The actor on the explosive final season of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, his band The Driver Era, and what 2020 taught him.
Since it’s inauguration in 2018, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has quickly turned into a phenomenon, with millions across the globe tuning into the Netflix drama. Now, it enters its fourth and final season with a searing level of expectation. For Ross Lynch, who played the part of Harvey Kinkle, it was his most sincere role to date and showed his true diversity as an actor. Tying in with the action-packed release of the final season, we speak to Ross about all the drama that goes down, the challenges of bringing to close such a popular series, and the importance that both acting, and music have on his life.
Many of us would have already been acquainted with Sabrina Spellman thanks to the rather iconic 90s sitcom Sabrina The Teenage Witch, which was a sitcom almost comedic in its design. However, in the case of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina that description couldn’t be any further from reality. As Ross describes, “As a viewing experience they’re on opposite sides of the spectrum. This is dark, there’s satanic rituals, cannibalism, all sorts of crazy stuff. When we first started the show there was a bit of campier humour but somewhere along the line, they got rid of that. They wanted to make it dark.”
Along with this darker archetype came a vast and gripping perspective. It was the key to its success, gaining a legion of followers in the process. In the final series this level of darkness is expanded upon to new heights, creating a level of drama that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. “Every season of Sabrina gets ramped up another ten notches.” Ross states, “we go from the introductions to the witch world and the witch problems, the academy, eventually we get to an existential realm. Sabrina is saving the world from Eldritch Terrors, that are essentially celestial forces that come down to reset the balance of reality. This stemmed from a situation in an earlier season where Sabrina messed up by creating two of herself. She’s right in the middle of it because she put it of course, now these titans are here to rebalance the cosmos. These eldritch terrors are all consuming and world devouring on a scale that is going to erase reality, it’s ramped up. Sabrina has to sacrifice herself to save the entire world and stop these realms from colliding.”
Describing his character Harvey Kinkle as having a “boyish charm” and “sweet and loyal, that wanted to do well for his friends.” Harvey finds himself in a crisis in series four, torn between his head and his heart. “Harvey has a romantic arc throughout this series. A lot of his troubles have been around how he’s a mortal in a witch world.” Ross explains, “his girlfriend Rosalind turns out to be a witch, he’s at odds with this as half his family died to witches. Sabrina was a witch, now Rosalind, so a big part of his story is coming to terms with the magical world he’s living in and the love he shares with Rosalind. Honestly, the chemistry Jasmine and I share on screen is really fun to watch. I’m happy the writers started writing for that, because it comes through.” Such natural chemistry between the actors stems from an off-screen romance. Having originally met through the show, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina leaves a long-lasting impact on Ross’ personal life.
Ross’ character held a unique position in the series. Having been one of Sabrina’s closest allies throughout, Harvey was in the minority of the show not to have any form of magical powers, something he had hoped might have changed in the final series. “I think he remains roughly the same.” He says, “I remember having a conversation with Roberto and I was like, any magical abilities happening for Harvey? He made the reference to an Adam’s family character, who I can’t remember the name of, but it was the mortal among the witches. Basically, saying Harvey will be Harvey. But it’s an important part of the show, because you have to have a character that grounds the show to reality, to show the vast extremes of the show.” Although such a change didn’t transpire, series four see’s Harvey play his most critical role to date, as Ross explains, “Harvey’s one of Sabrina’s longest friends. Greendale’s a small town and we’re all on this journey together. There are bits where my family are involved, my dad is in the thick of it, and then my girlfriend is now a witch and is also in the thick of it.”
For a show that’s gained as many fans as the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, ending the series would pose many challenges. Having set the bar so high, a significant level of expectation remained, especially amongst many of the shows long, faithful fans. It’s amongst those that feels the reaction may well be the most varied. “I’m curious. I think a lot of the hardcore fans might be a little bitter that it’s ending because a lot of shows like Riverdale are still going and we started after them. I think it’s a great season, I haven’t seen all of it yet, but I remember a lot that goes down. It’s super exciting, fun, and a great adventure. I think people are going to really enjoy it. There’s just going to be a lot of people disappointed it’s ending.”
With so many great moments throughout the final season, it’s difficult to choose one, but for Ross Episode four really stood out, “I was pretty stoked about the episode where blackwood gets the Imp of the Perverse. I really liked that episode. It was fun being in that alternate universe, I thought it came out great. I really am a fan of so many of the episodes, all the creatives and actors that worked on the show, I thought they did a fantastic job. I just hope all the fans enjoyed it with this being the last go of it.”
With filming for Sabrina completed, 2020 destroyed many of the artists subsequent plans. Ross is also a notorious singer-songwriter, known best for his work with his brother Rocky as part of the band The Driver Era. A worldwide tour with the band was quickly cancelled, but for the many challenges the year presented, it gave Ross a time to look inward and realise what really matters. “With everything happening with Covid, I’ve been experiencing a lack of inspiration.” He says, “I realised that for a while I was neglecting so many areas of my life. Whilst I was away in Vancouver, we filmed for 10 months, two years in a row. So, it’s been nice to have this time to rekindle with family, to play Hockey and other things I enjoy.”
2020 was also the bands most successful year, with singles ‘Fade’, ‘Places’ and ‘Take Me Away’ gaining plaudits for their unique approach to alt-rock. With Ross’ full concentration on the project, 2021 looks set to be a big year. “I have a phone full of unfinished music, I keep telling myself that I have to go in there and flush it out and get these songs released. The problem is, it’s just as easy to sit down and start playing guitar, feeling something new and fresh and then boom you add another song to that pile of incomplete work.” The artist proclaims, “It’s hard, we’ve been doing this for so long, with that time comes different beliefs and pressures about how we’ve gotten to this point. Right now, I’m just trying to cleanse my process so that I can start anew. I want to drop all the preconceived notions I have regarding people’s opinions. That’s what’s been good about Covid, we’ve had the time to sit down and let the inspiration come. It’s also been a time to make music because you love to, not because you’re about to go on tour. A week after Covid hit, we were supposed to tour the world. I was gutted for the fans, but personally I was kind of relieved, I don’t think I’ve ever had ten months to do nothing. It’s been nice to reorganise my priorities and get back to what matters.”
Artistically, Ross stands in a unique position. Having the ability to dabble in both the music world and the acting world, successfully, lends endless possibilities. But with living such a busy life, comes the aspect of timing, something he truly believes in. “My next role really does come down to the script, the character and it literally comes down to divine timing. All the roles I’ve booked in the past have serendipitously happened, so I’m kind of riding the current.” Ross states, “auditioning is a funny process, you’re in LA, you get an audition and you know 10,000 other actors are going for that same role. There’s some that come through that you know you’re not going to get, so you don’t waste your time, and then there’s others, like when I auditioned for My Friend Dahmer, where you read the script and you know it’s your role. I’m not a firm believer that my past work determines my next work, unless you’re Timothée Chalamet because right now everyone in Hollywood loves him. Literally every script is sent to him first and then if he declines them, then everyone else my age gets a chance. That’s how Hollywood works right now, but it’s always been that way, they call it the pecking order.”
It’s a position he’s been in since he was a teenager, although it was the trajectory he expected, knowing he could never do anything else, “that feeling was there when I was 12. I was so sure of it. I didn’t have a backup plan.” Ross states. In 2009 he began fronting the band ‘R5’ with his siblings, and then a debut acting role as the lead male role in the Disney sitcom Austin and Ally, in 2011 projected his profile across the globe, the rest really is history. “There’s different aspects of the acting industry and music industry that makes me happy I can jump back and forth. In a lot of my early work, both aspects were intertwined.” He says, “initially Disney channel didn’t want to cast me, but the creators of the show were adamant that I was ‘Austin’. In the end, they got me the job, I’m grateful for that. Luckily for me at the time, they sent me to an acting coach to try and give me some advice on how the Disney rhythm worked, because it’s different. First, it was a sitcom, so it was already different to a lot of the acting I had done previously. Then it’s Disney, so there’s a perkiness to it. It all worked out in the end.”
2020 gave Ross a sense of perspective, and he leaves it feeling a broad range of emotions. “Proud, joyful and excited. All the positive things because quite frankly it’s not worth my time to view it negatively, it just does me a disservice. I’m confident in my creative abilities to lead a life that’s exciting, I’m not sure what that looks like next. It could be a dramatic film or a 24-track album, but what I do know is that I’m keen on following joy.” The impact Chilling Adventures of Sabrina had on his profile can’t be understated, we can only hope those loyal fans find the ending fitting of its status. But for fans of The Driver Era, 2021 could very well be an exciting year, “we have started to organise a batch of songs to release as a body of work, potentially an album, although we don’t know when that would be released. The whole point of that is to try and get those unfinished song out there, and get things moving. I think every musician has the same curse.”