The Light from the TV Shows: Chatting with the Cast of WGN’s ‘Salem’

For years, WGN has been a network that’s gotten precious little notice from most cable subscribers outside of Chicago, but in recent years, they’ve been trying to expand their viewership through moves like, for instance, serving as the exclusive U.S. home of the long-running Canadian comedy, Corner Gas. Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the ratings-grabber that they’d hoped it might be, but things are on the upswing now that the network has branched out and begun their own original programming, kicking off their new roster with the supernatural period-piece drama Salem.

Bullz-Eye was invited to visit the set a few weeks back, and we were amazed at how well they’ve captured the look and feel of the era, but we were a little bit thrown when we discovered that our interview ops with the cast members were to be done on camera…even if we weren’t going to be using the footage! Still, we had four very nice chats during the course of the day, each featuring two cast members, and we got a bit of insight into how each of them came to join the series, who their characters are, and what we can expect from Salem as the series rolls through its first season.

XB-Salem

Xander Berkeley and Tamzin Merchant

Bullz-Eye: Had you both been actively looking for series work when this came about?

Xander Berkeley: Serious work or series work? [Laughs.]

Tamzin Merchant: I’m always constantly looking for work wherever! I’m always surprised if anyone wants to cast me in something. [Laughs.] I’m always, like, “Really? Okay! Cool! I’ll do it!”

BE: What was it about this particular project that appealed to you?

TM: That they wanted to hire me. [Laughs.] No, I’m joking. I just loved the script, and I loved the world. I loved that the magic meets history, and…it’s been really cool for that reason.

BE: Xander, you actually had some hesitations about signing onto the series at first.

XB: Well, you know, partly because I have a family, and it’s a long way away, so I was a little concerned on that front. My wife (Sarah Clarke) acts and works a lot, and there were certain projects that were pending for her, and we can’t both be away. So those were the only real concerns. The script was spellbinding from day one, and the project is awesome. I’m so glad to be part of it.

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Driving a Porsche from the Hertz Dream Collection

It had been yet another long week of cold 20-degree weather and snow. Spring and warm sunny days seemed to be a cruel fantasy. The cold had me stalking the house, grumbling and moody, to the point where the dogs just stayed out of my way. Then my savior came in the form of an email: “Hey, are you available to go to Florida for four days to attend Porsche and Hertz’s press trip to Sebring?” You’re damn right I was!

It was a system shock: leaving cold and snowy Cleveland, and two hours later deplaning in sunny Orlando. Hertz had provided a beautiful black 2014 Porsche Cayman coupe for my stay. It was my first time behind the wheel of the new Cayman. Like all Porsches, it was fast, drove like a slot car, and made me feel like a race car driver on holiday. I got several compliments on my car during my stay in Florida. I felt a bit guilty. After all, it wasn’t my car. Buy a shiny black Porsche if you want to be a mini-celebrity.

This highlights the Hertz’s Dream Car collection, where any citizen with a credit card can rent for the weekend a series of highly desirable super cars. Depending on the location, Porsches, Ferraris and even Lamborghinis are available for hire for the right price. Hertz has a long history of loaning out the era’s fastest cars. In the ‘60s, the famous Shelby GT350H “Rent-a-Racer” could be had for a weekend on the track. The Dream Car is a modern interpretation of that idea.

Of all the makes in the Dream Car collection, Porsche and Hertz seem to be the best-suited partnership. Porsches are driver’s cars that have a unique quality in supercars: they’re comfortable and practical, which make them great rental vehicles. Both Porsche and Hertz focus on the driver’s experience. Renting a Porsche for the weekend gives you a luxury car that’s designed to be driven, not coddled and babied like some of the Italian ilk.

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Bullz-Eye on location at Daytona 500 with Jimmie Johnson

Paul Eide Jimmie Johnson

I have never been a NASCAR fan. For a guy who loves sports, I knew more about curling than I did NASCAR. I could never understand why watching cars making hundreds of laps was so popular.

Then I attended the 2014 Daytona 500 in Jacksonville, Florida courtesy of Lowe’s and my life changed. I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve watched each of the ensuing races in Phoenix and Las Vegas, intently. We interviewed 21-year old rookie Kyle Larson since then and my respect for him, and the sport, is through the roof.

The highlight of the trip? Meeting six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and Lowe’s driver Jimmie Johnson.

Prior to meeting Jimmie Johnson, I had no frame of reference for his level of success or how historically dominant he has been working alongside Crew Chief Chad Knaus.

It was only after someone aptly explained that Knaus is the Bill Belichick to Johnson’s Tom Brady (though they’ve been twice as successful in terms of championships) did I realize how much they’d accomplished as a team. Here’s Jimmie and I, laughing about our favorite recipes:

Paul Eide Jimmie Johnson Interview

After I met and briefly interviewed Johnson, I was fortunate to be invited into the Lowe’s pit for the start of the race.

Jimmie-Johnson-Pit-Daytona-500

The thing that impressed me the most was the sound. When you’re standing in the pit, you hear this groaning sound in the distance, like a gathering thunderstorm, and then all of the sudden… BOOM! The entire field explodes right in front of you, a mix of colors and shapes that you can barely discern. Then, they’re gone again and the sound dissipates to a low hum.

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Booth Babes at 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show

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We were back in Frankfurt this year on location for the motor show, and like before we have a great booth babe gallery for your viewing pleasure. As usual, the booths with the Italian cars had some of the most impressive eye candy with Lamborghini getting plenty of attention as usual, but there were great models at all the booths. The concept cars and new car models usually got the most attention in terms of beautiful women helping to show them off.

The 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show had some impressive new vehicles revealed like the Porsche 918 supercar and the Ferrari 458 Speciale, so check back for our coverage here and at Dashboard News.

  

Watkins Glen International: Why NASCAR fans have the most fun

Impossibly fast.

With a revolving mixture of amusement and awe, those two words became a chorus in my head, going off like clockwork as each lap unraveled and 43 of the world’s best NASCAR drivers roared past the finish line and screamed into turn 1.

I was leaning against the railing of Zippo’s viewer-friendly suite in Watkins Glen, New York, for the annual NASCAR event that consistently draws tens of thousands of gung-ho fans. Aside from checking out Zippo’s current endeavors (which are stellar) and cataloguing the races themselves, an additional chunk of my focus at the Glen was to find out exactly what it is about NASCAR that has propelled it to remain an absolute juggernaut in the world of spectator sports.

Is the hype justified? Do the legions of diehard fans, movies and media coverage actually represent a sport deserving of such a pedestal? Many would scoff and issue a flippant dismissal, rebutting that NASCAR is simply a redneck obsession that has nonsensically acquired its popularity.

Having avoided any groundless perspectives, I was an unbiased sponge before my arrival; ready to soak in the scene and hammer out some concrete conclusions. To make a long story short: the naysayers have it wrong – very wrong.

“The Glen”

Watkins Glen International is by all means in the country, which for us meant a rolling and scenic cruise from the Buffalo Airport.

Fate had bestowed our driver with two notable characteristics: an encyclopedia-deep knowledge of upstate New York, including the Glen, and a superhuman ability to maintain unbelievably casual conversation despite vigorously tailgating any car that deviated below the assigned speed.

Given our empty stomachs and the familiar anticipation that any traveler feels before arrival, I wholeheartedly appreciated his quirks.

You begin to sense the immensity of the Glen even before you enter the gates. Signs that designate parking and directions slowly start to pepper the side of the road, tirelessly providing a first wave of guidance and defense to the most assured calamity that was already coalescing.

Gate 2, our drop-off point, was bustling with the quintessential festival entrance proceedings, complete with walkie-talkie clad workers, stop-and-go traffic and lots of chatter. Above us, in the distance, mammoth grandstands loomed.

After bidding farewell to our driver, our Zippo rep, Hunter, arrived moments later and we transitioned ourselves into his Jeep for the final voyage to camp, or as I like to call it, Ground Zero.

It didn’t take long to realize Hunter was friendly, down to earth and adept – a great ambassador for what was to be a hearty weekend.

Upon entering camp, which was at non-event dates a sprawling grassy area, crisscrossed by dirt roads and encompassed completely by the road course, I realized several things almost immediately. For one, my North Face and loafers, indiscernible at SFO, were now about as out of place and impractical as Hannah Anderson’s pajamas bottoms amidst the Montana forest. Too soon?

Also, I had widely underestimated the degree of revelry and madness, which reared its head wildly as we slowly rolled towards our spot. I found myself rubbernecking, hastily trying to take it all in.

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