“You spend an entire day shooting a scene where you get spit in the face over and over. At some point you walk home with your head a little low,” Gavin Leatherwood admits with a rueful laugh during a recent phone call. “It was tough for Gavin.” Anyone who has already binged the Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina part 2 can guess what projectile-heavy moment Nicholas Scratch's portrayer is talking about: The day he filmed finale “The Mephisto Waltz’s” most painful betrayal revelation.
After nine episodes of an increasingly shippable romance between Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) and Leatherwood's Nick, Lucifer Morningstar (Luke Cook) appears in “Mephisto” to tear this union asunder. The Dark Lord reveals he ordered Nick to “get close” to Sabrina — to “be nice” to her, to hold her hand. This means Sabrina and Nick's entire relationship was built on a foundation of satanic lies. Sabrina is understandably devastated by the gut punch twist. Hence, all the spitting in Nick's direction.
At least Leatherwood can try to explain this entire tawdry affair — and what it means for season 3.
The biggest question lingering over Nick’s betrayal is when it began. During “Mephisto,” Sabrina asks if the subterfuge started the very first moment she met Nick at the Academy Of Unseen Arts in fourth episode “Witch Academy.” He says no, and Leatherwood confirms as much. Instead, the actor first assumed something was amiss with his character during a later scene in the same installment.
“There was this subtle hint dropped to me when I first started working on the show,” Leatherwood told Refinery29 minutes after getting off the phone with his “very proud” mom. In Nick’s final appearance of “Witch Academy,” he hands Sabrina the journal of her late father Edward Spellman (Georgie Daburas). When Sabrina exits the scene, Nick stares at her for a suspiciously long time before turning his head towards the devilish statue of Baphomet in the middle of the Academy. The wide shot suggests the integral importance of Nick’s quick glance. Director-producer Rob Seidenglanz went out of his way to make sure the CAOS team got those visuals.
“Rob comes up to me, and he goes, ‘When she walks away, let her go for a minute. Take a second, and then look up at the statue,” Leatherwood recalled. “I was like, ‘Okay, but why?’ ... And he’s like, ‘Because something more might be at play here.’”
Roberto was like, 'Well they’re coming to get you in the first episode of part 3.'
Was that the exact moment Nick begins doing the Dark Lord’s work? Leatherwood wouldn’t go that far. “I think [the first Devotion] could have come at a few moments for sure. That ask definitely came about early on. Nick tries several different ways to approach that situation and cater to that ask,” he explained. When Nick’s signature “flirty, charm-y,” razzle dazzle doesn’t work, Leatherwood theorizes, something surprising happened.
“He realizes it’s not that easy, and that there are so many more emotions that go into play. As he gets to know [Sabrina] more, [Nick] sees how much she has to offer him,” Leatherwood continued, citing the couple's “electric” Passion Of Lucifer Morningstar kiss as a watershed moment. “He sees that she really has this ability and desire to change things. Nick just loves that about her, and he begins to fall for her as he’s carrying out his task. There are moments where he forgets what he was originally asked to do.”
Leatherwood compares Nick’s growth from sly, “innocent” manipulator into a love-struck Sabrina disciple to the Grinch. Remember, the warlock has no idea Sabrina is the Devil's daughter and the foretold herald of hell until she also learns these awful facts. “Nick's heart grows a little bit bigger each time [they’re together],” he said.
Yet, Leatherwood knows that endearing defense may not convince viewers to absolve Nick, even after his big “Mephistso” sacrifice. As fans who finished the episode know, Nick offers up his body as a prison for the Dark Lord in a last-ditch effort to help Sabrina defeat the devil. In Madam Satan’s (Michelle Gomez) final scene of part 2, she carries Nick’s unconscious form into hell. Leatherwood has accepted that “[forgiveness] is going to be completely dependent on the viewer. If they hate Nick, that’s cool. I get it. But if they can find a soft spot in their heart to forgive Nick, I’ve forgiven him.”
Sabrina Spellman is also well on her way to forgiving her estranged, possessed love interest. The final words of part 2 are the teen witch confidentiality announcing, “Let’s go to hell and get my boyfriend back.” CAOS creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has already promised Leatherwood the cavalry really is coming.
“I talked to Roberto about that. I was like, ‘Are we finding Nick?,’” Leatherwood explained, ratting off the many theories he lobbied at Aguirre-Sacasa from imminent PTSD to split personalities for his character. “Roberto was like, ‘Well they’re coming to get you in the first episode of part 3. They’re going to come and try to rescue you. So you’ll have to wait and see.’”