There’s sneaky, and then there’s really sneaky like the powers-that-be behind WGN America’s “Salem.” Roundtable interviews were held this afternoon with cast members Janet Montgomery, Shane West, Seth Gabel, Ashley Madekwe, Elise Eberle, and Iddo Goldberg and co-creator/writer/executive producer Brannon Braga (his cohort Adam Simon arrived too late for us to chat with), who told us they were “waiting to hear” about a renewal for a third season but were “very optimistic…”
Well, that optimism paid off because as soon as we started typing up our report, the following press release arrived:
The magic continues for WGN America’s original, breakout hit series “Salem,” with the announcement made today at Comic-Con International: San Diego by the cast and creative team that the supernatural thriller has been renewed for a third season. The captivating one-hour drama, from Fox 21 Television Studios and creators and writers Brannon Braga and Adam Simon, boldly reimagines the infamous 17th century witch trials in colonial Massachusetts in a world where witches are real, but they are not who or what they seem to be. The third season will begin production in Shreveport, LA, later this year for a 2016 debut.
“Salem” Season Two averaged over 1.1 million Total Viewers and 545,000 Adults 18-49 on a Live + 7 basis on Sunday nights. During its Season Two run, the highly sought-after series more than doubled its Live + 7 performance among Total Viewers, vaulting +117% over Live + Same Day and ranking among the top five time-shifted original dramas on cable this season in percentage lift.
To that news we say, “Hell, yeah! Bring on Season 3!”
Now, as far as what we gleaned during our interviews, we started with Elise and Iddo, who kicked things off with praise for the show’s makeup department, which is headed up by Matthew Mungle. Elise explained that to make her “burned” look seem real, she had a whole suit covering her body that she wore for the first few episodes. From start to finish, it was a 3-1/2-hour process. Iddo joked that they had two makeup trailers, one “regular” and then the “fun” one, where all the crazy effects were born.
Speaking of crazy, Iddo said Season 2 just got “crazier and crazier” when compared to Season 1. They wanted to “encapsulate the feeling of real horror” with people bathing in blood and such, and then we meet the devil! Every character is just so “f’d up” and dealing with their issues… they are all “really messed up.” When asked if maybe Isaac will now become a full-fledged witch hunter himself, he said his arc from here on is going to be different… a slow road.
Next we sat with Mr. Sneaky himself, Brannon Braga, who somehow managed to keep a straight face any time a potential third season was brought up. He did say that Season 2 was “the most enjoyable season of TV” he’s done in his career. When we asked if, going forward, “the boy” might become the focus, he said that no, he will remain a “part of the fabric of the show” but kept mysterious.
We had to inquire as to what exactly was going on in that final scene of S2 when John drank Mary’s blood and seemingly killed her, and Brannon said it was an homage to Romeo and Juliet. It was also along the lines of the Huntsman/Snow White fairy tale when he gives the queen an animal heart instead of Snow White’s. He hinted that John left just enough blood to keep her alive.
He was asked about potential guest stars to fill the huge shoes left by Stephen Lang and Lucy Lawless, and he said they’re trying to avoid stunt casting and haven’t made any determinations in that area yet. Joe Doyle is returning as Sebastian, who is “the real villain” of the piece, according to Braga. He elaborated a bit on “Salem’s” genre roots, explaining that it is “a horror show, but deeply romantic.” It can get “almost corny” at times, but it also shows us “things you could never imagine.”
We wondered what’s in store for Anne now that she’s gone over to “the dark path,” and it sounds like she’ll be another villain for the town to contend with… one who “wants things her way.” As for poor Cotton, he’s basically the “new George Sibley” and “in deep trouble,” but Braga said he’s working out a few different scenarios to get him out of his predicament.
While mapping out S2, Braga and Simon conceived the blueprint for S3 at the same time with the things they weren’t able to get to yet so they already have a vision of how the season will lay out. It will, of course, involve John and Mary and how to bring her back in a way that’s not “cheap.” For a look back at S2, check out this video put together especially for the Heathens:
Next up were Ashley and Seth, who were both left in quite a pickle at the end of S2, Tituba with her eyes pecked out and Cotton with a mouse shoved down his throat. Ashley said now that she’s been “outcast by the devil” himself, she’s happy to live in the woods and fend for herself for a bit… assuming that the character manages to survive her ordeal. When asked about the horror element of the show, Seth said he loves that most of it is practical, rather than CGI. Regarding his character, he described Cotton as a “receptive man” but still ignorant about women (obviously!), and he’d like to see his “suffering manifest in some way” so that viewers can experience it with him.
Lastly, we had a bit of time with Janet and Shane, and she described their love story as “so poignant, a push/pull” that’s full of “miscommunication… tragic… and sort of impossible.” Neither of them can live in society anymore… either alone or together. But they’ll be teaming up to deal with their son. Janet said they can never get him back now since “the devil is in him” so the “only thing they can do is kill him.” She is curious to see “who Mary is” now that “her whole objective has changed.”
We closed things out by asking the two star-crossed lovers what their “dream team” of guest stars might look like, and she stole our heart by immediately picking Sigourney Weaver (are you listening, WGN?) along with Paul Giamatti, while Shane chose his former “Once and Again” co-star Billy Campbell, who’s a big fan of period pieces.