Salem’s terror has only just begun, Heathens. Get a taste of the wicked things coming soon.
Janet Montgomery has gotten used to stepping into the past.
The British actress has done contemporary roles in such shows as CBS’ “Made in Jersey” and FOX’s “Human Target,” but she goes back to the era of the famed Witch Trials as central sorceress Mary Sibley in “Salem,” the edgy drama series premiering Sunday (April 20) on WGN America.
Before arriving at the re-creation of the Massachusetts town that actually was built in Louisiana, Montgomery made a brief stop at another famous location. In the recent Season 4 finale of PBS’ “Downton Abbey” (televised in England earlier as its Christmas episode), she played Freda Dudley Ward, a real-life socialite and Prince of Wales mistress whose efforts to retrieve a missing letter came to involve the Crawley family.
“I had such a good time,” Montgomery tells Zap2it of her “Downton” stint. “It’s such a fun show to be part of, and such a large cast. Michelle [Dockery] was wonderful; I only had one scene with her, but I’ve seen her a couple of times since and we’ve sort of become friends.
“It’s a good group of people, and the show itself is very stylized and cool,” notes Montgomery. “If you’re an English actor and you’re asked to do an episode — especially the Christmas episode — of ‘Downton Abbey,’ you can’t turn it down. It’s like, ‘Of course!’”
Many famous fans of “Downton Abbey,” from Kirstie Alley to Carol Burnett, have expressed how much they’d love to be on the show. Montgomery admits that actually getting that call is “amazing, also to know that I was going to get to see Maggie Smith do her thing. You’re hoping that you brush shoulders with her, just to get a little bit of her talent.
“Also, Shirley MacLaine is one of my favorite actresses, so it was really exciting. To see those older actresses really bring it, it’s frightening to me, they’re just so good.”
What could possibly be worse than a witch hunt? I’m catching up with actress Janet Montgomery (Made in Jersey, Black Swan) on the set of the new TV series, Salem, near Shreveport, Louisiana to find out. Watch the video above!
Created by producer Brannon Braga (24, Star Trek: The Next Generation) and writer Adam Simon (The Haunting in Connecticut), Salem follows the 17th century historical accounts of the infamous Salem witch trials that gripped the Massachusetts town, only in this story the witches are real and Janet’s character learns she’s one of them.
“When I first read the script, I was intimidated by the amount of power that this character generates and how I was going to pull that off,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve ever read a part like this for a woman in my age group that is this strong. So, I was nervous but excited.”
The 28-year-old U.K. native plays Mary Sibley, wife of one of Salem’s wealthy leaders, George Sibley. Mary ends up becoming the town’s most powerful enchantress with the help of her mysterious and alluring servant Tituba, played by Ashley Madekwe (Revenge), who has powers and secrets of her own. When Mary’s love from the past John Alden, played by Shane West (Nikita, ER), unexpectedly returns after years away at war only to find the entire town has been consumed by witch hunt hysteria, things really get out of hand, if they weren’t chaotic enough already.
“I think there’s a really good amount of horror genre in this which you don’t see so often with period dramas,” Janet explains, “as much as we can, we’re really pushing people’s imaginations and coming up with story that even when I read it I’m like oh God!”
WGN America’s spooky new series, “Salem,” doesn’t premiere until April. Since that’s way too long to wait to get our fill of the series’ supernatural take on the Salem witch trials, Zap2it decided to get you — and the stars — excited for the debut by subjecting them to our “Salem” Survey.
Up next is Janet Montgomery, who plays the witchy Mary Sibley on the new drama, premiering Sunday, April 20 at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT. Read on to find out what she’d take with her to puritanical Salem, why she couldn’t actually survive there and why the crew is key to “Salem’s” success.
Zap2it: Describe your character in 5 words.
Montgomery: Damaged, emotional, vengeful, illusive, lustful.
What three items would you take with you to a deserted island (or puritanical Salem)?
My dog Guthrie, milk and British tea bags. S***, I need a kettle too right?!
Could you have survived in the 1690s?
Probably not. I am far too outspoken to be a woman living in this era.
Which witch is which? Name the book/TV show/movie/play each witch is from. No cheating!
Glinda the Good Witch: “The Wizard of Oz”
Hermione Granger: “Harry Potter”
Bonnie Bennett: No clue.
Fiona Goode: “American Horror Story”
Sabrina Spellman: “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”
The White Witch: “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”
Willow Rosenberg: “Buffy”?!
Pick one: “The Witches of Eastwick,” “The Craft,” or “Practical Magic”
Tough one. I adore Jack Nicholson so probably “The Witches of Eastwick,” but I also grew up watching “The Craft” with friends from school and really love this movie!
If you could cast any spell, what would it be?
To be able to fly. I just want that sensation you have in dreams when you fly to be real. Plus it would save on gas.
Would you be a good witch or a bad witch?
I think a bit of both. Would hate to become predictable and being good all the time would get boring.
What’s the most surprising true fact you learned about the actual Salem witch trials?
Wait, this is based on something that really happened?!
What’s the most challenging thing about starring in a show that’s both genre and period?
It takes a lot of time to get through hair and costume and then we spend a lot of time getting the right horror shots on top of this. It’s long days, but everyone works so hard. We are blessed to have such a wonderful crew around us.