1 of 5 | Harry Hamlin stars in "The Mayfair Witches," premiering Sunday. Photo courtesy of AMC
NEW YORK, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Clash of the Titans, LA Law and Mad Men icon Harry Hamlin says his patriarch character in the new AMC+ supernatural drama, Mayfair Witches, may not be able to read someone's mind or kill them with a glance, but he still is a dangerous man.
"I don't have any powers because the powers were passed down mainly through the women in the family," the 71-year-old actor told UPI in a recent Zoom roundtable with reporters.
"My job as the character is to hold the family together. I am the fun uncle in the family."
Hamlin insists Cortland Mayfair is "the most delicious character" he's played since his first film, Movie Movie, in 1977.
"It's been a long time. They've let me create a character that may not be the character [series creator] Esta [Spalding] had in mind when she first wrote the script, but the good news is that they were writing the scripts as we were filming," he said.
"So, they were able to see what each of us brought to the characters they had written and they were able to expand on that. In a way, they adapted the characters to us and what we brought to it. I love it when a show goes like that."
Based on the late Anne Rice's novel, Lives of the Mayfair Witches, the contemporary New Orleans-set supernatural drama premieres Sunday. It follows young neurosurgeon Rowan (Alexandra Daddario) as she discovers she is the unlikely heir to the Mayfair family of witches, which dates to 16th-century Scotland.
Hamlin noted that both the book and its screen adaptation portray Cortland as a "narcissistic avuncular character who loses his way," while trying to accumulate as much money as he can.
One of the biggest differences is that Cortland is no longer alive in the book's current timeline.
"But I am very glad that they have resurrected him," Hamlin said about allowing Cortland to wreak havoc in modern times.
"My motivation is to stay alive," he said.
"I am surrounded by people in this family who have powers and also there is a cipher -- Lasher, a character that we don't quite from what dimension he comes -- who could, at any moment, do serious damage to me because I don't have any powers other than the powers of manipulation and charm."
Hamlin admitted he isn't a longtime fan of Rice or the vampires and witches she conjured in numerous blockbuster books that reached the apex of their fame in the 1980s and '90s.
However, now that he has been exposed to them, he said he appreciates the stories as explorations of the human condition with mystical angles.
"I was not the right generation. She was writing for people younger than me. That was the generation that really caught fire with her work," he said of Generation Xers.
"But being a student of mythology as I have been, I'm very attracted to this world," he added. "I'm digging it, so I think I will go back, in my old age, and check out all these vampire movies and stuff."
Women of the Movement, iZombie and Crusoe actor Tongayi Chirisa plays psychic Ciprien, who is part of a secret society called the Talamasca, in Mayfair Witches.
The character is an amalgamation of Aaron and Michael from the books.
"He is an empath and he has this ability to touch people and objects, and see into their past," Chirisa said.
"The challenges he goes through and the ability to be able to feel emotions of everything and everyone was just too alluring for me not to try and take a stab at it."
Chirisa wanted to be a part of the moody, romantic world Rice set up, even as show takes the story in new directions.
"Esta did a really great job of capturing the essence of Anne Rice and some of the richer themes that convey who she was and the world she created. This was her home," Chirisa said of New Orleans.
"If you read the first book, you know it was so rich in detail. There were 1,000-plus pages. There was no way we could have incorporated all of the themes, but I think Esta did a great job in bunching them together to give us the essence of the story."
While Cortland is motivated by money, Ciprien is guided by allegiance and obligation.
"With his background and where he grew up and how he was integrated into the Talamasca, there is a sense of, 'I need to do this because of how I was treated and someone brought me in and took care of me,'" Chirisa explained.
Unfortunately, meeting Rowan turns Ciprien's world upside down.
"There is a sudden shift," he teased.
"He is a person that has always been very closed. That's why he wears the gloves, to keep the world out. He doesn't want anyone in his personal space. But interacting with Rowan, you will start to see him becoming very vulnerable, allowing somebody into his space that's never been tapped into," the actor added.
"That leads to situations and circumstances because he compromises his integrity, the work that he is supposed to do -- to observe and watch. He starts to get involved and as a result you see things beginning to unfold."
The Talamasca is an entity that observes the supernatural, but isn't supposed to get involved unless a situation makes it absolutely necessary.
"This can go down so many avenues. Is everybody who they say they are? Are people undercover? Just thinking about what can be was enthralling to me," Chirisa said.