Behind the Magic of “Salem”

(WHNT) – Our parent company, Tribune, will debut a new show this Sunday, April 20 on WGN America.

“Salem” takes a gritty look at the witch trials embedded in the DNA of this country.  To show off the series, we went in person to see the set and meet the actors.  In this segment, we look at how the crew goes about creating magic out of thin air.

It takes a unique kind of sorcery here on the set of “Salem,” which is actually filmed on location in Shreveport, Louisiana.  There’s a soundstage and a real forest.  However, the detail that goes into every single decision is what really helps to animate the characters and bring to life this story of magic.

It turns out one of the keys to creating the unreal requires mastering what is real.

“Our job is to attend to the details, to find the research, to read, to recreate every possible thing that we can where the viewer is well positioned, firmly believing what they see,” said Seth Reed, Designer. “From there when we want to surprise the viewer with something that happens new and different, now we have a great basis to do that.”

The same goes for costumes.

“Here I mix fantasy with reality. I have to follow the patterns and shape of the period, and a lot of them I do my best to be accurate, but I will play with the fabrics a little bit,” said Joseph Porro, Salem’s Costume Designer.

To complete the spell, the actors and actresses have to cross into the unseen.

“I had to reanimate a dead man, necromancy, and I was like, there’s no way these words are real,” said Ashley Madekwe, who portrays the character Tituba.  “So I typed them into a search engine, and sure enough, the writers got them from a grimoire, which is a spell book, and it was old. Which kind of scared me, because I wondered if it was going to work. I felt a bit freaked out that day.”

And that fear informs performance.

“You can’t really play magic, but you can play what a character is going through when they are scared or when they don’t understand something or when they feel alienated,” said Iddo Goldberg, who portrays Issac Walton.  “And that’s what I concentrate on.”

Now we wait and see if it can bring the dark magic of Salem to life.

Salem debuts Sunday, April 20 at 9 p.m. on WGN America.  The show features extremely explicit content.

Click here for more information on WGN America.  Click the ‘Channel Finder’ link at the top of the site to type in your zip code and find channel listings for your area.

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