Salem (WGN America) Interview: Star Shane West and Executive Producer Brannon Braga Talk Cliffhangers, Season 2 and More

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Salem, the series that made WGNAmerica a new destination for scripted television, is bringing its first season to a close tonight, Sunday, July 13th at 10/9c. After a season full of witches, gore and forest orgies, fans have come to expect the unexpected from Salem and that trend will continue in the finale. Recently, TV Equals joined in a call with Salem executive producer Brannon Braga and star Shane West, who plays John Alden, to discuss what fans can expect from the finale, what is ahead in season two and why John and Mary (Janet Montgomery) are, in the words of Braga, “doomed.”

Why The Finale Will Shock You

Right from the start, Salem‘s first season finale proves it means business with a big reveal. From there the packed episode will advance the stories of fan favorite characters, while ending the lives of others. Yes, not everyone will make it out of the hour alive. “With a show like this you just never know who’s going to make it,” Braga said.

However, the biggest news is just how many twists and turns the finale includes. “This finale, we’re very excited about because it’s a culmination of all the stories that have been building throughout the season and the emotional strands,” Braga explained. “What is really cool is it’s kind of like five cliffhangers in the body of one episode.”

West concurred: “It’s great at the end of the season when we leave so many stories open-ended. If you are a fan of the show in general, you are going to be excited to see what happens to all of these characters in the second season.”

On Season Two

Salem has been officially renewed for a second season, but the cast and crew are not back to work just yet. The writers do have an idea of what they want to do for the second season though and it involves expanding beyond Salem’s borders. “I think the show is going to explore similar themes and characters, but at the same time we wanted to up the stakes and expand the world,” Braga said. “There’s a whole country forming out there around Salem.”

Some of the characters will be placed on their new paths in the finale, but season two will also introduce new characters and settings. According to Braga, the expansion is about exploring the era and staying true to the heart of the story. “We feel like we have barely scratched the surface. There were things we wanted to do in season one, but we just ran out of real estate for it,” Braga said. “That includes the French and Indian War. I said in early interviews, this period of early American history is untapped. We’ve seen “The Crucible,” but what else have we seen? There is so much that happened we can draw from.”

The Story of John and Mary

First and foremost, Salem is two things: a horror story and a love story. John and Mary’s complicated relationship provided season one with a sturdy framework to build on and that build up will payoff in the finale. According to Braga, the couple is “doomed,” but it is the element of tragedy that makes their story so fascinating.

The finale’s opening scene between the duo will be full of confessions and run the full gamut of emotions. West elaborated, “He [John] has to keep moving. He has his own baggage; the payoff to his secret is that they both carry baggage.” The early reveal will lead to renewed stakes in their relationship. While Braga sees the couple’s romance as a tragedy, West revealed he believes John and Mary will grow closer when their secrets are unburdened.

When West was asked if he thought John could ever forgive Mary, he responded, “I think he could and he is. John was in his head most of this season about what he thought was going on with Mary and everyone else in this town that was his birthplace. I think that when he finds out truly by the end of this season what Mary has gone through, his heart opens up more for her. She is the love of his life.”

Just do not get your hopes up for the couple to sail off into the proverbial sunset by the episode’s end. There are plenty more twists, turns and challenges on Mary and John’s turbulent road to romance.

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