I spoke with Sammi Hanratty about Salem, Seeds of Yesterday, Stalker, Remedy for the Dark Minded, her wonderful work with Smile Train and Starlight Foundation, and so much more. Sammi plays Dollie Trask in Salem, which returns on Sunday, April 5 on WGN America. It was an honor to speak with Sammi and learn more about her and her work. She is truly a brilliant actor and a remarkable human being. Do not miss the season premiere of Salem on Sunday at 10/9c on WGN America. Seeds of Yesterday premieres Sunday, April 12 at 8/7c on Lifetime.
Lena: You were in my favorite episode of Stalker. They really need to renew that show.
Sammi Hanratty: Thank you. It’s a really intense show.
Lena: Sleeping is overrated.
Sammi Hanratty: I know. It’s really good. I’m so glad you liked it.
Lena: How was it working on Stalker?
Sammi Hanratty: It was really great. It was kind of like their first episode because it was the first episode after the pilot. It was still very new for everyone, which was really awesome because I was glad to be a part of the experience of being part of one of the first episodes. Maggie Q was so sweet. We talked a little bit because I worked with Shane (West) over on Salem and they were both on Nikita together. I was texting Shane telling him that we were talking. It’s always the most fun atmospheres on sets like that. You wouldn’t expect it to be, but it always is.
Lena: Season two of Salem premieres on Sunday. Are you ready for the Witch War?
Sammi Hanratty: I am so ready for the Witch War. I actually saw the episode and it is so good. It’s one of my favorite episodes so far. I haven’t seen any of the other episodes for season two, but out of everything that I’ve seen it looks so good.
Lena: That’s good to hear. Are we going to have to wait to see Dollie again?
Sammi Hanratty: No, I will be in the first episode.
Lena: Dollie lost so many of the people close to her, so I’m sure we can expect to see a change in her and a change in her relationship with Mercy (Elise Eberle).
Sammi Hanratty: Oh, definitely! Mercy and I, I’ve become her closet accolade—she trusts me the most and I trust her. This season I start to really question Mercy and I start to question her mission when she tries to act revenge against Mary. She tries to sacrifice someone who I swore to protect. There is a bit of difficulty with our friendship this season. It’s fun because Elise, who plays Mercy, is actually one of my best friends. Every time that something gets a little intense between us on set we always apologize.
Lena: It must be so great to bring a character like Dollie to life?
Sammi Hanratty: It definitely is. Any of these characters, who were once characters way back in the day, it’s always really cool to step back in history. Once you get into wardrobe and step on set, you really do feel like you are in the late 1600s. It’s such a different vibe to the set than any other set that I’ve been on just because of that.
Lena: They really do a fantastic job bringing viewers into that world.
Sammi Hanratty: The hair, makeup, wardrobe, set design—everything that goes into every little detail—it’s really special to be a part of that where they care so much about every detail.
Lena: The costumes are beautiful. I want to raid Mary’s (Janet Montgomery) closet.
Sammi Hanratty: I know! I think I’m going to have a corset made for me, so I can start wearing it on the red carpet. I want to bring back the corset. [Laughing]
Lena: Speaking of how the set really sets the mood, has anything really creepy happened while you were on location?
Sammi Hanratty: Not to me, but I guess a lot of people have gotten hurt. I think it is just people being clumsy and I’ll pretend that it’s not any witches or anything doing things to us. If I do a scene where I have to chant anything—I’ll pray beforehand, just in case.
Lena: Prior to your role as Dollie, were you familiar with Salem and that era?
Sammi Hanratty: I read about it, mainly for dialect purposes. I wanted to make sure that I spoke properly. That was interesting because in season one I was playing fifteen, while I was eighteen and I had to have a proper way of speaking but still sound like a fifteen year old would. Once you get in costume it really does take you back to the 1600s. It’s not very hard to get into character and dive into the world of Salem.
Lena: The show has some really horrific elements to it. Which scene or scenes really made your skin crawl?
Sammi Hanratty: The peeling off of faces and planting them to trees, that always gave me the heebie-jeebies. Honestly, watching my friends, because they were my friends in real life as well, getting hanged. That was a bit difficult to watch. It was sad and something that was sad because it really takes you back to the days when that would happen. Even if people were innocent—that’s what would happen. I think that just put me in shock watching it. The way they filmed it was so realistic as well. It was so intense. The one that gave me the most heebie-jeebies was in the pilot when they stone that man to death. They pressed him with the stones, as they get too heavy. That was pretty nasty.
Lena: There are definitely a lot of brutal deaths on that show—the torture scenes and that poor bunny.
Sammi Hanratty: Is it bad that I feel worse for the animals than I do for the humans? Every time they do something with these animals I’m like, “NO!”
Lena: I’m the same way. “No, not the bunny!”
Sammi Hanratty: I know. “No, not the bunny!”
Lena: This season you also have Lucy Lawless and Stuart Townsend joining the cast.
Sammi Hanratty: They are awesome. Lucy is awesome. I just recently worked with her and she’s so sweet. We talked about one of her hobbies, which is watching trials. She likes going to courthouses and watching trials. We mainly just talked about things like that because I’m really into watching cases like Casey Anthony or Jodi Arias. I find them interesting, so we spent pretty much all day talking about those two trials. It was actually a really good time.
Lena: It sounds like it’s going to be a really exciting season.
Sammi Hanratty: I know. The Witch War begins.
Lena: You are in Seeds of Yesterday, which premieres on Lifetime on April 12th. It’s the end of the saga. How do you think the movies compare to the books? Did you get a chance to read them?
Sammi Hanratty: Actually, I didn’t get a chance to read them. I like to stick with scripts because I never want to get something in my head from a book that we may not be doing. I definitely want to read the books now that I’m done filming to see how they compare. I want to start from the beginning of the series. I watched Flowers in the Attic; I read the book. I actually auditioned for Petals on the Wind. It’s so interesting. I love history when it comes to how they film it. I loved all of the different times that they’ve gone through since Flowers in the Attic until now. Now, we are in the 90s, which is really fun because I got to wear some pretty cute outfits. I play this shameless flirt who likes twirling around older men—she like twirling them around her little finger. I act very sexual in the film and it’s something very different than I’ve done before. I usually play a brat that nobody like or an edgy teenager—I never really play the flirt. That was different and weird for me. That was interesting.
Lena: Yes, you’ve grown up on film.
Sammi Hanratty: I know. How cool is that? I watched a film I did called Hello Sister, Goodbye Life the other day because it’s on Netflix and it was crazy. I really have grown up on film. It’s been an honor to play every role that I have. It just keeps on getting more and more interesting as I get older playing different characters and I think I’m diving into characters more. I have a greater respect for the people that I play, so I get more excited about it even more than I did when I was younger, which was already a huge excitement to play different characters.
Lena: It’s also wonderful that you are working with Smile Train and the Starlight Foundation. Why did you choose to with those two charities?
[Smile Train has provided free cleft surgery for children in 87 countries.] http://www.smiletrain.org/
Sammi Hanratty: With Smile Train, just a little backstory, my dad is a pilot and we grew up with a small plane, which sounds pretty glamorous but something that people don’t know about me is that I grew up fairly poor. Not poor enough where we didn’t have a home, we were very fortunate, but people would have to bring us food for Thanksgiving and things like that. I grew up that way because my dad was going to dental school. My dad has always been the type to give back, he would fly dentists and doctors to do free medical and dental work and I grew up doing that with him. It was something that he instilled in me—to do good for other people even when you don’t have much, do as much as you can for others. He’s a dentist so that already got me interested in I guess the mouth and I was born without two of my laterals—two of my front teeth. I know the importance of a smile. When somebody looks at you that is the first thing that they see. If I can give that to another child, give them their smile back, then that is one of the best things that I could possibly do. A lot of kids’ childhoods are robbed from them because of it, especially in other countries where people don’t know or are not educated on what it is [cleft lip and cleft palate]. They think it’s a deformity or they think that they did something wrong and they are being punished for it. We go in and tell them why—that it is hereditary and there are a lot of things that go with it. They go in and fix it and it’s like saving somebody. They aren’t ostracized anymore. I’m really passionate about it. I’m really thankful because I’ve traveled to Mexico and I got to meet past patients and patients that were getting surgery. I watched them actually do some of the surgeries. I was there when the children were waking up and there with the families. I was so grateful. I’m going to be traveling with them to India this summer, hopefully, and to Brazil in the fall. It’s great because I’m also, kind of, getting a culture shock because I’m not going to these countries to go on the tours to see the beautiful parts. I want to go to the parts that people don’t see too often and see the actual living conditions. That’s why I am so passionate about Smile Train. They really have a huge place in my heart for multiple reasons other than it being amazing work.
Lena: That’s an inspiring story. You also work with the Starlight Foundation. http://www.starlight.org/
Sammi Hanratty: I’m also a Starling ambassador. I’ve always been passionate to have anything to do with kids. If I was ever sick and people cared enough to take some time out of their day to make my day better, I would be so grateful. That’s how I try to live my life. I have to try to make other people happy. I just love the galas that they have and the events with the kids. I’ll go in with Children’s Hospital Orange County and visit and it’s great because some of the events that I like are when the cameras aren’t rolling. It’s not about getting my picture taken because I’m doing this or that, it’s about I love doing this and I want to spend time with these people. I want to get to know them and understand what’s going on and hopefully make some friends that way as well. If I can make someone’s day or just be a teenager with another teenager and just have some fun—it’s great. The one thing that is great about social media is that I used to think that I want to be a part of these charities but I don’t want it to be publicized. I thought that way for a while and I thought that it took away from me being a part of the charity and I didn’t want it to ever seem like I was doing it just for publicity. I’ve recently realized that publicity is my best friend when it comes to my charities because this interview, hopefully someone reading it will want to know more about Smile Train and it will introduce them to it. The whole purpose is to get the word out there about Smile Train and Starlight. Thank you for asking questions about them.
Lena: Thank you for working with them. It’s so nice to hear what you have to say about them. You are a remarkable young woman.
Sammi Hanratty: Thank you so much.
Lena: Did you want to mention any other projects that you have coming up?
Sammi Hanratty: I’m just about to start filming my new project called Remedy for the Dark Minded. It’s a dark comedy and it’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait for everyone to start hearing about it.
Salem premieres Sunday, April 5 at 10/9c on WGN America.
Seeds of Yesterday premieres Sunday, April 12 at 8/7c on Lifetime
Connect with Sammi
Additional interview contributor: Elizabeth Wood
Sammi photo credit: Ricky Middlesworth Photography
Bunny photo credit: Patrick G. Keenan