Gale Harold gets wicked in 'The Secret Circle'

Gale Harold stars in the CW's "The Secret Circle." (CW)

Gale Harold is no stranger to playing bad boys. His sexy Brian Kinney in "Queer as Folk" was the resident love-'em-and-leave-'em heartbreaker for five seasons.

But Charles Meade, the wicked witch of Chance Harbor he plays in CW's "The Secret Circle," is on a totally different level.

“He may be up in the bad scale a bit,” Harold said Monday during a phone interview prior to the show’s third episode, “Loner,” airing at 8 p.m. Sept. 29.


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An understatement, you think? Let’s see, in the series premiere Charles burned newbie witch Cassie’s (Britt Robertson) mom to a crisp as part of his plot to create a new coven of teen witches in his town. In last week’s episode, he covered up a murder committed by Dawn Chamberlain (Natasha Henstridge), his partner in supernatural scheming.

Producers Kevin Williamson and Andrew Miller have yet to reveal why Charles and Dawn have set their plan in motion, but there’s no doubt it will be a juicy, action-filled tale. Williamson did, after all, adapt “The Secret Circle” from the book series by LJ Smith, the same author of “The Vampire Diaries” series, which Williamson made into another hit show for CW. And “TVD” never skimps on twists and turns in its storytelling.

Harold has quickly become the biggest reason to watch “The Secret Circle” as Charles kills and broods and manipulates. But if you ask the actor, Charles isn’t simply a villain.

“The things we’ve already seen him do are evil,” he said. “But I don’t think that it’s on any level about an evil person trying to do evil things.”

According to Harold, Charles is a family man struggling to protect his daughter, Diana (Shelley Hennig), who happens to be another teen witch in the new circle. He’s also trying to protect his extended “witch family,” which includes Dawn, who was part of a coven that was disbanded and stripped of its powers years earlier after a horrible accident.

He will do pretty much anything to hide the witches’ way of life from those who would destroy it. And that’s when he gets wicked.

“There’s no way that the people outside the family are going to just roll over and die, regardless of who they are. And once they start to get dangerous, they have to be controlled,” Harold said. “And the more dangerous they become, the more extreme the control method has to become.”

So what exactly does that mean for Charles in the upcoming episodes, and possibly even in "Loner," when Zachary (Dave Baez), a mysterious man who knew Cassie's mom, comes to town?

“We have to go down before we can go up,” Harold teased. “And so I think there’s an oncoming slide.”

Harold gives us a deeper peek into Charles' psyche below.

Charles is a pretty smooth operator; does he always stay in control?
I think that he has to maintain some sort of smooth operation function because he does work as a lawyer and he is a member of society and he’s got a bunch of potentially damaging secrets underneath his everyday persona. So I think that that’s a way of covering for what he’s struggling to deal with.

You say he’s “struggling” to deal with this stuff. Is his motivation more of a saving a certain way of life or taking care of his kid or is it just a pure evil type thing?
No, I don’t think it’s pure evil at all. I think that, the way he understands it isn’t pure evil at all. Whether or not it is pure evil will have to be decided by other people. I think that from a social, right-and-wrong perspective, it is evil ... But I think there’s another list of questions that he asks himself, not good or bad or right or wrong, but how am I going to protect first of all my family, which is my daughter. That spreads out to the bigger family, which is potentially the coven and his relationship with Dawn and how that can be protected and how it can be hidden from the world.

I think it’s about the person who is just stuck in a difficult place between what society dictates and what a possibly pre-Christian world thinks, especially in a country like the United States, where so much of it is somewhat reactionary and all about how each person is defined by religion and God, whoever that is.

Interesting. So he’s doing everything for the right reasons for him, I guess?
No, it’s not as simple as that. I don’t think he’s doing everything for the right reasons for him. He’s justifying things, I think, based on what he believes, which is outside of modern culture or contemporary culture. He’s also just trying to stay alive and making sure that whatever happens that his daughter and extended members of his family is protected.

And that his strategy, which is much more complicated and goes much deeper—it can’t really be discussed in public. He needs someone to support him on that. It seems that he’s been a little bit isolated, so the only person that can support him is himself and then you go back into the rationalization of things, which can lead to all sorts of problems in the human mind.

Are we talking that he fears a little bit of a Salem witch burning trial type stuff?
Well, on the very surface level, of course. If that is where we were to find ourselves as being identified or described as by culture at large. You look at the history and how they were dealt with in the past, I think that would be something you would be quite worried about. It would be a great relief as well being burned at the stake—what I’ve done to Cassie’s mother, right?

In last week’s episode, you handed over the crystal that gave you powers again to Dawn. Is that something sort of like the ring in “Lord of the Rings” that sort of made him go a little off the rails?
I think from just the narrative of myths, and of the story of what is on the surface of the people that you see walking down the street and look at possibility behind all that, whether it’s magic or supernatural powers or however you want to describe it. I think there are echoes of that. That’s an ongoing eternal trope of everything that we deal with: Where does the human stop and where do the things within and without take over? The crystal, obviously, represents a bridge to that and therefore it’s very valuable. So it’s something that you could lose your mind over very quickly and then start doing the sort of things that you can’t really cover up any more.

Speaking of him losing his cool, it seems like whenever he gets around Ethan he does lose control. There’s obviously some sort of long history between the two of them. Will Charles be able to keep himself in control?
There’s a history between Ethan and Charles in terms of what’s happened in the past, but also he’s a drunk. He’s just an X-factor and you can’t really allow that to roam around free. And if I’m not going to murder the guy, then he’s got to know that everything he does has consequences.

Do you like playing this kind of character? This seeming villain, but family man, I guess?
Yeah, I think whatever the specifics of the character you play are, it’s always good to have a built-in conflict. And tying what you can sort of simply refer to as your double, whoever or whatever that is, is always better than just being someone who is on a fixed trajectory.

I read that you have said in the past, that you have to like your character or no one else will. So you like this guy? You like Charles?
I do like Charles. And to put a finer point on that, you have to like your character; it doesn’t necessarily to me mean that you have to like this person. I think what you have to like is his ability or her ability to communicate how confused they are or how possessed they are or how seemingly good they are while absolutely, realistically having the potential to do bad things. If you don’t like that, it’s basically just something that keeps your interest. So, if there’s a bit of that going on, but it’s also, yeah, you want the viewer to like the person and go with your own belief that his problems are real and not just surface. If you don’t have any feeling for the person, then you’re not going to care what happens to them.

If you could cast a spell, what would it be?
If I could cast a spell, it would be for everyone to always understand what I’m trying to say in exactly the way that I want them to understand it. [I would make sure] that my point is made and their minds are influenced to take my side to the point that I can change it on a dime, like it’s always my choice.

All right. I think I kind of want that same thing.
Good.