‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Is the Latest in Netflix’s Young-Adult Push

Kiernan Shipka stars in ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.’
Kiernan Shipka stars in ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.’ Photo: Diyah Pera/Netflix

From ages 6 through 15, Kiernan Shipka played Sally, Don Draper’s gimlet-eyed daughter on “Mad Men”—an Emmy-winning television series that was decidedly not intended for viewers her age.

Now 18, she is stepping into a lead role with “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” premiering Friday on Netflix . Its mashup of horror, comedy and high-school drama is aimed primarily at an audience of her peers.

“As someone who grew up on a show with a fan base that was largely 30-plus,” Ms. Shipka says, “there is a part of me, deep down, that’s very excited to make something people my age are super-pumped about.”

“Sabrina” is part of a growing franchise of Archie Comics-based TV shows, starting last year with “Riverdale,” a contemporary take on the escapades of Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead.

Both series were developed and executive produced by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the chief creative officer for Archie Comics. As a writer, he incorporated plotlines from other genres to freshen the characters, including one series that brought a zombie plague to Archie’s hometown.

“Riverdale” airs on the CW, and “Sabrina” was also developed for that broadcast network before Netflix picked it up. The streaming service has made a push into young-adult programming, including licensing past seasons of “Riverdale.” It ordered 20 episodes of “Sabrina,” which are being released in two parts.

From left, Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto in ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’
From left, Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto in ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Photo: Diyah Pera/Netflix

As the title character on “Sabrina,” Ms. Shipka is half-mortal, half-witch, wrestling with whether to sign her name in blood during a “dark baptism” and pack off to the Academy of Unseen Arts—a decision that would take her away from her boyfriend and other loved ones.

Despite the just-in-time-for-Halloween supernatural elements, “Sabrina” is a cauldron for relatable issues, Ms. Shipka says, including female empowerment and the pressure adults put on young people.

“There’s so much of this that is analogous to the teenage experience. A lot of times you’re told you have only one option or the other,” she says. “This is about growing up and deciding your own path.”

“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” begins streaming Friday on Netflix.

Write to John Jurgensen at john.jurgensen@wsj.com

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