‘Salem’ Q&A: Janet Montgomery On Mary Sibley

In “Salem,” passionate decisions can have grave consequences, something Janet Montgomery’s Mary Sibley found out in the show’s series premiere.

After her true love John Alden (Shane West) went off to war, Mary found herself pregnant and unwed and turned to Tituba (Ashley Madekwe), a friend who had experience in dark magic, to take care of the problem. But, saving herself from shame (and whatever George Sibley would have riled up the mobs to do to her) came with a great cost – Mary’s soul.

But, while the drama is now set seven years after Mary made her devilish contract, viewers shouldn’t give up rooting for the innocent girl inside “Salem’s” powerful enchantress.

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“I really hope that people are going to sympathize with Mary,” Janet told AccessHollywood.com, while on a break from filming earlier this week. “I think that you definitely see glimpses into stuff in her past, and she’s really conflicted. She’s stuck between a rock and a hard place, really. She has to do what she’s doing to survive, and I think that then, you do sympathize with her because she doesn’t always want to do what she’s doing.”

With Episode 2 on the way this Sunday night, Janet hinted at the pain and trouble ahead for Mary now that John is back in town. She also explained why John and Isaac (Iddo Goldberg) accidentally breaking up the bloody and oily ritual in the woods in the season premiere spells big trouble for the witches of Salem.

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AccessHollywood.com: You guys got great numbers for the premiere on the relaunched network (2.3 million total viewers on Sunday). What did the response mean to you?
Janet Montgomery: I was just so pleased. I was on set Monday and once we got the word about our numbers, I think all of us were really like, pumped. And I was surprised, because I think we were all kind of the mind that it was a new network, so we’d have to build. So to come in at such a strong number is – we feel really, really lucky.

Access: And for the second week of the show, you now have a Marilyn Manson song in your opening titles. Have you heard it yet?
Janet: I just came from my lunch break and one of the [production assistants] just showed it to me on his phone, and I was like, ‘Wow! That’s so cool.’ I think everyone else saw it in their ADR (automatic dialogue replacement) session, but I hadn’t seen it, so I literally saw it about five minutes ago.

Access: It just fit perfectly, didn’t it?
Janet: Yeah, it’s so good. I really love the tone of it and I love the font with the names and stuff. Yeah it looked great.

Access: Are we going to get to see this pact Mary made with the devil? You kind of get an idea that something happened (in the premiere episode), but we don’t know everything yet.
Janet: Yeah, we do. We do. … In the episodes to follow, we do go to flashbacks and definitely look into sort of like how it got to that place.

READ: ‘Salem’ Q&A: Seth Gabel On Witch Hunting In Scary New Show

Access: When John comes back and he Mary he wants her to run away with him, how hard is that for her, because she still has feelings for him?
It’s so hard. It’s something that she dreamt about happening for the first few years of him being gone, but now she’s too far in. When she says, ‘I can’t. He’d never let me.’ I think John probably thinks she’s talking about Sibley, but it’s not Sibley, ‘He’ being something much more powerful than anything on earth.

Access: During that conversation she pointed out that he said he was captured, but he also set up a New York bank account, two things that don’t fit together. What can you hint at about what we’ll see about that?
Seven years is a long time and stuff definitely gets revealed about John and what he was doing in that seven years. And I think that she’s angry with him. What she’s been through, and what she’s gone through since he left and didn’t come back, he can’t even imagine and he is the reason she is who she is now. But she loves him.

Access: And he was part of the little gang (with Isaac Walton) that broke up the circle by accident. How bad was it that the circle in the woods was broken?
It’s really bad. You know, it means that someone has seen us and that’s the threat and that’s a huge threat for the witches of Salem. At this point, Mary can’t be sure who it was, and I don’t think that she thinks that it was John, but him being back, and the sort of personality that he is, he’s suddenly going to get his nose into everything and that’s quite frightening for her.

Access: One of the previews has Tituba threatening someone, who I assume is Mary, saying, ‘You will complete the Grand Rite.’ What happens if you don’t and how dangerous is Tituba?
She is dangerous, but I think that it’s more about the threat of the other witches and the leaders — the elder witches, and she is the one that sort of keeps me on the right path. She’s the one who introduced me to witchcraft, and she’s the one who sort of watches what I’m doing and she knows me the best. She’s the one whose sort of my keeper, I guess.

Access: There’s great tension between Mary and Tamzin Merchant’s character, Anne. What are we going to see between these two going forward?
Tamzin’s such a brilliant actress. I love doing scenes with her. Anne represents everything that Mary was. She was this sort of like this feisty, outspoken, youthful, goodhearted young girl and so I think having her [thrust] in Mary’s face is kind of agonizing and it really pisses Mary off, so she just dislikes her because she sees so much of herself before she sold her soul to the devil.

Access: Mary Sibley did exist. Did you find out a lot about who she was and did you pull from any of that?
For me, that was dangerous territory because I knew that the writers were taking creative license and they were using names of real people, but placing them in different situations, because the history of it is not clear. We’ve got names, we’ve got certain pivotal moments that happened to certain people, but Mary Sibley, she’s sort of someone who was a neighbor of Tituba, who went to Tituba and asked her to help create a cake of some kind and then they both disappeared from history. So I think when Tituba was accused or something, and then she was in jail, both her and Mary Sibley both disappeared. There’s no record or anything.

Access: Seth [Gabel, who plays Cotton Mather in ‘Salem’] was telling me there have been weird things that have happened on set. Have you found that to be the case as well?
What did he tell you happened?

Access: Accidents…
Yeah, there’s definitely been a lot of accidents. That’s true. … It all seems to happen on the location. I was hospitalized, but that was from appendicitis a few weeks ago. And Iddo [Goldberg, who plays Isaac] broke his hand in a scene and I know that there was stuff that’s happened to various members of the crew, but I think what was interesting to me, is after I had my appendicitis – we shut down production for two weeks while I was in hospital, and the producer was talking about getting someone to bless the land, because they thought that the land was cursed. And I was like, ‘Wow, that seems pretty drastic.’ But yeah, there is kind of spooky stuff happening, but maybe we’re just unlucky, I don’t know.

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Access: The first episode had some real scary moments. How scary does ‘Salem’ get going forward? Are we going to be gripping our chairs watching?
I think so. I think we’re definitely following that path and it’s so easy with what happened at this point in history to find real things that happened and put them into our show and they’re really scary. … Everyone was in fear in this period and they were in this new world and they were all frightened and we’ve got a lot to feed off..

“Salem” continues Sunday at 10 PM ET/PT on WGN America.

-- Jolie Lash

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