Sex, demons and BDSM: Gavin Leatherwood is Sabrina the Teenage Witch's anti-hero
Sabrina's bad boy gone good talks growing up uncool and reveals who he thinks Nick Scratch will end up with.
When Gavin Leatherwood was in 7th grade, he wore his hair in a middle-parting. His cargo shorts were bright orange and he carried a roller backpack. “Would that be hip and cool now? Probably,” he wonders out loud. Perhaps today’s VSCO girls today might approve, but back in the mid-2000s all it earned him was a measure of tame -- but certainly not pleasant -- schoolyard mockery.
“I shaved my head and started wearing skater clothes; I really attached myself to that identity of being a skater. I really wasn't great,” he says, “I just kind of pushed my way around on my board, but I went around with friends and pretended to be that person.”
That person, according to Gavin, bears a striking resemblance to his Chilling Adventures of Sabrina character, Nicholas Scratch. Or, at least, an earlier iteration of him. “Nick in Part 1 is similar to that persona I would put on when I was younger as a defence mechanism,” he says. “That was a memory that I latched onto, and then I wanted to add layers and other colours to him, like sensitivity and vulnerability as time went on.”
By Part 3 of the Netflix series, Nick Scratch is certainly a character that contains these shades. Having been to Hell and back, literally, Nick is having to come to terms with the trauma of having had the Devil take over his mind and body. The psychological repercussions of the experience sends shockwaves into the life he previously led. Gavin’s character turns to substance abuse and begins experimenting with BDSM, pushing away his loved ones -- including Sabrina -- in the process.
Your character essentially has a PTSD arc this season. How did you go about approaching that as an actor?
I always try to treat the script delicately and look for little hints between the words. Often, how other characters are interacting with you is a good indication of what your character's going through. I just spent a lot of time with the words and tried to empathise with the character to understand what it might be like to go through a situation like that. I mean, I've never been to Hell, but I can imagine.
I love that the show looks at really important issues like gender, mental health, sexuality, and sexism.
Yes! I feel honoured to be a part of a show that is progressive, and talks about these issues in a fun, colourful, clever way. I loved getting to explore a character that uses coping mechanisms like sex and drugs for his trauma. I think what Nick is really looking for through Part 3 is a way to openly communicate. He feels really trapped in his own head, so he's acting out. At the very end of Part 3, we see him and Prudence sitting on the steps together, and it's the first time he's been vulnerable with someone for a long time. I think the thing that really helps us deal with our issues is communicating through them and being open and genuine, and allowing ourselves to feel with other people.
Tell me a bit about what it was like to shoot the scenes with sex demons.
It was super weird! We were kind of strangers upon meeting, to be honest. But the other actors were both really lovely people, and trained dancers too. We all were just like "Let's make this really fun and sexy, let's play." It takes a bond of trust to do something like that, and we formed it really quickly. Then they came back in the demon makeup and it was like, "Holy hell, you guys look totally different!" It was a bit unnerving. They were in latex and had different-coloured horns coming out of their faces. It was quite wild, but it was like we already got past this in the first stage, now it's just a bit of extra flair'.
What’s your take on Nick and Sabrina? Do you think they’ll end up together?
When I first came onto the show I was all game for them. I thought that they were adorable and their love on screen was beautiful. But as time has gone on and as the show's progressed, it’s clear to me that Nick is just an amazing partner for Sabrina in terms of the skill-set he has. And she's Nick's first real true love. He's experienced a lot of lust, but with Sabrina it's this whole new thing that he's aware is precious and beautiful and pure. And I think deep down he really does love her. There are definitely trials and tribulations ahead though.
There was a lot of Harbrina teasing this season. Why do you think Harvey isn’t right for her?
I mean, he's a mortal. He's got a big heart and a cute Greendale life, but he just doesn't have what it takes to navigate the witch world.
What would you like to see happen for Nick in the future?
Oh man. I wanna see him on a motorcycle. Is that too much to ask? I don't think so. I just think that would be super bad-ass. Out in the Greendale countryside, and his hair is blowing in the wind, and he's wearing a leather jacket and cool shades. Maybe a sunset is happening. Where is he going? We don't know.
Is Sabrina there with him?
Yeah, she's holding onto him on the back. Actually, she might be the one driving. But I'm cool with it either way.