Salem’s Elise Eberle on Mercy’s Witchy Transformation and What’s Next — Exclusive
Mercy Lewis (Elise Eberle) has gone from powerless, possessed girl to literal witch on WGN America's new show, Salem, and her transformation is just beginning. It sounds like things are only going to go crazier for Mercy from here, now that she has joined the ranks of the witches.
So, what can we expect from the new Mercy on Sunday's Episode 7 (“Our Own Private America") and beyond? Wetpaint Entertainment recently chatted with Elise Eberle about her character's next steps.
Wetpaint Entertainment: Salem is a blend of fantasy and history. Did you do any research to prepare for the part?
I did, actually. Back in the real witch trials, though, Mercy wasn't really the first to have the fits. [Salem's] creator, Adam Simon, he wanted to combine all the girls who claimed to be bewitched into one character, and so that's what created Mercy Lewis. The reason why I loved Episode 5, though, is because it really sort of delved into that mentality, and what the experience must have been like in that time period. That's when the girls started pointing fingers at people they just didn't like, and they thought deserved to be killed and accused of being a witch, and all that stuff. It opens your mind to see how fear of the unknown can create so much hysteria.
But for me, the most amount of research I did was at the beginning of the season, when Mercy was possessed. The show is a historical matter, but it's our take on it. What I really researched as when I was possesed. I was fortunate enough to work with a curandero. A curandero is a Native American healer. He's a medicine man. It's an alternative take. His method is very spiritual. I was very fortunate to work with him. It's funny, I actually called him my "possession coach." He's incredibly fluent in dark magic and possession, so it was perfect for this role, for this show. He had all this information, I just totally absorbed all of it. Understanding possession by evil.
I wanted to stray away from the stereotypical demonic possessions that had already been depicted in so many horror flicks. I was really, really adamant about not watching other possession movies. I didn't want to be affected by it. I wanted it all to come up from within me, and my research, and my collaboration with this curandero. He was so invaluable. It's funny, I probably should be very wary about turning off the light at night considering how much I know about the devil and possession!
We really liked that moment in Episode 5 too. It was interesting to see Mercy realize she actually had some power in the situation.
It really lets us delve into, like I said, the mentality and the experience of what it must have been like. That is what one of the theories is — that the girls got so absorbed with the power they had over the whole town. All this fear throughout the town can create so much hysteria. They wanted to point out the people, like in Episode 5 — Emily didn't like her father, so they decided to point out the guy they didn't like because he deserves to be called out as a witch, he should be killed. That's exactly what happened. That's what I loved about it, too. It's referencing what really did happen.
And even though it might not be a good thing, you kind of understand it, because they are so powerless otherwise.
Yeah. Women were so suppressed. They had no choice, girls were not allowed to speak unless they were spoken to. So once Mercy finally sees how much power she has, she just eats it up. She's never been thought of like this. They're not used to it. It goes back to fame, even, in our own culture. When you get so many eyes on you, you absorb it, and you love it, and you want more of it, so you do anything to keep it coming.
So, in the most recent episode Mercy really did become a witch. What can we expect from her, and her relationship with Mary, going forward?
For Mercy, really thinking about the character, she has no mother. I think Mary is that figure for her. She completely looks up to her. With girls [in this society] you have no say in anything. As she says herself —I have to wait for my father to read things to me, and then my future husband will do it, and I won't read anything. She looks up to Mary because she has control over her man, and that is something Mercy's never seen before. When she shaves his neck, she has the razor to his throat, and that's fascinating to Mercy. She's never seen a woman have so much power over a man. She looks up to her, she wants to be her so badly. She wants that power.
She also is determined for love, though. I consider her like a rescue pup, in a way. She wants to be liked. She's been abused so much, she just wants to be wanted. So when Mary does want her to be a witch that means the world to her, so she wants to show her that she can prove her value.
Well, Mary may like Mercy, but Tituba certainly does not. What can we expect from that rivalry?
There will be more in — I think Episode 9 is when it really gets dirty. I don't really care for Tituba. I want to be the Tituba for Mary. I want to be the one she has to go to. So it's like a family feud. There's a specific scene in Episode 9 where we're all just fighting with each other, wanting to be there for Mary. It's a triangle effect, it's pretty funny. It's so much fun to play.
Will we be seeing more of Mercy and her friends?
Yes! And it's so exciting, because I just love everything that happens with all the acolytes. It gets bigger and bigger, it gets very, very exciting. They are the ones who really see the power. They see Mercy, this feeling that she has power over everyone. It's like she's the Mary to these girls. She loves it.
Any other thoughts on the show?
The one thing that I keep on — there is a challenging aspect with sort of starring in a show that is both fantasy and period. With a historical subject matter you're having to deal with pretty firm expectations about the way things should be. You only hope that the audience can appreciate our alternative take on it all. I'd say the real challenge is creating a fantastical story that is real enough for the audience to embrace it, and love it as much as we do.
What I love about this show is that it pushes so many boundaries. I believe that there is literally nothing out there right now that is similar to Salem, and I just feel so lucky that everyone on the cast and crew is so incredibly talented, from the writing to the set directors to the props to the costumes. I feel so blessed to be part of a project that really does push the boundaries quite a bit. But is still so fun!
Tune into Episode 7 of Salem Sunday, June 1, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on WGN America.