Gavin Leatherwood is laughing — and speaking in ellipses. It is mid-January and the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina actor is thinking about a line from his Netflix teen drama’s part 3, which will premiere in a matter of days on January 24. The eight-chapter batch of episodes gives Leatherwood the meatiest storyline of his career, as his character, bad boy-turned-lovestruck tragic hero Nicholas Scratch, is possessed by the devil.
Which brings us to Nick’s most delicious line of part 3: “Call me daddy.” It’s a quote that is crafted to be screenshot, retweeted, retumbled, and Instagram storied until the apocalypse really does hit. Leatherwood knows as much.
“Saying that was…” the 25-year-old tells reporters on Sabrina’s Vancouver set before trailing off into a far-away chuckle. The cast is busy filming CAOS part 4. “I tried to handle that as most professionally as possible.”
Leatherwood succeeded. The quote comes up in part 3’s second episode, “Drag Me to Hell,” and is dripping in multiple layers of sexual tension and the Electra complex. At this point in the story, Nick is still possessed by Lucifer (traditionally played by Aussie actor Luke Cook). Heroine Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) has rescued her boyfriend’s body from hell — where he has been for weeks — and trapped Nick/Lucifer in a cell in the Academy of Unseen Arts’ dungeon. Sabrina visits Nick, hoping to raise his spirits. Instead, she finds Nick growing a hoof for a foot and realizes she is speaking to Lucifer.
The Dark Lord-as-Nick, chained up and shirtless, urges Sabrina to “go on” and call him by his proper patriarchal title (daddy!).
Leatherwood — who jokes the biggest surprise of the season is “When I wear a shirt” — is happy to dive into the more sexy and memeable portions of Sabrina. “I think it’s fun to poke fun at all of it and to enjoy it and to laugh about it,” he admits of CAOS part 3's gleeful horniness. “Yeah. Goodness gracious. There’s a couple of those [moments] sprinkled throughout that are just really fun.”
Still, Leatherwood was most excited to explore what happens after Nick is free of Lucifer’s possession. Sabrina doesn’t take the aftermath of Nick’s experience lightly, and most of his part 3 arc can be viewed as an analogue for PTSD following sexual assault. Before Nick is able to get help for his resulting depression, he turns to dark methods of coping and rages against Sabrina. While some actors would be afraid to go to such grim places, Leatherwood wasn’t.
“That’s exactly what I’m looking to do as an actor: to challenge myself emotionally. I don’t really get angry in my daily life. I typically will try to find other methods for dealing with that,” he explains, detailing hobbies like journaling and music writing. “To be able to [go to those places] as an actor was a wonderful exploration of the human psyche … it’s fun to react in a way that is different from myself.”
While Leatherwood may be reveling in surveying the darkest parts of Nick, it's difficult not to hope he has a much easier job to do come part 4. All “daddy” requests, however, are still welcome.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).