The WGN America original series Salem is dark and creepy and pushes boundaries, on every level. You often don’t know exactly who you should be rooting for, and even the most seemingly evil still manage to be sympathetic, in some way. And in Season 2, new characters will be wreaking havoc and opening the world up, even further.
While at WonderCon to discuss the new season, actors Janet Montgomery (“Mary Sibley”) and Shane West (“John Alden”), along with executive producers Brannon Braga and Adam Simon, talked to press about knowing where they’re going to end each season, even if they don’t necessarily know how they’re going to get there, that the second season tops the first season and that each episode tops the next, that new characters and new locations open up the world, that many of the weird and strange things on the show are based in what people believed really happened, how Mary Sibley is the heart and soul of the story, what might change John Alden’s mind about her, and how Cotton Mather is dealing with things now. From those interviews, we’ve compiled 15 things you should know about Salem.
As far as planning out the show, they knew how Season 1 was going to end, and it’s the same with Season 2. They just weren’t sure how they would get there, which is the fun of it. They see each season of the show as one amazing novel with 13 chapters.
- There hasn’t been talk of Season 3 yet, but there’s a show bible for quite a few years, just in case. Everything they wanted to have happen in the first season did happen, and the plan is even stricter for the second season.
- According to EP Adam Simon, “Not only does the second season top the first season, it feels like each successive episode tops the one before it, in part because we’re having fun with that. We’re not just pushing boundaries for the sake of it, but we got the chance to make the world bigger and bolder and go further, to show parts of this world we didn’t get to show, last year.”
- EP Brannon Braga talked about how there are several new characters this year. One is played by Lucy Lawless, and is a particularly nasty ancient witch who has never been able to accomplish what Mary has been able to do and wants what she has. Stuart Townsend plays a Doctors Without Borders type who comes to town to help the people dying of the plague.
They don’t think about pushing buttons or boundaries with the show. There’s weird stuff in it because there was weird stuff going on. The strangest stuff is from what people believed really happened. And the network is very supportive and pushes them to go further, while being conscious about being gratuitous.
- Said Simon, “Everybody has a twisted, very different trajectory from where they were last year. The characters are growing, changing and responding to an ever-changing world.”
- Mary was the driving force of Season 1, and is still the heart and soul of the show. But for the first time, she doesn’t know everything that’s going on. Last season, she was the spider at the center of the web, and this season, that’s changed to being the center of a target, from 50 different angles.
- Mary’s priorities have changed, now that she’s been reunited with her son, and she believes John Alden to be dead. There is something wrong with the boy and there are secrets about him that will turn Mary’s life upside down when she learns about them. Said Janet Montgomery, “Mary goes through a state of denial [with her child]. You want to try to fix everything, but she has so much going on. She wants to protect him, but she can’t fully understand his behavior and she’s been in denial about what he’s been through for the past seven years. It becomes more and more difficult to deny the fact that he is not a normal child.”
According to Montgomery, “Mary has got more enemies than ever before, coming at her from all different angles. She’s got no allies, at this point. She’s doing everything for her son and her love for her son, and the opportunity to live in a world with him, in which she won’t be persecuted and she’ll have a voice and be able to protect him. That is only possible, if she continues with her path of being a witch, but she’s definitely gone out on her own.”
- The Countess, played by Lucy Lawless, is a much older and wiser witch who could kill Mary in a heartbeat, and that’s frightening for Mary. There are witches from outside of Salem who are coming in to town to find her.
- They’re shooting Episode 8 now, and John Alden still hasn’t reunited with many of the characters on the show yet. Initially, most of his scenes were with guest cast and himself, as John is losing his mind a bit. He’s back in Salem, but he hasn’t revealed himself, and is hiding and sneaking around.
On what would get John to understand Mary’s actions, Shane West said, “I think it’s going to take finding out that he has a kid with her. Whenever that happens, I think that meeting their son is going to bring that out in him. He’s more focused than he was last year. Revenge is where the season is for him. It will be at least half a season of him being no nonsense and taking out witches. At this point, he wants to kill her. She’s a witch. But, she’s going to pull the kid card and we’ll see what happens with that. We can’t bring them back together so quickly, but I strongly feel that, once he finally runs into Mary again, he’s probably not going to be able to kill her.”
- After the traumatic experience he went through in Season 1, Cotton is in a bad place, as a shattered man. He goes on a love journey in Season 2 with Anne Hale, that will prove to be every bit as star-crossed, epic, and maybe tragic or maybe not as John and Mary’s love story. There are supernatural implications, given that, at minimum, she is the daughter of a witch who possibly has powers of her own.
- One of the characters that emerges this season is Anne Hale, who was a perimeter character last year. It will be about whether she will or won’t accept that she’s a witch, and a very powerful one.
- Some of the most grim, frightening and heartbreaking moments will be with Mercy.
Salem airs on Sunday nights on WGN America.
To catch up on all of our WonderCon 2015 coverage thus far, click here.