In anticipation of the Salem Season 2 finale, Salem’s own Cotton Mather (Seth Gabel) and Anne Hale (Tamzin Merchant) jumped on the phone with reporters to share their thoughts on their characters and what to expect from the finale.
Here’s something to whet your whistle as you sit in anticipation of Salem Season 2 Episode 13!
Cotton has had a pretty rough go of it. His father is a jerk. He’s discovered book learning isn’t always sufficient to the task at hand. He’s faced some really terrible problems. He’s been betrayed by people he’s considered friends and quite possibly the woman he loves. How does he, a not particularly brave man, manage to keep going, and how is that going to carry on into the finale?
Seth Gabel: That’s a good question, I mean, how do any of us manage to keep going, I mean, like I as an actor and a human am always in the midst of an existential crisis.
And I think I can really get we see that side of Cotton when he has his kind of soliloquys to God where he’s questioning because 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.
Tamzin Merchant: That’s a bit messed-up, isn’t it?
Seth Gabel: 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.
And 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 like in a...
Tamzin Merchant: It’s Brannon Braga, that’s who it is.
Seth Gabel: 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.
Tamzin Merchant: That’s beautiful.
We’ve seen transitions for Anne and Cotton. Anne went from the sweet innocent character to being able to kill animals without thinking about it, and Cotton went from a brothel-going drunkard to a happily married man. Can you say what it was like going through the transitions and how it affected you going in the finale and possibly afterwards?
Tamzin Merchant: Well, I think the killing the animal thing was something that upset quite a lot of people, so from that point of view there were several earnest tweets about whether or not a kitten had been harmed in the making, but I think the key is that it happens throughout the entire season and that for Anne it’s a slow slip into a person she never thought she could be.
And that’s very, kind of, it’s disturbing because, it’s so hard to see who she was at the beginning of the season especially beginning of the show, you know, to has 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. Yes, I mean, luckily I haven’t taken animal killing into my own life. I think that would be a bad thing for my dog. Yes, yes.
Seth Gabel: For Cotton I think what’s changed him so much from the drinking brother-goer of last season, I think the biggest thing that’s liberated him is the death of his father. I think 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, it 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 caught into kind of put the drink down and convinced him to believe in himself and 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.
Gives him the strength to become even braver and take-on the witches and try to stop the second act of the grand right from being completed.
What about the evolution of the relationship between Cotton and Anne, which we’re all rooting for, even though Anne has put a love spell on him? Can you talk about working together in this new way this season and if there any hope for them after Cotton finds out as well as whether that will be in the finale?
Tamzin Merchant: Well, we can’t tell you. You’ll have to watch on Sunday.
Seth Gabel: Yes, Sunday, I don’t think anyone will be able to predict what happens on Sunday. It’s definitely a major event. I think it’s satisfying for the course of this season’s run and sets-up what a Season 3 could be about.
I personally have loved getting to work with Tamzin in this capacity just because she’s such a brilliant actor or actress and also a reactor. You can kind of throw anything at her and she’ll dish it right back so there isn’t too much improving in the language of, you know, 1692 period but we do. We try to mix it up and Tamzin’s always right there.
Tamzin Merchant: I’m blushingm 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 like an education and it’s been a really, really grueling experience.
Seth Gabel: Yes, you’ve learned what not to do from me.
Tamzin Merchant: Ha ha, no, what I love about Anne and Cotton as well is that there’s a bit of lightness there and there is hope and Anne always kind of stood for hope in my mind in the town of Salem and in the show and Cotton, you know, she sees in Cotton what he can’t see in himself, and that is a really beautiful thing.
And I think that despite the betrayal that Anne kind of wreaks really on Cotton by putting a love spell on him, I think that despite that, 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, I think, and creating that with Seth has been a really wonderful thing. It’s been a gift.
Seth Gabel: But there’s a lot to overcome. I mean, 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. We’ll see if Cotton can forgive in the end where and that Anne even really wants to be with him.
Can you maybe tease something that’s coming up in the finale that you’re excited for people to see without spoiling too much?
Tamzin Merchant: I don’t want to spoil anything.
Seth Gabel: Yes, I mean, there’s a great confrontation between Anne and Cotton.
Seth Gabel: Yes, and there’s definitely something that happens that is going to shock everyone.
Tamzin Merchant: Yes, yes.
Seth Gabel: And we are very excited for people to see that. It’s disturbing and awesome.
Tamzin Merchant: Yes.
Seth Gabel: There’s the whole Oliver Bell having turned into possibly the devil himself and then kind of the closing act of the 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.
Tamzin Merchant: Yes, exactly, exactly, you just have to turn on the TV and just strap in basically. Things are going to get crazy.
Seth Gabel: It should be very fast hour of TV, so much is going to happen.
Tamzin Merchant: Yes, it’s a really fast hour. It’s going to get pretty hot by the end of things I think you could say. We’ll just leave it at that, maybe.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.