Janet Montgomery has gotten used to stepping into the past.
The British actress has done contemporary roles in such shows as CBS’ “Made in Jersey” and FOX’s “Human Target,” but she goes back to the era of the famed Witch Trials as central sorceress Mary Sibley in “Salem,” the edgy drama series premiering Sunday (April 20) on WGN America.
Before arriving at the re-creation of the Massachusetts town that actually was built in Louisiana, Montgomery made a brief stop at another famous location. In the recent Season 4 finale of PBS’ “Downton Abbey” (televised in England earlier as its Christmas episode), she played Freda Dudley Ward, a real-life socialite and Prince of Wales mistress whose efforts to retrieve a missing letter came to involve the Crawley family.
“I had such a good time,” Montgomery tells Zap2it of her “Downton” stint. “It’s such a fun show to be part of, and such a large cast. Michelle [Dockery] was wonderful; I only had one scene with her, but I’ve seen her a couple of times since and we’ve sort of become friends.
“It’s a good group of people, and the show itself is very stylized and cool,” notes Montgomery. “If you’re an English actor and you’re asked to do an episode — especially the Christmas episode — of ‘Downton Abbey,’ you can’t turn it down. It’s like, ‘Of course!'”
Many famous fans of “Downton Abbey,” from Kirstie Alley to Carol Burnett, have expressed how much they’d love to be on the show. Montgomery admits that actually getting that call is “amazing, also to know that I was going to get to see Maggie Smith do her thing. You’re hoping that you brush shoulders with her, just to get a little bit of her talent.
“Also, Shirley MacLaine is one of my favorite actresses, so it was really exciting. To see those older actresses really bring it, it’s frightening to me, they’re just so good.”