'Darkly Sexual' Salem Is 'Wuthering Heights Meets The Exorcist,' Where Witches Run the Trials

Salem Preview Shane WestThe cast and creators of WGN America’s Salem on Sunday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour fielded some criticisms while also offering provocative teases about the project, which will premiere Sunday, April 20.

VIDEO | Seth Gabel Declares War Against Witches in WGN America’s New Salem Drama

Set in 17th century Massachusetts (but filmed in Shreveport, La.), Salem admittedly runs afoul of the corrective history taught in schools, where we learned that “witch trials” were born of mere paranoia and nothing supernatural. As a press release puts it, the series “reexamines the infamous witch trials” of the time, while Seth Gabel (Fringe), who plays local aristocrat/witch hunt proponent Cotton Mather, explained at TCA, “It questions facts and perceptions and at the same time gives you access for understanding that the truth may be metaphorical.”

Teasing other tweaks, cocreator Brannon Braga (Star Trek: The Next Generation) said, “Our take is that witches were real, and that they were the ones running the trials.” What’s more, Salem will also feature male witches, both actual and accused.

RELATED | Gus Van Sant, Wes Craven, Michael Cera to Helm WGN’s ‘Modern’ Ten Commandments Mini

Braga likened the project to “Wuthering Heights meets The Exorcist,” in that Janet Montgomery’s (Human Target) character, Mary Sibley, has made a deal Salem Preview Janet Montgomery with the devil and her only salvation is the prospect of finding true love with John Alden (Nikita‘s Shane West, who sees his alter ego as “in this world, the first American hero”).

But lest you think Mary is some corset-clad puritan pining for a proper man, know that the producers are promising quite the opposite. For one, she shares what Ashley Madekwe (Revenge) calls a “darkly sexual” bond with Madekwe’s Tituba. Cocreator Adam Simon (The Haunting in Connecticut) describes Mary as equal parts Lady Macbeth and Scarlett O’Hara and says that she and Tituba are “particularly strong female characters that are more complicated, more ambiguous than any you’ve seen [on TV].

“We’ve seen a lot of Tony Sopranos and Walter Whites, men we were fascinated by and loved even though they were led to some very terrible places,” Simon added, “but we’ve almost never gotten to follow a woman through that journey.”

All told, Salem‘s hope is to present a canvas of characters none of whom are easily pigeonholed. As the series unfolds, we will see that “there is evil in people who are not witches,” Gabel said, “and there is good in people who are.”



Comments (26)

  • Salem, MA is the town next to me.. been to majority of the witch trial places via school field trips when I was younger.. so, I am excited to see this!

    Comment by rebecca – January 12, 2014 02:32 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I’m from right next to Salem too! Beverly, MA. I’m interested to see how this show plays out. It’s funny that with all the Witch Trials stuff, no one ever mentions that most of what happened back then happened in what is now the town of Danvers.

      Comment by Mikael – January 13, 2014 10:28 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Yes. I just found out as my son was researching for Am. History a paper he was to write that it was Danver Farms area. Its also amazing how even the experts don’t see the land-grabbing underbelly of the trials. And of course if you believed differently than the Puritans you could be put to trial to prove…what stupid reasoning. If you float, you’re guilty cuz the water wont recieve you. But if it takes youre innocent.. but dead! Love Monty Pythons take on the time.

        Comment by m kerby – April 20, 2014 07:35 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’m definitely going to have to tune in for this. Please keep us posted Matt!

    Comment by ScorpionGlow – January 12, 2014 02:41 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Wuthering Heights?

    Comment by Zorkel – January 12, 2014 02:42 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Sounds interesting with a great cast.

    Comment by Diz – January 12, 2014 03:27 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Salem history has been a long time love of mine and I’ve visited more times than I can count. That being said, I have no problem with the history not being accurate. It’s a fictional show and I think it sounds pretty interesting. In a sucker for this kind of show so I’m in.

    Comment by Francine – January 12, 2014 04:01 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • My biggest mystery will be to determine where the hell this channel is (I am from the south shore of Ma so I didn’t do this as class trips…we were Plymouth rock visitors) on my channel line up.

    Comment by kate – January 12, 2014 04:41 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I wish they release a trailer now, that would give us a solid look at the main characters. Unfortunately the cable channel is not carried on my provider and where I live we are not allowed to have any other provider.

    Comment by Tori – January 12, 2014 04:55 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • TO ANYBODY WHO HAS OPTIMUM ON LONG ISLAND THEY SAID TO CALL, CHAT OR EMAIL THEM DIRECTLY AND THEY WILL TRY AND GET US THE SHOW ON ANOTHER CHANNEL. THEY CAN’T CARRY WGN AMERICA BECAUSE ITS A CHICAGO CHANNEL BUT THEY CAN TRY AND GET THE SHOW!

      Comment by L – January 14, 2014 01:21 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Something I’d definitely want to watch, but simply going by what I’ve seen of him in the past and the picture at the top of this page, I’m really worried about the casting of Shane West. He and period pieces do NOT go well together (anyone remember LXG?) And I’m sorry, but he just looks silly in the picture. On the other hand, any chance I get to see a show with Seth Gabel on it, sign me up. I love that guy. Oh yeah, and and you can never have too many witches.

    Comment by interested – January 12, 2014 08:07 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • There not officially witches and do not have the right to be called anything but Satanists. Once again witches have been given a bad rap. These want-to-be should be called one thing, Satanists. Same old story but this time with Satanists doing spells to get the land.

      Comment by Sylvia Barnes – April 21, 2014 09:25 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Shane West in that wig is an actual crime against the world. Make it stop!

    Comment by liz – January 12, 2014 08:14 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve visited your blog before but after browsing through many of
    the articles I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely delighted I came across it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!

    Comment by Esmeralda – February 20, 2014 11:01 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I got this site from my pal who told me regarding this website and now this time I am visiting this web page and
    reading very informative posts at this time.

    Comment by SEO – March 22, 2014 10:11 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Whats up! I simply want to give a huge thumbs up for the
    great information youve here on this post. I might be coming back to
    your weblog for more soon.

    Comment by http://redir.ec/WqPs – March 22, 2014 06:05 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • i have been waiting to see this and i can not find it any where i have checking every channel could you plz. tell me what channel.. thank you

    Comment by stacy watkins – April 20, 2014 07:13 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • nevermind our cable company isnt on your list this suxs thanks anyways

    Comment by stacy watkins – April 20, 2014 07:19 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • It better air now that pos nightcap is ending…it better air at ten here…

    Comment by alexandru cadar – April 20, 2014 07:57 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Cw33…I saw commercials all day for this channel and then it said right now for nine o clock then stupid nightcap plays

    Comment by alexandru cadar – April 20, 2014 07:59 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • UTTERALLY DISSAPPOINTED THIS WAS THE ONLY SHOW OTHERP THAN WALKING DEAD AND WE DONT DESERVE TO VIEW THEN WHY FALSE ADVERITISE ALL LAST THREE MONTHS…I REFUSE TO GIVEP THIS NATION MY ATTENTION TO VIEW YOUR MATERIALISTC METHODS OF TELEVISION…HIGHLY DISSAPPOINTED LACK OF COMMUNICATION AND EXPLANATION PATHETIC GOOD LIFETIME TO YOU ALL COMPANIES

    Comment by alexandru cadar – April 20, 2014 08:11 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Witches practice a harm ye none rule and only satanists worship a Christian god called the devil. Once again, witches are given an incorrect story. So, I won’t be watching this once again same old story about Satanists working against Salem politics and property owners

    Comment by Sylvia Barnes – April 21, 2014 09:23 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I watched the first episode on Sunday evening and won’t watch anymore. I was disappointed the show didn’t stick to the facts and had to show “Hollywood ghouls and gore” simply to get our attention. Probably for the younger generation – for tweens and teens, etc

    Comment by Joan Thompson – April 21, 2014 12:24 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I waited all week to watch “Salem” and kept seeing ads for it, but when I heard it was coming on next, it certainly didn’t. What’s up with that?

    Comment by helen – April 21, 2014 07:19 PM PDT  Reply To This Post

Leave a Reply

Comments on TVLine.com are monitored. So don't go off topic, don't frakkin' curse, and be gone with your offers of discount leather goods. Talk smart about TV!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s