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Recreating a slice of 17th century “Salem” is no easy task

MILWAUKEE (WITI) — In order to make the new WGN America original series “Salem” be believeable, its creators had to spend an unusual amount of time with costume and set design. But when you see the debut of the series on Sunday, April 20th, you will be blown away at the realism.

FOX6’s Mary Stoker-Smith was able to visit the set — and go behind-the-scenes for a unique perspective on the making of Salem. She learned more about the design of the costumes and set for the show — and offers a unique preview in the video below.

Set in 17th Century colonial Massachusetts — a significant time in the history of American politics, religion and society — Salem brings you the real story behind the infamous witch trials. In Salem, witches are real, and they’re behind it all.

FOX6's Mary Stoker-Smith with Janet Montgomery and Shane West

FOX6’s Mary Stoker-Smith with Janet Montgomery and Shane West

It was this setting of extremism and isolation that led to a period of witch hunts, where men and women were hanged and burnt at the stake with the belief that they, as witches, had taken to Satan over God.

In “Salem,” West plays John Alden, a soldier returning home from war. Montgomery portrays Mary Sibley, Alden’s former lover, seven years separated. She is the most powerful witch of Salem and the wife of George Sibley (played by Michael Mulheren), the ailing, wealthy head of the Selectmen of Salem.

“She’s definitely not the girl she was at the beginning. I think it’s the loss of innocence in such a brutal way that happens to her,” said Montgomery.

Mary Sibley, played by Janet Montgomery

Mary Sibley, played by Janet Montgomery

John and Mary were lovers before he left the Puritan town of Salem. John, a war veteran, takes on the role of being the voice of reason in a town that is obsessed with witch hunts and unexplained phenomena. He realizes that suspicion and fear result in innocent people being victimized.

“The battle throughout the season is his presence and how that spark gets bigger inside her and a real reminder of who she was and spilling into her personality now,” said Montgomery of Alden.

You may know Tamzin Merchant as Georgiana Darcy from “Pride and Prejudice.” But her new role in “Salem” is quick to break that spell.

“Certainly playing the innocent in the beginning was informed by some of the other period dramas I’ve done,” said Merchant. “I love every new job as a new character as a new person. It’s always going to be different, and not really influenced by what’s come before.”

“It’s a dark world inhabited by dark figures,” said Xander Berkeley. “Each story you just try and find ways to immerse yourself in the role that’s being described in the story. It’s so easy to do in this case because the costumes are so good and the lighting is so good.”

The show’s directors, actors and producers all agree on one thing: Salem is set to make history with history. In Salem, the witches are a party of day-to-day life, but they are not who or what they seem to be.

John Alden (played by Shane West)

John Alden (played by Shane West)

Salem debuts Sunday, April 20th at 9:00 p.m. on WGN America.

That’s Channel 9 on Time Warner Cable, and Channel 180 on AT&T Uverse.

WGN America is Channel 239 on DISH Network and Channel 307 if you have DIRECT TV.

For more information on Salem, CLICK HERE.

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