‘Salem’ EXCLUSIVE: Shane West, Janet Montgomery Chat Playing Love Interests, Heroes & Villains
All week I’ve presented insight into the life of WGN America’s ‘Salem’ through the creative team, Xander Berkeley and Tamzin Merchant, Elise Eberle and Iddo Goldberg, and Seth Gabel and Ashley Madekwe.
Now, it’s time for the last interview with lead actors Janet Montgomery and Shane West. Not only do they play a villain and a hero, respectively, but they also play love interests. ‘Salem’ revolves around their complicated love story as John Alden and Mary Sibley, and who doesn’t enjoy a good love story, especially one that’s drenched with witches and the supernatural?
From the get-go, John and Mary encounter trouble. Immediately, they’re separated by the French and Indian War, which John goes off to fight. As soon as he returns, he finds a darker and different Mary -- and town.
This particular show puts an interesting spin on two great loves aka it pits Mary and John against one another. It becomes lover against lover, and hero against so-called villain. With John being away for seven years and his recent arrival in Salem, what does this mean for their relationship and Mary’s bewitching plans?
“[Her plans] change despite herself,” Montgomery reflected while chatting with TVRage.com on the set of Mary’s bedroom. “It’s hard because...John knew Mary the best, and I think he still does, so it’s harder to lie. It’s harder to keep up this lie, this double life that she has -- her public persona and what goes on behind closed doors. So, I think she is torn between her heart being so happy that he’s back and not wanting him to leave, and the other part of her is like he has to leave or he’s gonna find out, because I can’t hide this from him.”
As lucky as we are to see John’s return and his affect on Mary, we’ll also, thankfully, see flashbacks to those seven missing years, including John and Mary’s budding romance. “You’ll see flashbacks when they were young and in love -- fully in love -- and happy,” West said. “Then, you’ll see flashbacks to what’s happened to the both of them since then.”
As Montgomery said, “It’s really important to see how Mary got to the place she is, and I think that’s started to unfold in the episodes we’ve been shooting, throughout the series, which really enforces and helps you really understand where she’s coming from.”
Speaking of understanding where Mary’s coming from, her actions can be somewhat justified, which is immediately showcased in the first episode. As for Montgomery, she sides with Mary, “I do in some ways. I mean I’ve had to, otherwise I don’t think I would be able to play the character. I have to understand why she’s done what she’s done. I think the way that the society worked, and the way women were treated in this society, I feel like she’s making a stand the only way that a woman in that society could. I think sometimes, unfortunately, these choices lead her to do things that maybe she doesn’t want to do. … These choices are things, unfortunately, that she just has to do.”
West even said, “It’s necessary,” though I’m not sure if John would agree, but he elaborated,”I think, with the reality of just coming back to the town and seeing what’s happened … that’s shocking enough for [John].”
‘Salem’ isn’t just about witches, trials and hunting demons, but it focuses heavily on people and their own inner demons, emotions and trying to survive in the complicated and dangerous world of 17th century Salem.
Montgomery said it best, “I think when you’re trying to make a change in the world, often that’s the way. You have to sacrifice people, things, and that’s the hard part.”
See what West and Montgomery also had to say about John and Mary being pitted against one another below, and don’t forget to watch the ‘Salem’ premiere Sunday, April 20 at 10/9c on WGN America.