The untold truth of Charmed

At its core, Charmed is a television show about three adult sisters who learn they are powerful witches after the passing of their beloved grandmother, but it's so much more than that. The series, which ran on the WB for eight seasons from 1998-2006, saw the Halliwell sisters (later the Halliwell/Matthews sisters) battling the forces of evil to protect innocents, all while attempting to lead somewhat normal lives. 

Bringing in star power from Beverly Hills 90210's Shannen Doherty along with Alyssa Milano, then of primarily Who's the Boss fame, the series rounded out its cast of witches with the talented Holly Marie Combs (Picket Fences, Pretty Little Liars), and, joining a few seasons in, Rose McGowan (Scream, Grindhouse). 

The fantasy series was wildly popular with audiences and, along with everything beloved these days, is on track to be rebooted. In early 2018, the CW formally announced (via Entertainment Weekly) that a pilot has been ordered for the reboot. 

You may think you know all there is to know about your beloved witches, but now is the time to brush up on all things Charmed, plus learn a few things you never knew in the first place.

Something Wicca This Way Comes

Yes, that is in fact the name of the first aired episode of Charmed, suggesting right off the bat that the series was also going to incorporate elements of the Wiccan religion. Whether it was successful in that endeavor depends on who you ask. 

Throughout the series, the sisters explore elements of Wicca through the use of sacred objects, spellcasting, and their Book of Shadows, as well as events like solstice celebrations and handfastings. Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) in particular seems eager to meet other Wiccans, though admits that they are different from other witches because they have actual supernatural powers. 

The book Investigating "Charmed": The Magic Power of TV has a section dedicated to how audiences perceived the portrayal of Wicca. It cites audience members who appreciate the accurate portrayal of some elements of Wicca, but are disappointed with others. 

In particular, one audience member was "disappointed that they felt they needed to tie Wicca into Christianity a la demons and angels (Whitelighters)," while another noted that some of the evil demons in Charmed carry the names of benevolent gods and goddesses in the Wiccan religion. Still, many Wiccan audience members agreed that Charmed brought their religion into the public eye in a positive way, and for that, the "economic necessity" of fusing Wicca and Christianity can be mostly overlooked.

The Book of Shadows carried a heavy responsibility

The Charmed Book of Shadows practically had a life all its own. Producer Brad Kern said that, while the Halliwell manor was the "womb of the show," the Book of Shadows was the "magical heart and soul." 

It wasn't just a regular old TV prop — in an effort to make it as authentic as possible, it was entirely hand drawn by three different artists throughout the series (one of whom Alyssa Milano reportedly commissioned to paint murals in her home). The book was not only the source of the witches' powers and therefore central to the plot of the entire show, it was beloved by all. 

That's some heavy responsibility. Literally. So heavy, in fact, that according to the Book of Shadows Documentary, two other versions of it had to be created for scenes that involved the book being carried, thrown, or otherwise hefted. 

If you want your own copy of the Book of Shadows, you can get replica pages from one artist's website. As for the real one? Custody of the book was reportedly supposed to be shared between show producer Brad Kern and star Holly Marie Combs. According to a tweet from Combs, however, Kern is the only one who has ever had it.

The ugly truth behind Doherty's departure

At the end of the series' third season, Prue Halliwell, the oldest sister of the group played by Shannen Doherty, is attacked and left for dead alongside her sister Piper (Holly Marie Combs). The episode, which was the third and final episode directed by Doherty, was also her final appearance on the show. 

Doherty left the show (to be replaced by Rose McGowan as long lost sister Paige Matthews) amid rumors of an off-screen feud with co-star Alyssa Milano. A piece in the New York Daily News at the time suggests that Milano gave producers an ultimatum that either Doherty leave the show or she would. 

In 2013, Milano appeared on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen and told Cohen (via Us Weekly) that the cast "never really found out" what really happened with Doherty's departure. Though she did add, "I can tell you that we were on the air with her for three years, and there were definitely some rough days." 

As of 2017, however, it seems like the bad blood is gone. Milano told E! that she and Doherty talk a lot on Twitter direct message, noting that between her own role as a mother and Doherty's battle with cancer they've both been through a lot that has changed them over the years. Milano added, "I think we're just at ages now that what happens 15 years ago, or however long ago that was, it's irrelevant."

A knack for famous guest stars

One of the things that makes Charmed so great, especially on a rewatch, is the sheer number of amazing guest stars who appeared. While some were already famous at the time, others only found major fame since their appearance. 

We're talking about the likes of Jenny McCarthy as one of the evil Stillman sisters who attempt to steal the Charmed Ones' powers, Norman Reedus as Paige's love interest Nate, both 98 Degrees' Nick Lachey and Grey's Anatomy's Eric Dane as love interests for Phoebe, Billy Zane as a demon turned human with just one week left to live, Zachary Quinto as a familiar-hunting warlock, and Amy Adams as a mortal turned Whitelighter, among so many others. 

Perhaps the most unassuming guest star is the one who spent the longest on the show and has since made a huge name for herself. Kaley Cuoco, who stars as Penny on The Big Bang Theory, appeared in the entire final season of Charmed as Billie Jenkins, a college student and novice witch seeking guidance from the Charmed Ones. 

Talk about a show with star power.

The power of three is no match for budget cuts

Despite the show's star power, or maybe because of it, Charmed started to outgrow its budget by the final season. With all the flying objects, explosions, demon vanquishing potions, and high-paid actors, it all became a bit too much. While the series was in limbo during the seventh season (and some wondered if it would return for an eighth), it was ultimately picked up for a final season. There was just one catch: The budget was cut considerably compared to previous seasons. 

According to The Book of Three, these budget cuts are what led to Dorian Gregory, the actor who played Inspector Darryl Morris, being written out of the final season. This move was described in the book as a "loss [that] was hard on everyone." Gregory wasn't the only person whose story was dramatically cut short. Brian Krause, who played Piper's husband Leo Wyatt (and who was arguably the most important character after the witches themselves), was written out of several episodes as a cost-saving measure. 

He wasn't just a fan favorite, either. Krause was reportedly a favorite among the cast and crew as well. According to The Book of Three, Rose McGowan was brought to tears when recounting to the book's authors how Krause had been written out of several episodes. It wasn't until the final two episodes of the series that Krause returned to help give closure to the story.

Charmed was revived once before...

While Charmed left television in 2006, the series was revived in comic form four years after the series was canceled. Published monthly by Zenescope Entertainment, the comics were an officially licensed continuation of the series and picked up the story about a year and a half after the show's end. 

"Season 9" was published from 2010-2012 and was spread over 24 issues. "Season 10" continued the story from 2014-2016 across 20 issues. Some of the more notable story arcs from the comic include the return of Prue Halliwell (sort of, you'll just need to read it yourself) and the resurrection of The Source (of all evil, that is). 

Each time one of the story arcs was resolved, those issues were released as graphic novel volumes. Season 9, Vol. 2 of the series made the New York Times Best Sellers list in 2011 for paperback graphic books. If you haven't read them, consider this your stepping stone into the world of comics.

Working on Charmed was both exhausting and "soul crushing"

As beloved as Charmed is by fans, the people involved in its creation don't always get the warm fuzzies when thinking about their time with the show. In Rose McGowan's autobiography Brave, which was released in January 2018, she describes working on Charmed was both exhausting and "soul crushing," according to the Washington Post. McGowan also revealed that during her time on the show, she only worked with one female director, who was not respected by the predominantly male crew — a crew which McGowan says "would snicker in disrespect when she would direct them." 

McGowan wasn't alone in her memories of the show. In an Entertainment Weekly interview with McGowan, Milano, and Combs at the end of the series, Combs revealed, "The WB never treated us well, so we didn't expect a lot of farewell wishes and flowers or cards." 

After prompting, she added: "Well, we were never promoted. … They had a policy of promoting a couple shows at a time that they thought were going to be their front-runners. And we were never that. … When the press mentions The WB, they mention Buffy, Felicity and Gilmore Girls, and yet one show that has been on longer than all of them is never mentioned." 

Still, that lack of support should make the stars even more proud of what they accomplished.

Alyssa Milano feels "sick" over the allegations against showrunner Brad Kern

While Combs has a personal beef with Brad Kern over the Book of Shadows, he's been implicated in far seedier behavior. According to Variety, Kern was investigated by HR in 2016 on two separate occasions shortly after becoming the showrunner for NCIS: New Orleans. The investigations were into allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination against women in general and working mothers in particular, and comments that were racially charged. 

While CBS said "appropriate action" had been taken, crew members who spoke to Variety said the behavior continued. Apparently, it's also part of a pattern that stretches back to his time as the Charmed showrunner. 

According to Variety, Kern's former colleagues referred to him as a "creeper" and a "predator," while Krista Vernoff (then junior writer for Charmed and now showrunner for Grey's Anatomy) said that "misogyny and bullying were par for the course" on the show. In an interview with Variety, Alyssa Milano said that she didn't interact much with Kern, but that she was "sick over [the allegations]." She also shared her reaction to Kern's reported conduct. "It's totally unacceptable, because it's not only sexual harassment, it's bullying," she said. 

Milano also referred to the #MeToo movement and how important it is to bring these conversations about harassment into the public eye. "The reason why this [harassment] conversation is so important right now is because we have a very small window of opportunity to really make effective, lasting, meaningful change."

The original Charmed actresses have some serious issues with the reboot

As a fan favorite show, people have been clamoring for a Charmed reboot for years. In 2013, CBS was working on a reboot that never came to fruition. At the time, star Alyssa Milano tweeted that she felt it was too soon after the end of the series for a reboot. She said, "The thing about them doing a #charmed reboot is… it just… it feels like yesterday. It feels too close." 

Then in 2017, talks of a reboot surfaced again. This time, star Holly Marie Combs seemed to distance herself from the project by tweeting, "We wish them well." While it seemed clear the original stars would not be involved with the reboot, things came to a bit of a head once the pilot was officially ordered and a description was released. Described as a "fierce, funny, feminist reboot of the original series," many feel this implies the original wasn't these things, with several taking particular issue with the implication that the original wasn't feminist. 

Shannen Doherty called the wording "terrible and a bit offensive," but added that everyone makes mistakes. In response to a headline from Entertainment Weekly that said the reboot was adding a "feminist" storyline, Holly Marie Combs sarcastically tweeted, "Guess we forgot to do that the first go around. Hmph." Combs also takes issue with the reboot aiming to "tear down the patriarchy" given everything her co-stars McGowan and Milano have done to combat harassment and the patriarchy.