Kaley Cuoco as Billie Jenkins
|First appearance||"Still Charmed & Kicking"
8x01, September 25, 2005
|Created by||Brad Kern|
|Portrayed by||Kaley Cuoco (adult)
Hollis Robinson (age 5)
|Title||The Ultimate Power|
Billie Jenkins is a fictional character who appeared in the American television supernatural drama Charmed, which aired on the WB Television Network (the WB) from 1998 to 2006. Charmed follows the supernatural adventures of the Halliwell sisters who are known as the Charmed Ones, or the most powerful witches of all time. The character was created by executive producer Brad Kern and was portrayed by Kaley Cuoco. Billie was developed in response to the WB's request for a new character, and was originally intended to expand the show in a new direction for a possible ninth season or a spin-off series. The opinions of media outlets were divided on whether the character should return for a Charmed reboot or a cast reunion.
The character was introduced as a novice witch seeking training from the series' protagonists Piper Halliwell (Holly Marie Combs), Phoebe Halliwell (Alyssa Milano), and Paige Matthews (Rose McGowan). Her storylines focus on her search for her missing sister Christy Jenkins (Marnette Patterson) and their eventual reunion. Billie was initially characterized as the "little sister" who is "naive" and "very, very confident"; she gains the ability to warp reality through the power of projection and is revealed as the "Ultimate Power". Christy and the demonic council known as the Triad manipulates Billie into believing the Charmed Ones are corrupted by their powers, but when the truth is revealed, she eventually reconnects with the Halliwells. The character also makes further canonical appearances in the comic books Charmed: Season 9 and Charmed: Season 10 as a friend to the sisters and is referenced in one of the novels.
After speculation about the character's possible appearance in a spin-off series, it was confirmed all future plans for the show were canceled following the WB's closure to launch The CW. Kern later felt that focusing the final season on Billie and Christy changed the show from its original meaning, and Cuoco expressed dissatisfaction with working on a dramatic television series rather than a sitcom. Billie has received mostly negative feedback from critics, who cited Cuoco's acting and Billie's storyline with Christy as signs of the show's declining quality.
Concept and development
The WB Television Network (the WB) renewed Charmed for an eighth season on condition that it incorporate new characters that could either sustain a ninth season or a spin-off series because lead actors Alyssa Milano, Holly Marie Combs, and Rose McGowan did not want to renew their contracts for future seasons. Pam Shae, the executive-in-charge of talent, said the casting call focused on young, female actors who would be appealing to the WB. Brian Krause, who played Leo Wyatt, expressed confusion at the direction of the final season, stating "I don't know if they were trying to groom talent to go on to something else". In an interview with TVLine marking the ten year anniversary of the series finale, executive producer Brad Kern said Billie was not created for the sole purpose of a spin-off but was introduced to "lighten the load, screen-time wise" for the three principal actors and "bring new blood to an aging show". Kern added that the character "keeps the show young and fresh by challenging the existing stars with a new perspective and new powers", and that Kaley Cuoco's presence and comedic timing worked well with those of Combs, Milano, and McGowan. Cuoco stated she felt comfortable working with the other actors and felt she was part of the show since its beginning and noted the warm reception of the cast and crew.
During the WB's merge with United Paramount Network (UPN) to form the CW in 2006, network executives said there was not enough room for a Charmed spin-off. In an interview with E!'s Kristin Veitch, Cuoco confirmed a spin-off involving her character would not be developed, saying "Charmed is done" and that she preferred to participate in other projects. Kern initially called the sisterhood between Billie and Christy Jenkins a "poetic" way to preserve the show's focus on family. Patterson said she had "instant chemistry" with Cuoco and that their connection made acting out their storyline easier.
Billie was Cuoco's first role in a television drama series. Following the show's cancellation, Cuoco expressed a preference for working on sitcoms rather than dramas. She felt the "18-hour days where you want to kill yourself" did not leave her with enough time to have a life outside of work and the demanding shooting schedule did not allow her enough time to work with Combs, Milano, and McGowan. Cuoco also said she only understood her performance on the show after watching the final cuts of the episodes with the special effects and animations; she explained: "But when you are working, you are waiting and waiting, and then things are invisible, and things are being thrown, and nothing's in your hand, and I'm like so confused and always asking everyone, 'What's happening?'". She also voiced her contempt for the outfits given to her for the character's magical transformations. She said she cried when she first saw her superhero costume for the season eight episode "Battle of the Hexes", which originally included a cape. A writer from WE tv listed Billie's superhero look as one of the show's "sexiest and most bizarre outfits".
On October 25, 2013, it was announced CBS, which owns Spelling Television's properties, was developing a reboot of Charmed. Kate Ward of Bustle connected CBS's decision to revisit the supernatural drama with Cuoco's success as "one of the network's most bankable stars" for her role on the sitcom The Big Bang Theory. On August 12, 2014, TVLine's Michael Ausiello announced CBS would not proceed with the reboot. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Milano alluded to the possibility of a Charmed reunion and said; "It seems like that's going to happen any second". Glenn Garner of Out magazine said Cuoco's character should be excluded from the possible reunion. Bustle's Sabienna Bowman wrote the reunion should address Billie's fate following the series finale, arguing the character's future should be "more interesting than babysitting for the Halliwell brood". While Shannon Doherty and McGowan publicly supported the idea of a reunion, Dan Avery of NewNowNext.com asked whether Cuoco had been asked to revisit her role as Billie. On March 5, 2016, Milano said there were no concrete plans for a reunion in development, but confirmed CBS was still in the process of producing a reboot without the original cast.
Characterization and powers
During her early appearances on the show, Billie Jenkins is identified as the Charmed Ones' protégée. Billie has also been described as a "little sister", who is "very naive and always getting in trouble". Cuoco said she enjoyed Billie's wardrobe because it was "cute and fun", and matched her personal style. She said Billie's initial characterization was based solely on her physical appearance, saying, "I think they just wanted a blonde on the show". Co-executive producer James L. Conway said Billie's identity as a novice witch added a new dynamic to the show, while Shae called the character "demanding", "spunky", and "very, very confident" despite her inexperience with magic. Keri Blakinger of New York Daily Newssaid Billie developed into a "powerful witch in her own right" over the course of the season.
Billie is the youngest of Carl and Helen Jenkins's two daughters. Both of her parents are mortal and her powers were inherited from her maternal grandmother, making Helen a carrier of the genes determining magical ability. Billie has the basic ability to cast spells, perform rituals, brew potions, scry for lost people or objects using of a crystal pendent, and communicate with the dead. She also has the power of telekinesis and later develops the ability to warp reality using a power known as projection. She is shown mastering her original powers very easily and adapting them using unconventional methods, such as attaching a large quartz crystal to her computer's mouse to scry through a GPS system. Her telekinesis enables her to perform acrobatic moves, such as backflips. However, she experiences difficulty using her power of projection due to her fear of hurting others. Billie eventually masters this power, and by the series finale she can easily travel through time.
Billie first appears in the season eight premiere "Still Charmed & Kicking" as a college student who hunts and vanquishes demons while disguised in a black wig and a vinyl outfit. Billie subconsciously calls out to whitelighter Paige Matthews (Rose McGowan) for help. Paige's sisters Piper Halliwell (Holly Marie Combs) and Phoebe Halliwell (Alyssa Milano) initially discourage Paige from contacting Billie to prevent the discovery of their faked deaths and assumption of new identities, which they did so they could live free of magic. Billie later falls into an Alice's Adventures in Wonderland-themed trap set up by demons Paul Haas (Mykel Shannon Jenkins) and Black Heart (Noa Tishby), who were attempting to lure the Charmed Ones out of hiding and prove they were still alive. The Halliwell sisters save Billie from the demons' illusions and agree to train her; they agree she will fight demons for them and keep their secret. Billie's passion for using magic to save innocent people inspires the Halliwell sisters to reclaim their old identities and resume their responsibilities as the Charmed Ones.
On Halloween, Billie tells the Halliwells her older sister Christy Jenkins (Marnette Patterson) was kidnapped by a demon 15 years prior. Billie's memories are rekindled when she is finding the location of a demon named Dogan (Eric Steinberg) and recognizes similarities between him and Christy's kidnapper. After this revelation, Billie's storylines focus on her search for her sister; the Halliwells worry about Billie becoming obsessed with finding Christy as she takes more risks to get information, such as interrogating and torturing demons. Billie accuses her parents of choosing to forget Christy rather than trying to locate her. Billie's mother Helen (Barbara Niven) gives her Christy's diary, in which Billie finds a pentagram on the last page. The pentagram is a symbol for the demonic council known as Triad (Steven J. Oliver, Seren Oliver, and Leland Crooke). She eventually gains enough control over her powers to travel to the past, speak to Christy, and find her location.
Billie rescues Christy off-screen between the episodes "12 Angry Zen" and "The Last Temptation of Christy". With the Halliwells' help, she attempts to help Christy reintegrate into everyday life and gain control over her powers. Unbeknown to Billie, Christy has been brainwashed by the Triad and has been instructed to turn Billie against the Halliwell sisters. At this time, Billie is identified as the "Ultimate Power" foreshadowed in earlier episodes as the season's "big bad". The Triad arranges for Billie's parents to be killed by demons (John Rosenfeld and David S. Lee), believing Christy's prolonged contact with them could sway her morality to the side of good. Billie feels betrayed by the Halliwell sisters when they interrogate the demons about the "Ultimate Power" rather than killing them to avenge her parents' deaths. Billie and Christy vanquish the demons and the Halliwell sisters realize Billie is the "Ultimate Power".
During this time, the Halliwell sisters and the Jenkins sisters turn against one another. Christy attempts to persuade Billie the Charmed Ones use their powers for personal gain rather than to support the greater good. Billie eventually agrees with Christy's plans to kill the Halliwells. After turning the magical community against the Halliwells, Billie and Christy battle with the sisters. The confrontation ends with the destruction of Halliwell Manor and the deaths of Christy, Phoebe, and Paige. Billie uses her powers of projection to travel back in time to save Christy and discovers her manipulation by the Triad. Billie helps the sisters project themselves into the past to vanquish the Triad and unsuccessfully try to persuade Christy to return home with Billie. Christy throws a fireball at Billie and the Halliwell sisters, forcing Billie to telekinetically deflect it back at her and kill her. In the flashforward ending sequence, Billie is shown babysitting Phoebe's two oldest daughters and is referenced as an "old friend" by Phoebe, implying that she regained the Halliwell sisters' trust.
Billie also appears in a novel and a series of comic books based on the television series Charmed. The narrator of "Trickery Treat", which takes place after the eighth season, describes Billie as "[a]n above-average white witch" and the Halliwell sisters' as "promising protégé and a good friend". In Charmed: Season 9 #5 ("Unnatural Resources"), Paige collects magic from Billie in an effort to vanquish the Source of All Evil. Paige refers to Billie as the second line of defense if the sisters fail to kill the Source, and asks her to protect Darryl Morris (Dorian Gregory) and his family. The comic book issue is about Billie's life after the ultimate battle; she moves from San Francisco to Los Angeles to finish college. In issue 16, Prue Halliwell reveals her bond to the Charmed Ones' prophecy even after death restricts her sisters from achieving their true powers, which made them vulnerable to the Triad's plot with Billie and Christy. In Charmed: Season 10, Billie is said to have have called the sisters during their battle with a race of powerful, evil demons known as the Old Ones. Later, Phoebe attempts to call Billie for help after having a premonition of her husband Coop being attacked by Prue, but could not make contact with her.
Throughout her run on Charmed, Billie Jenkins received primarily negative critical feedback. A writer for the DVD review website CurrentFilm.com said Cuoco was a "good addition to the cast". Sheldon Wiebe of the entertainment website Eclipsemagazine.com praised the Billie and Christy storyline for its "dark undercurrent" that was reminiscent of the show's first and second seasons, but was slight critical of Cuoco's acting, specifically in the series finale. Jeffrey Robinson of DVD Talk criticized Cuoco's performance for not providing a strong representation of the character and being "a little too over-the-top". He said Billie's storyline with Christy was the strongest part of season eight but described her as a "weak character". SpoilerTV's Gavin Hetherington wrote that he enjoyed Billie as a character but that she and Christy were disappointing villains for the show's final season in comparison to Gideon (Gildart Jackson) and Zankou (Oded Fehr) from season six and season seven respectively.
Jon Langmead of PopMatters described the familial relationship between Billie and Christy as weak in comparison to those from previous seasons. Digital Spy's Hugh Armitage listed Billie and Christy as "the gruesome twosome" and one of the eight things that derailed the show. Langmead wrote that Cuoco was "painful to watch" and said her "awkward presence and acting call attention to the show’s weaknesses when in the past, the cast was able to distract from them ... ", exposed the declining quality of the show, and criticized her "inability to generate any kind of life with her character". Armitage described Billie as an example of Cousin Oliver Syndrome, a phrase referring to the addition of a younger character to improve declining ratings. Ryan Keefer of DVD Verdict was critical of the addition of the character, writing: "If it hadn't already been established that this was the last season, this event would have sealed the cancellation deal". Demain of Television Without Pity criticized the inclusion of Cuoco as "that empty-headed, simpering, talent-free bimbo", and mocked Billie by calling her "The Retarded Bimbo" throughout his recaps of the show's eighth season.
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