There’s a witch war coming to 17th-century Salem, Mass. -- but it all begins in 21st-century Louisiana.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to visit the expansive Shreveport set of WGN America’s supernatural horror series Salem, returning for a second season April 5 at 10 p.m. The 60-acre set is based on colonial New England-style houses and structures, and it is immersive.
As I walked the town’s streets, passing by a brothel, or pub, or church, I found myself nodding at Puritans on their way to film, and encountered a lot of animals just mooing, neighing and oinking the day away. The production magic made it easy to believe I had time-traveled back to an era in which religious fervor and a fear of witches ran deep.
But the magic of Salem’s second season goes beyond impressive sets; it is at the core of the show. Created by Star Trek's (The Next Generation, Voyager, Enterprise) Brannon Braga and Adam Simon (The Haunting in Connecticut, Bones, Carnosaur), the show takes viewers back to the time of the infamous witch trials and puts a spin on history. The concept is that there are, indeed, witches who have infiltrated the town.
Led by Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery) and her servant Tituba (Ashley Madekwe), the first season's coven used paranoia to cast suspicion of witchcraft upon mere mortals who stood in their way. The overzealous religious leader of the town, Cotton Mather (Seth Gabel), became an unwitting puppet in her schemes and put innocent citizens on trial while stoking fear at every turn. When war hero -- and Sibley’s lost love -- John Alden (Shane West) returns, he balances common sense with a desire to fight the actual witches.
At the end of the first season, a Grand Rite was completed and a plague was unleashed on Salem. The second season begins with Mary trying to assert more control and take over all of Salem. But she’s also contending with Tituba, her former protege Mercy Lewis (Elise Eberle) and rising witch power Anne Halle (Tamzin Merchant). Also, Salem has a new formidable power in the Countess Marburg, played by new cast addition Lucy Lawless.
Hence the second season’s subtitle, “Witch War.” Who has the magic? Who wants it? And who wants to stop it?
Braga and Simon joined us in a series of videos shot on the Shreveport set to discuss the Witch War and what fans can expect from the 13-episode season. Also, they talk about historical tales of real witchcraft, the state of horror on television, Puritan logic and moral ambiguity on the show. Plus, Braga seems to hint we might be right about one of our theories about the Montgomery/West/Lawless character triangle.
And don't be surprised if, during our interviews, you hear the occasional cow, horse or hog! Also, keep an eye out for additional videos with all of the cast from the show.
Are you a fan of Salem? What do you most look forward to in the second season?