liked that analogy because where can you go? What angle can you use to move on? So absolutely. What I hope comes across with Charles – and I don’t know if this is something which is happening or not – but I think that Charles should always feel like he’s playing two or three things at the same time. A lot of that just comes down to the writing and the edit of the show. We do all kinds of things that don’t make it onscreen for time reasons. But also, I hope that’s kind of what people are feeling – that it’s dangerous, but it’s justified and that there’s some sort of relevance because [Jane] could help. If I can get back into her mind – if I can open her back up, y’know?”
The news broke last week that Louis Hunter will make a return to the show as Nick Armstrong – or some version of Nick – next season, and I tell Gale that the first person I thought of when I heard the news was Charles. There’s a lot of room for storytelling there. Does Gale foresee a Charles and Nick reunion of sorts?
“Perhaps! I can’t give you a solid answer either way but I can tell you it definitely be a very problematic thing for Charles to have to sort through if he finds himself interacting with the kid that he drowned. That to me would be very very interesting. I don’t know if that’s gong to happen but it would be great retribution. A great payback!”