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Report: FANGORIA’s Visit to the Set of WGN America’s “SALEM”

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Going to Louisiana last weekend was not necessarily something I planned. In fact, last weekend in my New Jersey locale, I’d been planning on staying inside and avoiding the ridiculously cold weather and abhorrent snowstorms plaguing the area last week. Yet, when opportunity knocks in the form of a last minute set visit in anywhere but Jersey, I was more than willing to jump on the next plane out of town.

Luckily, the trip was for a good cause: the excellent folks at WGN America invited FANGORIA among myriad of other impressive outlets to the set of SALEM, a show in which this writer was a personal fan, far enough to have lobbied for star Janet Montgomery’s nomination for a 2015 Chainsaw Award. For its epic scope, pulpy drama and insane penchant for SFX, SALEM was impressively provocative in its first season, and with the little information I had on the second season, it appeared to only get darker from there. And as with any horror journalist, there’s a part of me that really wished it would.

After a long day of flights on Friday, including a late night arrival that went 5 hours even later, I finally arrived in Louisiana, which had been chillier than expected but almost like summer weather as opposed to the frigid north. I finally settled in late that evening, and awoke early for a screening of the first episode of SALEM’s second season in the AM. But for a full review on that, check back here at FANGORIA.com on a later date.

Following the screening, I made my way back to my room to prepare my questions for the two upcoming junkets. For Saturday, the day was scheduled fairly easy, with just a visit to the massive, 30-acre practical outdoor set of SALEM and a pair of interviews with series co-creators Brannon Braga and Adam Simon. So after a couple hours of work, I headed down to the lobby, mingled with some fellow journalists and hopped on the shuttle to the SALEM set.

While I’ve seen some impressive sets in the past, I must admit that SALEM takes the cake, offering a living, breathing environment built to stunning scale. As fully-clothed and in-character extras roamed the streets, the guides took us from building to building, first exploring the massive church and walking past notable exteriors from the village. Once our group reached the pier, we were each given the opportunity to interview Brannon Braga, a longtime STAR TREK producer who had co-created SALEM. Braga informed FANGORIA of his fandom of the magazine, and gave FANGORIA some great teases for the upcoming season, which we’ll have on the site soon.

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Afterwards, FANGORIA had the chance to view a marketplace area of SALEM, all with actual livestock roaming about and a jaw-dropping attention to detail. Following that, FANGORIA had the chance to talk to show co-creator and executive producer Adam Simon, who this writer had known best for his co-writing on the Ernest Dickerson creepshow BONES. Right before our interview, I revealed to Simon about my fandom of BONES, a college screening staple for this writer.

“Oh! Thank you,” said Simon, “It was actually a great script and it was a great idea that I don’t think was fully realized as it could have been. But, in a way, it did the same thing that SALEM does, which is give fans authentic American horror.”

After our chat, the SALEM folks allowed us to check out the infamous gallows from the series, which stood across from the infamous Sibley house and the Church from the series. The constructs were amazing, and before all was said and done, the press were allowed to take photos on both the Gallows and the Sibley porch, learning just how immersive the set for the series was. To call it “impressive” would be the understatement of the year.

Following our bus ride home, the press made our way to a mixer event inside the hotel, complete with Witch-themed specialty drinks (including an amazing rum-based ‘Witches Brew’ made with dry ice for the full potion effect) and delicious finger foods. Of course, if you know the press, the mixer was just the first step in the long path to a night on the town in Louisiana, but alas, that was neither here nor there.

The next morning, as rough as it may be, the press had to regroup for our tour of the interior studios as well as cast interviews. And even though the night beforehand had wreaked havoc on my well-being, I suddenly felt surprisingly miniscule against the incredible interior sets. Gorgeous, misty forest recreations, as well as fully-recreated interior designs to the many homes seen the day before all popped out, giving SALEM an even grander sense of scale than I could have imagined.

After the cast interviews (which you’ll see on FANGORIA.com in the coming weeks), this writer got to venture through the forest set-up on the SALEM set. Even the smell of the set was reminiscent of a dewy Northeastern forest, adding to the impressive nature of the whole affair. Doubt me not, fair readers: SALEM is not messing around to bring their 1600’s scare fare to life.

You can see the world of SALEM brought to life when the show’s second season premieres on WGN America on Sunday, April 5th at 10 p.m. You can catch up with the first season of the show on DVD, Digital HD and Netflix Instant Streaming. You can also find a full gallery of pictures from the visit below!

 

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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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