Spending four minutes with Xena demigoddess Lucy Lawless and Salem lead actress Janet Montgomery in a cramped 17th-century living room is equal parts as thrilling and uncomfortable as it sounds. But my anxiety about being on camera for a lightning round of interviews is nothing compared to the pressure on Montgomery’s shoulders.
Her character, Mary Sibley, spent the entire first season controlling the witches and Selectmen of Salem and now has to weather a “Witch War.” To take Salem to the next level, they brought in Lawless, an actress who falls under the “kind of a big deal” category, to give Montgomery all she can handle on screen.
“To be honest it’s a little intimidating because everyone knows Lucy and she was a warrior princess,” Montgomery says before Lawless chimes in: “[Janet] wasn’t born yet…”
“I was born then! Everyone knows Xena!” Montgomery says.
Even if Xena: Princess Warrior was before your time, Lawless has popped up in every role you can imagine, from The X-Files, Battlestar Galactica and Spartacus to most recently playing Ron Swanson’s wife in Parks and Recreation. When Salem returns, Lawless takes on the role of Mary’s adversary, Countess Marburg, “one of the only remaining descendants of an ancient and powerful line of European witches.”
It’s a given that Countess Marburg will cause hell for Mary. As for what we can expect when they share screentime together: “Hot scenes,” Lawless joked.
“We did one scene together and you got dangerously close to my mouth,” Montgomery says. “My character is a bit of an eater,” Lawless adds. “She sucks information out of people and she kind of wants to eat them.”
The real Lucy Lawless is actually a lot sweeter.
“I didn’t know what to expect from Lucy but she’s really lovely,” Montgomery says. “I kind of have to hate her in the scenes and in between takes she’s like ‘do you want some of my New Zeland chocolate?’”
Salem season two begins April 5th at 10 p.m. on WGN America.