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This Sunday, WGN America will put its broom between its legs and fly into the world of original programming with the witchy drama Salem, but that doesn’t mean the show has completely filled out its casting or anything. Joining the moody period series is Stephen Lang, a stalwart of genre fiction perhaps best known as Colonel Miles Quaritch in James Cameron’s Avatar. And he won’t be donning a black pointy hat, in case you were wondering.
Deadline reports Lang will play part of the opposition as the real-life Puritan minister Increase Mather, father of Cotton Mather (Seth Gabel), the cockstrong and somewhat sacrilegious head of the witch hunts. This old school hardass took his education from Harvard to Ireland’s Trinity College before moving back to the States as one of the most influential men in the country in almost all ways. According to co-creators/writers Adam Simon (The Haunting in Connecticut and Brannon Braga (Star Trek: Enterprise), the elder Mather will be “a man driven to monstrous deeds by the intensity of his convictions; and a loving father who torments his son precisely out of love.” You’d think the torment would come from less altruistic reasons. Like: because Cotton is a dick.
Salem is a revisionist take on the notorious witch trials that took place in Massachusetts in the late 1600s. It centers on Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery), the most powerful witch in the lands, married to the wheelchair-bound George (Michael Mulheren) but taken aback when her former lover John Alden (Shane West) returns to town after being presumed dead. But there are enough shows about romance out there, and we want this one to get heavy into the witchery, and that’s where Cotton and his judge, jury and executioner mindset come in. The main thing you need to know about everyone is that they all have secrets to keep you from knowing them completely.
Lang, whose last regular role on TV was for Fox’s shortlived 2011 sci-fi series Terra Nova, is a formidable addition to the cast, which also includes Xander Berkeley, Tamzin Merchant and Ashley Madekwe. He’ll soon be out of commission for a while filming the next 17 Avatar films back-to-back. But before all that, you can see him in Peter Askin’s adaptation of Stephen King’s A Good Marriage, Justin Steel’s thriller Gutshot Straight (with Steven Seagal and Vinnie Jones) and Marcus Nispel’s horror Backmask.
Set up your favorite burning stake on Sunday night and get ready for Salem’s debut, which our own Kelly called “dark, creepy and occasionally melodramatic” in her review. Check out the recently unveiled full-length trailer below, in case you’re still skeptical.