The spirit of “Salem” filled the SCAD Museum of Art theater Friday afternoon, when the cast and crew of the hit WGN America series discussed the show and its upcoming third season. Following a screening of the show’s pilot, actors Shane West, Elise Eberle and Joe Doyle and co-creator and executive producer Brannon Braga gathered onstage for a conversation detailing the physical demands of the show as well as the creative process behind the supernatural genre.
“Salem” is categorized as a supernatural fiction drama, and it’s no secret its content is heavy, as Braga and his cast addressed multiple times during the panel.
“The thing that I think is most interesting…is the magic on the show, to a large degree, is taken from the actual transcripts of the Salem Witch trials, which were detailed like court transcripts,” Braga said. “They exist. You can read them. They are thousands of pages, and they are absolutely fascinating. And there’s stuff that is in there is weirder than any horror movie that I have ever seen.”
Eberle, who plays main character Mercy Lewis, said the show’s portrayal of women as leaders sets it apart.
“I think one thing that really brings the show into a completely different level is how it’s about women and about they’re the leaders, and it’s just so great for women to have that kind of emblem,” Eberle said.
Unlike most of the show’s female characters, Eberle did not wear a corset until halfway through “Salem’s” first season. When she finally wore one, she understood the complaints of her costars.
“It’s constricting,” Eberle said. “You can’t eat very much. It’s definitely not my cup of tea, but I loved it. They’re beautiful, and they’re great to look at, and they just boost the show even more.”
By comparison, the men on set have a much looser wardrobe, according to West.
“I haven’t really done period piece, so this is my first time getting into it,” West said. “Each season we change up a little bit. The guys have it pretty fortunate on the show compared to the women. We have a lot of layers. The women deal with corsets. We’re not allowed to really complain.”
The cast also stressed the importance of communication and on-set collaboration with writers, directors, and producers as the key to a successful shoot.
“We work with executive producer and creator,” Eberle said. “I think especially when there’s a certain scene, they come up to me before and they talk to me about it. It’s a beautiful collaboration that we have.”
Despite the show’s dark narratives and graphic content, Braga acknowledged that the efforts of his cast and crew make the filming and creative process enjoyable.
“The show is not a laugh riot,” Braga said. “A lot of the scenes we’re doing involve violence, psychosexual violence, so you get intense stuff, and really talented craftsmen and actors bringing it to life.”
“And we’re also a family,” Eberle said. “We all really just love each other, and that’s what brings us together.”