On Sunday, WGN America will debut its first original series: Salem, a dark drama that challenges what you think you know about the Salem Witch Trials.
The series opens when John Alden (played by Shane West) returns from seven years at war, only to find his hometown in a fury of witch-hunting. His former amor, Mary Sibley (played by Janet Montgomery), is now married -- and slowly we begin to learn about her dark, terrible secrets. Meanwhile, Cotton Mather (played by Seth Gabel) has been sent to Salem to oversee the witch-hunt and scour the town for evil spirits. Before long, the lines between good and evil become blurred -- and no one is safe from the witches or the hunt.
We had the opportunity to chat with the cast and crew of the terrifying new drama. Here are 10 things we learned about Salem:
It's a new spin on the story we all know.
Set in the volatile world of 17th-century Massachusetts, Salem delves into the personal lives of the people -- and witches -- affected by the witch hunt, while exploring the supernatural basis for this terrifying and haunting period of American history. In Salem, witches are real, but they aren't always what they seem. Las brujas could be good or evil (or both!), and the show will completely alter the way you view the supernatural.
It features an all-star cast.
This is WGN America's first original series, and the station delivered with an all-star cast of talented actors and actresses. Shane West from Nikita stars as the practical, brooding John Alden, and Janet Montgomery from Made In Jersey plays Mary Sibley, a mysterious Puritan with a dark secret.
Seth Gabel, Ashley Madekwe, Xander Berkeley, Tamzin Merchant, Elise Eberle, and Iddo Goldberg all co-star in the thrilling drama.
The characters will surprise you.
Salem exists in a world of extremes. The conservative Puritans live to serve the Lord, while the witches... well, they serve a different master. Is it any surprise then that the characters themselves also live in extremities?
One character that will surprise you is Cotton Mather, played by Seth Gabel. Historically, Mather was one of the most brilliant men alive during the witch trials. He spoke multiple languages, was educated at Harvard, and was a hugely influential minister.
However, he also spurred the witchcraft trials and laid the groundwork for the mass hysteria which left many dead.
No one is safe.
Salem, Massachusetts is in a fierce battle between the witches and the Puritans. No one knows who's "good" and who's "bad", and no one is safe from either side. John Alden (Shane West) might be the romantic fixation of Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery), but that doesn't mean he's safe from the witches or the hunt.
"I know that ultimately I should probably get rid of [John]," Montgomery told us. "But it's not that easy when you love someone."
It's not all demons and magic.
Salem is also a love story. John Alden and Mary Sibley are former lovers, separated by war and the show also tells the story of Sibley's eventual marriage to another man. But, now, a young beauty named Anne Hale has set her sights on wooing John, and a love triangle (involving witches!) is brewing.
There's no good or bad in Salem.
"The one good thing about this show is that [it] explores the dark heart of humanity and the humanity of darkness," Tamzin Merchant, who plays Anne Hale, told us. "No one is good or bad. They're all good and bad. Every character has that light and dark in them in this show. It makes it hard to love them and hard to hate them."
It will shock you.
Salem is chock-full of gruesome scenes, horrifying imagery, and disturbing symbolism. If you get scared easily, don't watch this before bed. Elise Eberle, who plays Mercy Lewis, told us, "If you think the first episode is crazy, you just wait!"
The enemy isn't the witches.
It's fear. "There's fear of the unknown," Seth Gabel said. "There's fear of anyone who doesn't fit in. It's a rotting forest just ready for a lighting strike."
They found inspiration in Latin American culture.
Elise Eberle, who plays a possessed teenager named Mercy Lewis, looked for inspiration in her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. There, she discovered the curandero.
"I have a friend who is a curandero -- a Native American healer," she told us. "He's so knowledgeable about possession and the spiritual take to it. I got some insight on how it is to be possessed. He knows so much about the witch trials -- he's so into that. I was so fortunate to take everything and absorb everything that he gave me. It was pretty incredible."
It premieres Sunday on WGN America at 10pm! Watch the spooky trailer -- and share in the comments: will you be watching?