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Q&A: Executive Producer Adam Simon on “SALEM” and a Lovecraftian Second Season

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While it’s always interesting to see a non-horror director work outside of their element within the genre, there always seems to be a sense of confidence among the horror crowd when a trusted terror talent hops behind a high-profile fright project. And in the scope of television, that sometimes has become the “tell” when a great episode is on it’s way, such as when the likes of Greg Nicotero or Ernest Dickerson contribute to THE WALKING DEAD or Vincenzo Natali helms on HANNIBAL. But even on the producing level, having a horror talent guiding the way is crucial to making the macabre work, which is why SALEM is lucky to have the likes of producer/writer/director Adam Simon to implement his wicked vision onto the series. FANGORIA sat down with Simon on the set of SALEM to talk season two as well as the explicit influence of H.P. Lovecraft onto the WGN America series…

FANGORIA: As someone involved on the production side of SALEM, what was the biggest change you wanted to make going from season one into season two?

ADAM SIMON: Well, we succeeded in doing everything we wanted to do with SALEM in season one, so we definitely upped the challenges to ourselves for season two. There’s more scope, it’s a bigger world and we wanted to bring in different types of horror. In terms of things that would most interest the FANGORIA readership and people who really know their horror, there’s going to be a real engagement with horror on this season, and there’s a more Lovecraftian element to the horror this season. For people who know their Lovecraft, Anne Hale has a familiar with a name which will undoubtedly be known to Lovecraft fans. If you go and read DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE by H.P. Lovecraft, you’ll have an interesting window into what will be happening this season.

Also, stylistically, in terms of the kind of horror, last season felt like we were doing our versions of the Hammer horror films that we grew up with, which is a very certain kind of gothic horror. With the second season, we wanted to get stranger, deeper, more erotic and more surreal.  So if anything, we looked for inspiration in great Japanese and Korean horror films as well as a lot of Italian horror films like Argento and Bava films. There’s much more of a continental flavor to the horror in SALEM this season that goes beyond anything that’s ever been on TV.

FANGORIA: In terms of choosing the directors this season and trying to achieve that specific vision, what were you looking for in potential filmmakers to helm the episodes?

SIMON: It’s tricky because there’s lots of good horror feature directors, but you also need someone who could do an episode in a seven day schedule. But I have to tell you, as a lifelong fan, I’m thrilled- and I’m sure a lot of your readers will be thrilled- that Joe Dante is filming for us this season. Allan Arkush is also directing for us this season, as well as Peter Weller, who is not only the ROBOCOP but also a brilliant director. But our supervising director this season, Nick Copus, is an Englishman who is very steeped in the language of horror and he does a great job.

Horror was a concern for me last season since we had all of these great directors but none of them came from the horror genre. You need to know how to do a jump scare in a funny way, and there’s a craft to horror, so we often had to work it out on the page so it was clear how to do that. I feel that this season, we’re surrounded by people who know how to get horror in a deeper way, and that definitely helps.

FANGORIA: The SFX are front and center in the upcoming season two premiere of SALEM. In terms of how they’re achieved and maintaining a continuity, is there anything you guys strive for in that area?

SIMON: Always. We’re so blessed to have a guy like Matthew Mungle as our main SFX genius on SALEM. Both Brannon [Braga] and I come from an old school perspective with horror and horror FX. I don’t think you can really scare people with pixels; you need something visceral and real. So we use digital FX to expand our reality, as it were, but we don’t use it for the horror FX.

We want our SFX to be more from the Tom Savini school, and Matt Mungle has his own school of that. So the challenges of wanting to do things like, “I want to pull someone’s eyeballs out and put it in someone’s hands so they can have a vision,” is making sure it feels real, so instead of doing a digital eyeball, it’s an eyeball. Our goal is to keep the SFX gritty and real, so that it’s gritty fantasy and gritty horror. It’s almost noir-horror, and that’s what we’ve been after, and that requires it to be grounded.

SALEM returns on WGN America on Sunday, April 5th at 10 p.m. EST. You can currently catch up with the first season on Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant and Amazon DVD on-demand. Check back here at FANGORIA.com for our review of SALEM’s second season premiere later this week!

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley

Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.

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