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Production begins on 'Salem,' WGN America's witch drama

Seems like every network wants a witch show these days. FX has "American Horror Story: Coven." Lifetime has the "Witches of East End." Witches are casting spells in CW's "The Originals" and "The Vampire Diaries," Fox's "Sleepy Hollow" and a number of other shows.

On Friday, the latest witch project took off, sans brooms I'm sure, when production began in Shreveport, La., on "Salem," WGN America's first original scripted series.

"Salem" tells the story of the notorious Salem witch trials in 17th century Massachusetts. According to WGN America, "'Salem' explores what really fueled the town's infamous witch trials and dares to uncover the dark, supernatural truth behind them."

"In 'Salem,' witches are real, but they are not who or what they seem," reads a press release from WGN America. "The show, which centers on an epic romance wrapped around this explosive revelation, delivers a bold new vision of Salem--and an even bolder new vision of witches."

That epic romance is likely to involve handsome, hardened war veteran John Alden and Salem's most powerful witch and Alden's one-time love interest, Mary Sibley. "Nikita" star Shane West has been cast as Alden, while Janet Montgomery, currently in the Starz miniseries "Dancing on the Edge," will play Sibley. Artist Anne Hale, played by Tamzin Merchant, falls for Alden but is unaware of his history with Sibley.

"Salem" boasts a mostly familiar supporting cast, including Seth Gabel ("Fringe" and "Arrow") as aristocrat Cotton Mather, who fans the flames of Salem's witch hunt; Ashley Madekwe ("Revenge") as Sibley's mysterious, carnal accomplice; Xander Berkeley ("Nikita") as Magistrate Hale, and Elise Eberle ("The Astronaut Farmer") as the mysteriously afflicted Mercy Lewis.

WGN America has ordered 13 episodes of the drama that is set to premiere in Spring 2014, prior to the summer premiere of the network's "Manhattan" series.

Brannon Braga, whose credits include "24” and the "Star Trek” series "The Next Generation," "Voyager" and "Enterprise," and Adam Simon ("The Haunting in Connecticut") co-created, write and executive produce "Salem." Along with the creators, Prospect Park's Josh Barry and Jeff Kwatinetz executive produce, with co-executive producers Liz Sarnoff, Tricia Small, Jon Feldman and Vahan Moosekian. Richard Shepherd is directing the drama from Fox 21, whose projects include "Homeland" and "Sons of Anarchy."

WGN America, like RedEye, is a Tribune Company property.

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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