Just an Ordinary Day in a 'Charmed' Land**
Gypsies are on the set of The WB Network's supernatural drama "Charmed," and things are heating up for the show's trio of good-witch sisters.
Potions are brewing in the kitchen of the Victorian Halliwell house in San Francisco, and sister Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) is having visions of doom.
All in all, it's just a typical day in suburban Canoga Park, Calif., for the series, now in its fifth season.
Last year, "Charmed" dealt with the departure of star Shannen Doherty by killing off her character, oldest sister Prue, and introducing Rose McGowan as youngest half-sister Paige, the product of a clandestine affair the sisters' mother had with her White Lighter (angelic guardians of good witches).
Now-oldest sister Piper (Holly Marie Combs) married her White Lighter boyfriend, Leo (Brian Krause), and became pregnant. And middle sister Phoebe learned that no matter how much she loved half-demon Cole (Julian McMahon), their marriage was doomed.
After a year of tumult, sudden endings and new beginnings, "Charmed" is settling into a different vibe. "I think we had enough excitement last year," executive producer Brad Kern says. "We're not bringing in any new sisters."
Without last year's strong plot engines, Kern reminds his staffers of their new freedoms. "One of the hallmarks of 'Charmed' is we can do anything. We can go dark and scary; we can go wacky and fun; we can go poignant. We can do anything we want or all those things."
One thing the show is doing is having a baby, but it's hardly prenatal business as usual.
"It's a magical baby," Kern says, "but I don't think we can wait until May to have it. After the baby is born, there's only going to be a handful of episodes left this year, and I think we have a surprise for the season finale about what this baby can do."
"The audience will find, as the pregnancy unfolds this year, that it's already evidencing some magical, mysterious powers, through magnifying Piper's powers and Piper's wishes."
"There's a mystery about what she's carrying. There's no mystery about whether it's good or evil -- it's clearly good -- but exactly how good is it? It seems to be awfully good and awfully powerful at a pretty early stage."
Spooky magical goings-on notwithstanding, for Combs -- who was born to a teenage mother -- it's all about keeping it real. "We're trying to play it as realistically as possible, with all the fears and concerns and stuff like that. I want to be sure that we deal with it responsibly, because my mom was very young when she had me."
"We have so many teenage girls who are fans of the show, I didn't want it to look like this great old good time, everybody's having fun and knitting booties and being excited about the baby."
"I want to deal with it realistically, with all the health problems that it causes, all the responsibility. It's a huge decision, and I would never suggest it for a teenager, because it was way too hard on my mom. We were growing up at the same time. Only in the last four years did she get her college degree, and I'm 28 now."
While Piper copes with marriage and impending motherhood, the other two sisters are still looking for love. "This year," Kern says, "with Phoebe intent on moving past Cole, and Paige not having to deal with what it's like to be a witch, and actually being able to enjoy it, these two characters then go out and are able to be young adult women who are dating and trying to add guys to their worlds and keep their secret."
"I've already made out with someone," announces McGowan, snuggled into a sofa in a dressing room, swinging one foot (fashionably shod -- as are all the "Charmed" girls -- in pointed stiletto ankle boots). "It was someone new. And apparently there's another dude in the next episode. Miss Paige, she's quit her job so she can focus on being a superwitch full time, and I think her powers are developing quite quickly."
Asked what Paige now does for money, McGowan shrugs. "That's what I asked," she says. "But apparently I just have really cute clothes that come through the air, and that's all that matters. But Phoebe didn't have a job for a long time, and she had cute clothes. It works out for us."
"She's superwitch full time, and she's making out with some dudes. That's all I know so far. What else do you need to know in life, really?"
A while later, Milano crashes on the same couch, happy to be off her feet for a few minutes. "The shoes on this show are killing me. It's not only the walking, but it's the fighting of the demons in these shoes. My feet are destroyed. Every time I go to my mom's house, she says, 'I got you these pads for the bottoms of your feet.'"
Along with comfy shoes (don't hold your breath), Milano would like to get back to the days when Phoebe was quirky and a free spirit. "I would like Phoebe to regress a little bit. That would be a fun story line, just hanging out with her younger sister, Paige, and being a girl again."
She also thinks it's long past time for Phoebe to be over Cole. "He's a demon. It's such a perfect storyline for Phoebe because every young girl goes through that rebellious phase where they date the guy that's not necessarily the right one, the bad boy. Cole was the ultimate bad boy."
"It's that age when you're too young to have children, so you feel the need to raise a boyfriend. That's what Phoebe was going through."
With all that's happening, "Charmed" will also soon hit 100 episodes. "There better be a party," Combs exclaims, "with a big old cake."