Salem’s Janet Montgomery on Mary’s Relationship With John and Sunday’s “The Red Rose and the Briar” — Exclusive
Whether you're rooting for her romance with John Cotton or hoping she's brought to justice for the crimes she's committed, there's no denying that Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery) is one of the most interesting and important characters on WGN America's new show, Salem.
Wetpaint Entertainment recently chatted with Janet Montgomery about how she brings this conflicted character to life, and what we can expect in this Sunday's Episode 6 ("The Red Rose and the Briar"), which airs at 10 PM ET/PT on WGN America.
Plus, we have an exclusive sneak peek of the episode you won't want to miss!
Wetpaint Entertainment: One of the most interesting elements of this show is the way it blends the historical with the fantasy elements, and Mary is at the center of that. How did you go about preparing for the role — did you do historical research?
A lot of my work on Mary was character based. I did some historical research and read some witch books, but a lot of it, really, was based on other actors in very powerful female roles that I enjoyed and that I thought were right for this character. And real life people, a lot of Margaret Thatcher. I was watching videos of Margaret Thatcher and the way she held herself, being a powerful women in a room of men, and also being being slightly crazy. [laughs] I worked with my acting coach who's brilliant. He's a soundboard for ideas. Me and him can bounce off each other. It was really just about creating someone who works in any time period, really, but who is hardened and strong in a male dominated world.
In recent episodes, Mary has been losing some of the control she appears to have had in the past. How far will she be willing to go to keep her power?
I think what's happening at the moment with Mary is really this conflict of, you know, she really does love John, and that's what she wants, but she's also spent the last seven years wanting something else. She became a witch, and there's the Grand Rite and that whole business. I think it becomes looking at the conflict of which one of those will win out within her.
I think I heard something recently with someone else, that Mary was bipolar, which I thought was really funny. The thing that the writers have really challenged me with is turning my emotions, switching very quickly between two different things. When I read the scripts, sometimes it takes me a while to find the continuity within her. She is kind of — she's very torn right now, and it makes her rash, and I think there's more of that throughout the season, where you never understand if she's being truthful, with John or with anyone else. I think that's what makes her quite a tricky character.
It's true. She does some horrible things. But on some level it's understandable that she'd go to such extremes to gain some agency in a world where she had very little.
I think for me, I had to. I had to understand, even if I had to — I mean, I couldn't imagine myself going around and killing people, so what I had to do was put it in a much smaller scale. If I had a bunch of flies in my house that were bugging me, could I just swat them and kill them all? Easily. To take the substitution of something like that, and make the people around me in Salem like bugs.
In the most recent episode, John and Mary's relationship took an interesting turn, with Mary learning that John isn't the flawless hero she thought he was — in fact, he's a murderer. How does that change things between them going forward?
I think that was really difficult for Mary. Even though she is now this very duplicitous character, and she does do terrible things, he was someone she had up on a bit of a pedestal. Someone who was a good person in her head. Finding out that he wasn't was like finding out your first love is now in prison for killing people. It doesn't matter who you've become, you just never thought they would become that. That's what's so painful about it.
But at the same time I think it also opens a door for her to start questioning whether she can confide in him. Whether he will understand. So it actually makes it even worse, with the whole getting closer— I think part of her at the moment kind of wants to tell him, and almost does things where you think "well, she obviously wants him to find out."
Another plot that's taken a surprising turn is her relationship with Mercy. Where's that going?
I love the Mercy stuff, and it goes on throughout the season. Mercy was someone who I possessed. I owned her, I controlled her, and then she managed to escape. Her dad performed an exorcism. She didn't take the snake back inside her, and now I have to manipulate her in other ways. I think that's what it really comes down to.
But I also think that over the next few episodes you start to see that there is something with Mercy — the fact that I feel like everyone else has turned against me. I don't trust Tituba anymore. I don't trust Hale, I don't trust Rose. There is an allegiance with Mercy, having someone who I've created, who worships me, and who I can fully trust. There is that with Mercy. Especially in the next episode you'll see that.
Editor's note: Want a sneak peek of Mary and Mercy? We've got an exclusive clip right here!
Last week John and Cotton finally caught a witch. Will that mean trouble for Mary or the other witches?
I can only tell you that catching a witch is gonna cause problems for the witch that they caught, but not necessarily anybody else. Witches, they stick together, so she's not going to out anybody. But Rose is a — I mean she was a very interesting actress, she has a really kind of spooky way about her. I've not seen the next episode, so I don't know exactly what those guys did with her, but I'm kind of excited to see it
You've been in a lot of cool, spooky, witch scenes. Do you have a favorite?
I really loved in the last episode, with the girls dancing in the woods. I think that was a very witchy and beautifully shot scene. And then me sort of coming out of the shadows. The girls all looked great.
Tune into Episode 6 of Salem Sunday, May 18, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on WGN America.