“Salem,” an invigorating drama starring Shane West and Janet Montgomery, premieres Sunday, April 20 (10/9c). Produced by Brannon Braga (“24”) and Adam Simon (“The Haunting in Connecticut”) is WGN America’s first scripted series. I checked out the pilot last month and was pleasantly surprised. Sex, violence, witchcraft, along with a heavy dose of moral ambiguity was slathered throughout the storyline, and even if the show doesn’t sustain such its fevered pitch of debauchery, “Salem” is off to an intriguing start.
The narrative begins with Mary Sibley (Montgomery) madly in love with John Alden (Shane West), but due to Salem’s politics and all that witchery nonsense, happily ever after isn’t a reality for the pair. After Alden heads off to war, Sibley enters a dangerous pact with a mysterious woman (Ashley Madekwe)to bring her lover back, no matter what the cost. When Alden returns home, he discovers Salem is even more rife with corruption, with rabble rousing aristocrat Cotton Maher (Seth Gabel) serving as the head of the snake. Even though Mary’s dream of reuniting with Alden is fulfilled, it comes with a huge price.
During a Television Critics Association tour panel earlier in the year, Seth Gabel accurately described what makes “Salem” such a thematically layered show. “You can’t just define this show as just a show about witches, witchcraft, or the Salem witchcraft trials,” said the actor. “It’s about so much more . . . it address a lot of energies that exist within the human psyche that we repress. When you allow those energies to come out and be expressed, what happens to them? And when you allow them to be repressed, what repercussions are there as a result of that? The blood and death that followed that tragic event in American history is, I think, a result of that kind of repression.”
To hear Shane West discuss why he signed on to “Salem” and explain why John Alden is the “first American hero,” click on the media bar below: