It's safe to say we're enchanted by the cast of Salem, WGN's first original series (and our latest guilty pleasure) that premiered its second season last night. In addition to fashion blogger Ashley Madekwe—not to mention our high school crush Shane West—the show also stars Janet Montgomery, who you've seen dancing alongside Natalie Portman in Black Swan, dating Paul Rudd in Our Idiot Brother and assisting Kevin Connolly on Entourage. Now, get to know the stylish English actress in her latest bewitching role.
How would you describe your personal style? "I love fashion, but I'm always aware of comfort. Plus, I hate spending a fortune on dry cleaning, so now my big thing [is], 'Can I wash this myself?' because I've ruined too many things. I love a tuxedo pant, really nice T-shirts and sweaters. I'm a big sneaker girl—I have three nephews who are obsessed with all my sneakers. I have Givenchy and Maje sneakers I just love. I'm pretty easy, I have a laid-back style."
Can you describe the process of transforming into Mary Sibley? "Joseph [Porro] goes full-out with my character. We never do a repeat—kind of like Joseph in his personal life. I've never seen him wear the same thing twice. I think he lives vicariously through Mary. I usually have a pair of tights, three skirts, two corsets and then my jewelry, which always goes on afterwards [and] we sometimes have to sew it into place. Fifteen minutes is probably the least amount of time it takes [to get dressed]. I always prefer something lightweight that I can move around in. It's never easy to move around in a corset and a massive skirt, but something sort of lighter helps. [I also wear] a chatelaine, which is a real pain. It's gorgeous, but it digs into you if you sit down. This season, I wore a ruff around my neck for the first time. When I first put it on, I felt like it was wearing me because I hadn't worn something so big and regal, [but] I actually started to sort of enjoy it. Something about a high-neck I really love. Joseph steps me out of my comfort zone, for sure."
The beauty on the show is very minimal. How does it compare to your own routine? "When I first took the show, my usual go-to was eye makeup: eye liner or something to make my eyes pop. And I obviously don't do that on the show, but after seeing your face without it for awhile, it feels weird to put it on. I've actually started to embrace just doing a bit of concealer, a nice blush and some mascara and keeping it really simple like we do for Mary. I like that look on myself now."
When it comes to the fantasy element of the show, how do you get into character? "It's really just putting yourself into a situation and finding ways to relate to it. I've never killed another human being so I worked with a great acting coach and we discussed the scenes—what have I done? I kill flies no problem. If I see a fly and it's struggling, then I feel so guilty but I don't want it around annoying me when I'm trying to eat my sandwich. I have to try and rationalize things in that way so I can then understand where my character is coming from."
What is the one part of the wardrobe or beauty process that helps you get into character the most? "I'd say the corset. I have terrible posture, especially as someone who danced for years, but I like to make myself invisible a lot and so I hunch over a bit. Mary doesn't do that, and it instantly gives me no choice but to pull up and feel more powerful. It changes the way I stand and therefore the way I feel about myself—taller and stronger. As much as I hate it after 12 hours, it definitely helps me get into character."
Of all the roles you've played, is there a character you relate to the most? "If your acting is coming from the right place, it's coming from something that's going on with you as well or something that you've experienced. I watched the trailer for Made in Jersey, a show I did years ago for which I played a sassy lawyer from New Jersey, and thought, 'Wow, I was so giggly and smiley;' that was my go-to. Mary's very different—there's a maturity that's happened in my work and my personality almost. Each character has brought out something different in my own personality, so I don't think there is one that is more similar to me than any other because they're all different parts of my soul."
See more of Montgomery in Salem, which airs Sunday nights at 10pm EDT on WGN. Get caught up by streaming the first season on Netflix, here.