The Q&A

'Charmed' Lives

Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan, and Holly Marie Combs chat about the end of The WB's history-making series

'CHARMED,' WE'RE SURE (From left) Combs, Milano, and McGowan
Image credit: Charmed: Jeffrey Thurnher
'CHARMED,' WE'RE SURE (From left) Combs, Milano, and McGowan

What's the spell for making TV history? Ask Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan, and Holly Marie Combs, the actresses who play good-witch sisters on The WB's Charmed: In January, their show, which ends its eight-season run this spring, beat Laverne & Shirley as the longest-running series with female leads. We caught up with the stars as they shot the series finale — here's what they told reporters about the ''lame'' cancellation announcement, their favorite episodes, and the problem with pasties.

Are you sad it's over?
ROSE McGOWAN (PAIGE) It was strange reading the final script and at the very end seeing ''End of Series.''
ALYSSA MILANO (PHOEBE) It's a really weird thing, and I haven't been able to articulate it no matter how many times I've had a conversation about it. You don't what to reminisce too much because that's when the sorrow sort of crawls all over your body and you want to lie in the fetal position. And obviously it's exciting because this is life, and life is about change, and tomorrow is a new day, and one door closes and another opens, and all those clichés that are clichés for a reason.

There was some question about whether you'd even be back for this season, right?
McGOWAN There was a great expectancy last year that it would be the last, so [now] it's like the double good-bye. You leave a party, you say good-bye, and you realize you left your purse. Aw, crap!
HOLLY MARIE COMBS (PIPER) [Last year] I was in a great deal of denial. I was like, ''We're coming back, whatever.'' We knew this time it wasn't going to happen because all of our contracts are up.
McGOWAN Which is incredibly annoying, because The CW or whatever that name is [rolls eyes] —
COMBS Cartoon Network.
McGOWAN Cartoon —
COMBS Cartoon Wookiee.
McGOWAN They made a big announcement that we were canceled. I'm like, How is it possible to cancel something that doesn't exist?... [Since] all three contracts are done, there's effectively no show. So then why would you [announce a cancellation]?... Kind of lame to dishonor something that's worked for them for so long.
COMBS It's like, [serenely] Will & Grace is coming to an end. And 7th Heaven is ending its run. And yet Charmed gets axed!
McGOWAN I thought it was like one last annoying pissing contest.
COMBS The WB never treated us well, so we didn't expect a lot of farewell wishes and flowers or cards.

How were you not treated that well?
COMBS Well, we were never promoted. The year we premiered [1998], they had their favorite shows. 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.
McGOWAN I don't have any super-big data to back this up, but my general hunch is that shows that are female-driven get axed probably quicker.
COMBS Because they're so problematic. [Laughter.] ''I wanted that swimsuit, dammit!''

What do you think your legacy will be with this show?
McGOWAN That I survived. That every year, I got less flus. First year was five, next year was four...
COMBS I think we deserve to be proud of ourselves because we held it together and we didn't have a lot of support. It would've been very easy to make this one of the other shows that gets all the critical attention because of how we behaved off-screen, or how we behaved with each other. We came in and did our work in the fastest fashion possible and went home. We tried not to pull each other's hair out or make mortal enemies, and we succeeded in that. In this industry there's this ridiculous connotation with women shows that's it's got to be difficult, and it's not true.

Do you have a favorite episode or story line?
COMBS [To McGowan] You're a big fan of your leprechaun episodes!
McGOWAN I ad-libbed a line: ''What happened to me in my life that I had to deal with so many leprechauns?'' For me, it's probably the ''Charmed Noir'' episode [in which Paige is stuck in a 1930s-set, gangster-themed novel]. I like that one the best, because we had amazing cars. Everything kind of came together on that one. We had a really good script; the lighting was great. The director had done a movie with Mob characters, and so he pulled favors and found these really great, recognizable Mob-looking guys. We had Joe Kennedy Sr.'s stretch limo. [To Combs] I think yours was when you were dancing on the bar.
COMBS Nooo! That was my most mortifying... I had to be drunk and Shannen [Doherty, an original star of the show] choreographed it. So I really was completely absent from the whole thing. Mine was probably the Camelot episode. I don't know why; I got to do sword fighting.
MILANO You know, I probably haven't watched a full episode since the first year... When you've been on TV since you were 11 years old, it's just kinda not so interesting. I'd much rather watch Huff or House. I just feel like I lived the episode.... [But] I can tell you that the mermaid episode was great to do. I love doing the episodes where I'm in some sort of crazy getup — it gives the crew things to make fun of me about, which is always entertaining for everyone. The mermaid episode was pretty tough because I'm afraid of water, and I was [wearing] pasties.... My breasts were chafed for about two months after — they put them on with surgical glue.

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