Forget the magic fairy dust and enchanting spells, the witches of Salem are downright terrifying.
The upcoming WGN America series, the network's first foray into scripted original programming, takes a fresh — and much darker -- look at the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. Its witches are very real and actually manipulating the town into a state of fear. Shane West stars as war hero John Alden (historically, a survivor of the trials) who has returned home to find that his former love Mary (Janet Montgomery) has gone on to marry elderly town leader George Sibley (Michael Mulheren). What John doesn't know is that he got Mary pregnant and in order for her to get rid of the baby, she essentially made a deal with the devil-like witch Tituba (Ashley Madekwe).
"You are a bloody wrecking ball. You are an exploding cigar," laments a confidante of the clones under siege in BBC America's thrillingly entertaining Orphan Black. She's also a bloody marvel, as Tatiana Maslany plays these diverse doppelgangers with astonishing range and surprising nuance. Scrappy street waif? Check. High-strung soccer mom? Check. Lesbian scientist-in-training? Check. Deranged Russian assassin? Why not. Beyond a provocative premise and blistering pace, Orphan Black is a terrific showcase for one of TV's great performances. Even when it threatens to look like a stunt, with one clone at another's throat in a smackdown or layering the subterfuge when one clone pretends to be another, this bonded-by-genetics sister act never feels forced or phony.
This is not the Salem you read about in history class.
In WGN America's first scripted series, Salem, the infamous witch trials of the 17th century will be explored — but with a twist. Whereas innocent young women were unjustly murdered in real life, the witches on the show are very much real.
First Look: Teaser trailer for WGN America's original series Salem
Created and executive-produced by Brannon Braga (24) and Adam Simon, the show stars Janet Montgomery, Shane West, Seth Gabel,Ashley Madeke, Xander Berkeley, Tamzin Merchant and Elise Eberle. Before the series premiere on April 20 (10/9c), WGN America will debut a special, Salem: Witches Are Real (Tuesday, 11/10c), which examines the mystery and lore that inspired the premise of the show.
WGN America is shedding its "superstation" skin and getting into the original scripted series business this spring with the period drama Salem.
The hour-long series, set in 17th century Massachusetts, explores the infamous Salem witch trials. In a twist, witches are real in Salem, and there's a dark, supernatural truth behind them.
Brannon Braga (24, Star Trek: The Next Generation) created, executive produced and wrote Salem, along with Adam Simon (The Haunting in Connecticut). The show stars Janet Montgomery (Made in Jersey), Shane West (Nikita), Seth Gabel (Fringe), Ashley Madekew (Revenge), Xander Berkeley (The Mentalist), Tamzin Merchant (Jane Eyre) and Elise Eberle (The Astronaut Farmer).
West plays John Alden, a "tough, pragmatic, wry-humored" war veteran who returns to Salem after spending a decade on the battlefield and being held in captivity at the hands of the Indians. John finds his hometown gripped in witch-hunt frenzy, led by Cotton Mather (Gabel). John also has a history with Mary Sibley (Montgomery), but is the subject of advances by Anne Hale (Merchant), a fearless artist who becomes Mary's enemy.
As Nikita draws to a close, actor Shane West has already lined up his next series: Salem, the first scripted series from WGN America.