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Salem’s Seth Gabel and Tamzin Merchant Talk Season 2 and Preview the Finale “The Witching Hour” 

Photo Credit: WGN America
Photo Credit: WGN America

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Now that Mary’s son has become the devil, does she have anything else to lose in this witch war? Is now more determined than ever to stop the Grand Rite? Is there anything John can do to help his son or the woman he still loves? It was a shock to see Anne align herself with the Countess, but Marburg is her mother and she’s worried about her marriage to Cotton. But is Anne fighting for something she’s already lost? And what about Mercy? Has she been betrayed yet again? We can’t forget about Tituba or Isaac. What’s to become of them?

TV Goodness participated in a press call with series stars Seth Gabel and Tamzin Merchant earlier this week. They weren’t allowed to say much about the Season 2 finale, but we got them to spill a few secrets. They also talked about their storylines this season, how it was working together and what Season 3 might look like.

On the evolution of Cotton and Anne’s relationship, working together and what to expect in the finale

Tamzin Merchant: “Well, we can’t tell you. You’ll have to watch on Sunday.”

Seth Gabel: “I don’t think anyone will be able to predict what happens on Sunday. It’s definitely a major event. It’s satisfying for the course of this season’s run and sets up what season 3 could be about.

I personally have loved getting to work with Tamzin in this capacity just because she’s such a brilliant actress and also a reactor. You can throw anything at her and she’ll dish it right back, so there isn’t too much improving in the language of 1692 period, but we do. We try to mix it up and Tamzin’s always right there…”

Tamzin: “I’m blushing, but I feel the same way. Working with Seth has been such a pleasure. The little we got to do last season together was awesome and then this season’s just been super fun and it’s been an education.

What I love about Anne and Cotton as well is that there’s a bit of lightness there and there is hope. Anne always stood for hope in my mind in the town of Salem and in the show and she sees in Cotton what he can’t see in himself and that is a really beautiful thing.

Despite the betrayal that Anne wreaks on Cotton by putting a love spell on him, despite that the hope and the center of their relationship is one of love at least in Season 2, but yes, what they are is really something quite special and creating that with Seth has been a really wonderful thing. It’s been a gift.”

Seth: “But there’s a lot to overcome. Finding out that she did a love spell to Cotton, that she is a witch is like fundamental enemy and that she gave up the boy to become the devil himself. I mean, those are some pretty big transgressions, so we’ll see if Cotton can forgive in the end where and that Anne even really wants to be with him.

There’s [also] the whole Oliver Bell having turned into possibly the devil himself and then the closing act of Season 2’s witch war and Mary fighting against Countess Marburg. There’s a lot of questions to be answered this Sunday that yes, we can’t say too much because so much happens.”

On how Cotton has had the will to keep going

Seth: “How do any of us manage to keep going? As an actor and a human am always in the midst of an existential crisis.

We see that side of Cotton when he has his soliloquies to God where he’s questioning. One of the interesting things about the show is we see a lot of evidence of the devil but we haven’t really seen clear evidence of there being God or a higher power. We haven’t really seen that hand interfere with much of anything and so Cotton is always recognizing that lack of evidence and longing for some kind of sign and pretty much always when he looks-up and is talking to God, there’s nothing definitive but that’s usually when he hears a little voice inside of him that tells him what to do.

Photo Credit: WGN America
Photo Credit: WGN America

I think all of us experience that and don’t really have a name for it, perhaps the unconscious, I don’t know but that seems to be enough, just that little hint of a voice and whether that’s just our own free will or if there’s something larger and supernatural going on. I don’t know, but I think that little voice is enough for him to carry on through all the betrayals and through all the mistakes and hearing from his father who he accidentally killed and committed patricide on and then was told that he’s already in hell and that he must save himself. I think what keeps him going is the belief that there is something out there. He doesn’t know what it is but that’s enough to fight for.”

On Cotton’s struggle with fate and fact and how that impacts his relationship with Anne

Tamzin: “The relationship between Anne and Cotton before he discovers that she’s a witch, that was the one thing that kept him tied and tethered to reality and not off in some kind of existential nightmare.

He’s someone who’s raised on faith, but as you said, when he looks at the facts it doesn’t quite add up to the same thing. But at the same time he’s seeing the supernatural occurring with these witches and he’s experienced a lot of what the witches are capable of firsthand, so he knows that that’s real and at the same time he’s desperate for any indication that the good guys, that God and his angels are around helping out.

There isn’t much evidence of that except for Anne Hale, to Cotton, is an angel and proof of divinity and goodness. That only makes the betrayal that much worse that this whole time she’s been a witch, for all he knows witches are completely evil and then if he finds out about the love spell, that’s going to be the nail in the coffin for him and I’m not sure how he’ll quite return from that.”

Photo Credit: WGN America
Photo Credit: WGN America

On watching Anne go from a sweet, naive character to one who owns her powers

Tamzin: “For Anne, it’s a slow slip into a person she never thought she could be. It’s disturbing because it’s so hard to see who she was at the beginning of the season especially beginning of the show, to what she’s become.

The most disturbing thing, I think with people that do very morally devious things, more and more often is to see that they completely have they themselves feel that they had no choice in the matter and that was something that’s very interesting playing Anne.”

On how Cotton’s changed as well

Seth: “For Cotton, what’s changed him so much from the drinking brothel-goer of last season, I think the biggest thing that’s liberated him is the death of his father. That was a constant weight he was bearing on his back of his father’s expectations of him and scrutiny and disappointment and with him dead, still haunting him literally and metaphorically in his own mind.

But he is beginning to taste a bit of freedom and then his relationship with Anne, Anne in Season 1 got [convinced him to] put the drink down and to believe in himself. I think that’s carried through to Season 2 and then only got amped up by the love spell that Anne put on him because that really gave him a purpose and something to live for that is good. [It] gives him the strength to become even braver and take-on the witches and try to stop the second act of the grand rite from being completed.”

Photo Credit: WGN America
Photo Credit: WGN America

On making Anne’s transistion so natural

Tamzin: “It’s happened over the course of two seasons. I think that some kind of the evolution is always very interesting because where Anne finishes Season 2 and where she starts are two very different places. One of the people I’ve really enjoyed working with this season has been Jeremy Crutchley, who plays Hawthorne, who’s just like an excellent man to be an antagonist if you know what I mean.

He’s a wonderful guy, but Hawthorne is just this terrible person to be up against Anne and he really makes hard the decisions that she has to make and the predicament she’s in very concrete and very absolute. I mean, you do not want to end up married to Hawthorne in Salem because he is a deeply unpleasant person and I think that those sort of villains that Anne’s come up against have helped to make that evolution very meaningful. It’s a one-way evolution because you can’t do some of the things that Anne’s done. You can’t go back to being the naive innocent girl afterwards. She’s lost her innocence for sure…”

Seth: “I feel like all the creatures you’ve killed too have represented a certain death of her old self and being forced to grow up and let go of the innocence of childhood.”

Tamzin: “Yes, exactly, she’s in quite a cavalier fashion now killing animals and I think that’s definitely indicative of something and a loss of innocence. It’s something that everyone goes through and everyone in growing up goes from being naive to hopefully slightly less naive and certainly more worldly-wise. We’ve definitely seen [that] in Anne this year and it is quite heartbreaking as well as her soul becomes more tarnished, your rat becomes more of a monster. It’s quite heartbreaking thing and I think that the writers have done it brilliantly, really brilliantly.”

Photo Credit: WGN America
Photo Credit: WGN America

On working with Lucy Lawless this season

Seth: “When she joined our show, I called Adam [Simon] and Brannon [Braga], our creators, and said wow, you guys really are brilliant because she’s known for elevating genre material, which is exactly what we’re striving for in this show and telling something that’s engaging and fun from a genre perspective but also having the material be elevated to where you can take it seriously and really delve into the drama and the characters.

So when she joined, I thought that was the perfect message to send to the audience and for us going into Season 2 because I feel like we really began to understand what the show is and it just really feels like at this point in the show’s evolution that it’s really found it’s place and partially because of the addition of Lucy and everyone else.”

On if Anne can get behind the Countess’s vision of a future for witches

Tamzin: “Anne has her very own vision of the future that I think she’s extremely determined to see it come to pass. She may not see eye-to-eye with her mother in that respect but you never know. People with a vision can often get stuck on that vision in such a way that actually they end up making something that’s a diabolical version of the original vision rather than what they had in mind so we’ll have to see, I think, about that.”

Photo Credit: WGN America
Photo Credit: WGN America

On what Mary Sibley the Countess of Marburg have taught Anne about being a witch

Tamzin: “Anne’s very perceptive so she definitely learns what not to be as much as what to be from these two women. They both set her examples in a way of how not to behave.

Anne has always been very thoughtful and very strong-willed and had a very independent mind. Seeing how these women do business is quite interesting. For example, Mercy Lewis learns cruelty from being treated cruelly and some people learn kindness from being treated cruelly. Anne and Mercy are two girls with similarities. They’re not in similar situations, but with similarities who have gone very different ways. That’s been interesting.

I do love how much of a female-centric show it can be at times. I think it’s really super as well to play a character who is an intelligent, independent woman, growing into certainly a woman, a young woman who’s got a mind of her own and a wit and a ready brain. There are more roles like that for women now but we’ve had a couple of awesome women writers on the show this season, which has been so great. With more women in Hollywood, it’s becoming more usual to have really great roles for younger women especially, so it’s been so much fun playing Anne this year.”

Edited for space and content.

The season 2 finale of Salem airs Sunday, June 28th at 10/9c on WGN America.

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