‘Mayfair Witches’: Harry Hamlin Explains Cortland’s Self-Serving Motives With Deirdre

Harry Hamlin in 'Mayfair Witches' Season 1
Q&A
Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

[Warning: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Mayfair Witches Season 1 Episode 2.]

Deirdre Mayfair suffered years of medical abuse while trapped in the clutches of her religious zealot aunt, Carlotta Mayfair (Beth Grant). After Lasher (Jack Huston) urged Deirdre (Annabeth Gish) to set herself free from her magical mental prison, the end of Mayfair Witches Episode 2 tragically ended with her murder — witnessed by her daughter, Rowan (Alexandra Daddario), in their first-ever meeting.

Harry Hamlin‘s Cortland Mayfair knew Deirdre had been trapped by his sister for years. If he loved his niece so much, why didn’t he step in? Hamlin tells TV Insider that the grandiose southern gentleman may have ulterior motives to keep Deirdre (and more importantly, Lasher) under tight control.

Here, we dive into Cortland’s motives with Hamlin.

Carlotta took Deirdre’s newborn daughter from her and trapped her in the Mayfair house for years. Why didn’t Cortland step in and help her?

Harry Hamlin: Cortland is somewhat enigmatic in that you never know quite whose side he’s on. He’s obviously playing for the family, but he’s playing for his own team as well. It might’ve been to his benefit to have Deirdre held down for that many years. Deirdre was the 12th witch. The 13th witch was something that the family was anticipating. Cortland definitely has his finger on every issue and his finger on the pulse. He knows what’s happening. If he was going to allow that to happen, it would have to be for some good reason.

Cameron Jade Inman & Beth Grant in 'Mayfair Witches' Season 1

Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

Cortland and Carlotta are siblings, but they couldn’t be more different. How would you describe their dynamic?

The backstories are a bit different [in Mayfair Witches] than they are in the books. My Cortland tolerated Carlotta. Everything that Cortland does, he does for the benefit of the family, so my tolerance of Carlotta was really about maintaining order and stasis in the family and making sure that nothing ever got crazy. I’m kind of the crazy one, in fact.

I’ve loved the flashback scenes to Scotland and what appears to be the original witches. How much does Cortland know about the history of this lineage?

He’s certainly aware of a lot of the more recent witches from the 19th and 20th centuries, but I’m not sure Cortland knows the entire family history. Certainly, Lasher knows it. [With these flashbacks], you see the genesis of this family and why all of a sudden there’s a family of Mayfair witches. I think that’s one of the extraordinary things about the show.

What is the significance of Rowan’s arrival to Cortland?

He’s surprised and delighted that the 13th witch has come on the scene. I think he’s terrified as well, because he knows that the 13th witch is going to have powers that far surpass the power of the other witches in his life. He’s trepidatious about it. He’s excited, but also terrified about it, and that comes out in further episodes. You find out a lot [about Cortland and Rowan’s relationship] in Episodes, 6, 7, and 8.

Harry Hamlin & Alexandra Daddario in 'Mayfair Witches' Season 1

Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

It looks like you’re having a lot of fun playing Cortland. Are you?

I love this character. He’s written as the life of the party in some of the scenes, but I took that and tweaked it and said, “This is a southern gentleman who has plenty of money and a good time.” I’m having a blast with it.

What were some tweaks you made?

I made him a little more performative. Other characters in the series can’t be performative, but he’s allowed to be loud and boisterous and a little bit crazy.

They actually rewrote [my] opening scene, which didn’t have a snake in it when we first shot it and was much more static. But after they saw the way I was going to handle the character, toward the end of the run they rewrote that scene so I could be introduced as more of the guy that I had become during the shooting of the show.

Mayfair Witches, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC and AMC+