January 11, 2012

Hennig bewitching in her role on 'Secret Circle'

Shelley Hennig began with a leap from teen beauty pageants - she was crowned Miss Teen USA in 2004 - to modeling. Then she spent four years on the soap opera "Days of Our Lives" (2007-2011), earning a Daytime Emmy Award nomination in the process, before signing up to play a levelheaded teen witch on the CW network's supernatural drama "The Secret Circle."

"That was the order, and it's been such a crazy path," Hennig said. "I was at acting school in New York and quickly learned that I loved it and wanted to try everything, whether it be soap operas, prime-time shows or movies. I booked 'Days of Our Lives' at the last minute, when I was still in acting school, and then I got 'Secret Circle' in my first pilot season. That happened very quickly, and then, the next thing I knew, I was in Vancouver shooting with our lovely cast and crew."

The show debuted in October, led into by "The Vampire Diaries," and clicked with enough avid viewers to prompt the CW to renew it for a full season. Based on L.J. Smith's young-adult novels, it unfolds in Chance Harbor, Wash., where newcomer Cassie (Britt Robertson) meets a coven of witches - Diana (Hennig), Faye (Phoebe Tonkin), Adam (Thomas Dekker) and Melissa (Jessica Parker Kennedy) - and discovers that she not only is a witch herself, but also completes a prophesied and powerful Secret Circle.

Early episodes focused on Cassie contending with her new reality, as well as with her feelings for Adam. Diana and Adam had been romantically involved, but no one could deny the strong - and possibly destined - attraction between Cassie and Adam, and so Diana broke it off with Adam. The second half of the season will kick off on Thursday with the episode "Darkness," and Hennig recently took to the telephone from the "Secret Circle" set to discuss that episode and more.

"Diana gives Adam, basically, the freedom to explore what's happening with Cassie," Hennig said. "She's not really sure whether that's a fate thing or not, but she heard it from Adam's dad and it really got to her - and it made sense, based on what she'd seen between Adam and Cassie. So Diana does the mature thing and said, 'Go explore this.'

"I think Diana quickly regrets it. It becomes really, really hard for her to see Adam and Cassie's relationship growing and to see Adam slipping away from her. So what you'll see coming up is Diana still having feelings for Adam and struggling with the decision she's made to give him the freedom."

Fans of "The Secret Circle" are also aware of another pivotal relationship involving Diana: Her father, Charles (Gale Harold), ignited the house fire that killed Cassie's mother, which resulted in Cassie's arrival in Chance Harbor. Additionally, Charles is involved with a group of adult witches - among them Dawn (Natasha Henstridge), who is the girls' school principal and Faye's mother - who aren't at all thrilled about the growing powers of the Secret Circle.

"There's so much about Charles that Diana doesn't know yet," Hennig said. "I know because I read the scripts, but I can't wait for the day when Diana finds out who he really is. I think it'd be a great story line for Diana to find out what Charles has been up to. Diana could spiral down into a psychotic phase. I do hope that we'll see more of Diana and Charles, but I know you'll see more of Charles on the show, and Gale is so good."

While such a plot twist may come farther down the road, there's quite possibly a more imminent revelation on the way. Cassie is a Blackwell Child, capable of some very dark magic, and in the episode "Balcoin," the most recent one to air, it was revealed that someone else within the Secret Circle is a Blackwell Child, and therefore her half brother or half sister.

Could it be Diana?

"I don't think Diana is the easy answer," Hennig said. "I think Faye would be the easy answer, because she's the bad girl (in the Secret Circle). From playing Diana, though, what would make sense to me is that it is Diana. She's in this triangle with Adam and Cassie, and she's become closer with Cassie even though Adam has a thing for her. There's a sisterly bond in general, and it's in the book, how close Diana and Cassie are. In the episode where Diana and Adam broke up, she went directly to Cassie's house and said, 'I don't know why I'm even here.'

"So to me it would make sense that the reason she's there is that they're actually sisters. I think there's a whole story there."

"The Secret Circle" airs Thursday nights at 9 on the CW.
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