Sammi Hanratty previews SALEM S2 and Lifetime’s SEEDS OF YESTERDAY

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Photo Credit: Ricky Middlesworth

If you’ve watched TV or movies over the past 10 years, chances are, you’ve seen the face of Sammi Hanratty (my personal favorite being young Chuck on PUSHING DAISIES). That familiar face has a big April this year as Season 2 of her WGN America show SALEM hits your screens Easter Sunday (sounds like Dollie has some tough decisions to make), and the long awaited premiere of the fourth movie in the Lifetime/Dollanganger series, SEEDS OF YESTERDAY, premieres April 12 (she plays Cathy’s daughter Cindy).  I spent some time talking with Sammi about the show and about the movie, but we also talked about where her passions lie off screen, and how she feels about LoVe. Read on for more!

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Photo Credit: Ricky Middlesworth

I want to first talk about the VC Andrews movie on Lifetime, SEEDS OF YESTERDAY.  When I read these books, I was probably 10 years too young to be reading them, but I was obsessed!  What drew you to the movie – did you know of the books, were you a young reader of them too?
I knew about the books, I knew about FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC.  I didn’t realize that there were four.  I knew about FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC.  I auditioned for FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC, originally.  And then I ended up actually auditioning for PETALS IN THE WIND after that.  I ended up booking the role for SEEDS OF YESTERDAY [laughs].  Yeah, it’s a different kind of books series, and film, huh? [laughs]  I found it so interesting, following these lives, and what would happen if that was all you knew, and that was who you fell in love with.  When I first read the script for FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC.  It was interesting, that kind of pattern, following through this family, nowadays where it’s their children (Cathy and Christopher).  Bart, played by James Maslow, and myself, I play Cindy.  Their relationship, their love not being the normal brother and sister love [laughs].

These books seem to be perfect fits for Lifetime and seem to have been really embraced by the viewers / fans of the series.  Have you heard from fans about the movie and what they think?
People, even people who didn’t know who I was, who are fans of the books, and the films, have been excited from the get go.  They’ve been posting things from the very beginning, and I love being a part of something that people are excited about.  Even from the very beginning of pre-production, they’ve been sending me things and I think that’s really exciting when you have an audience that is passionate about it.  It gives you more passion behind wanting to make sure it turns out as good as possible.  I really am thankful – it’s a very different role than I’ve ever played before.  Cindy is a shameless flirt, who acts out sexually with men that she barely even knows.  She kind of wants to get the attention of them, but mainly she just wants the attention and wants to be wanted by her brother Bart.  It’s sort of different, as an actress, that’s always exciting. Any time it’s super different, it’s like “oh my gosh! Yay!”

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Photo Credit: Ricky Middlesworth

You’ve have quite a career, half your life you’ve been acting.  It’s like, haven’t you gotten to play this already?  But you’re right, it is something so different than what we’ve seen from you!  You get to branch out in different ways.
Yeah, this is the first time I’ve ever played, it sounds weird to say, for me, but it’s kind of like, the sexual girl, the flirt, the hot girl.  It’s my first time ever playing that, so to me, and I’m very different from Cindy.  Before I started filming, I’m like “oh my gosh, I have to kiss this guy it’s so awkward, oh my gosh” like freaking out internally while like “yeah, cool, we’re gonna kiss now!”  [laughs] I have a little bit different outlook on things than Cindy does, but that’s part of the fun of acting – being somebody completely different from who you are.  And also gives you a better appreciation of people.  That’s something I realized about acting – it gets you into the headspace of other people, and it makes me understand other people better because of this.  It is very different from what I’m used to, but I’m so happy to get to do that! [laughs]

DId you go back and read the books, or did you stick to the scripts primarily?
I haven’t read the books yet.  If something is based off of a book, I usually try to just stick with the script.  As many book fans as there are, they know that there are changes, changes with the script, so I always find it to be a little bit dangerous if you get caught up with what the book is, but I would be very interested to read it, after watching the film!

You talk about acting being a way to explore different people – is that what go you into it?  Was there a moment where you said “I want to act” to your parents?
To be completely honest, I’m the youngest of 5 girls, I have four sisters.  I was a bit of an attention-freak [laughs].  I always tried to entertain people, and wanted to see what kind of reaction I could get out of people.  Not in a negative way.  At age 2, I would be singing Shirley Temple, dancing around, and telling my mom that I was going to be on TV.  And she’s like, no you’re not!!  And I’m like, yes I am!  I kept begging her, until I was about 6, and she was like, okay, okay, okay, I’ll send your picture to an agency and we’ll see what happens.  They called a couple of days later, and that was then, and next thing I knew, I had an audition for a commercial.  I was filming the commercial, I booked it.  I had 6 runway shows lined up.  It moved really fast; it was not the norm at all, and that’s really how my career has been.  Not the norm, but it’s been such an unbelievably amazing ride.  I really, truly am so fortunate and thankful for every opportunity that I’ve had.

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Photo Credit: Ricky Middlesworth

And obviously, we have SALEM season 2 picking up April 5 – what comes next for Dollie?
It gets really, the show gets darker and sexier, and the Witch War is happening.  All of the witches are against Mary. It’s so cool.  I’m honestly, as an outsider, as a fan of the show, I’m excited to see the Witch War happen, but as someone who is a part of the show, I can talk a little bit about what goes on with Dollie this season. So Season 1, I lose everyone who is closest to me, besides Mercy.  I lose my mom earlier in the season, and I lose my best friend that I grew up with, they all get killed near the end of the season.  So my character kind of has to deal with all of that, and she starts to question Mercy.  She starts to question what Mercy is doing, and Mercy has this mission where her acts of vengeance requires sacrificing somebody, and I swore to protect that person, so there is a bit of questioning going on there.  Really, I’m quite interested – it will be really cool.  I’m excited to see what the audience thinks!

It was such a great cast in Season 1, and it’s getting even better this season with Lucy Lawless, Stuart Townsend, and the new names – what has that been like?
Lucy Lawless is amazing.  She’s wonderful.  She’s extremely talented and she is also SO great.  She’s super cool, and I worked with her just recently.  She’s really as normal as possible, ha.  We share similar interests in the criminal minds of people, so we were talking about different cases and different trials and what not, and we basically just spent an entire day talking about that.  Which was really fun; she’s wonderful.  It’s so great when you have talented people come together who are also kind people.  It’s rare and it’s fun, and it’s exciting to work with people like that.  It’s something that SALEM definitely has.  A lot of goodhearted people who love what they do, and who are really talented.

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Photo Credit: Ricky Middlesworth

I’m excited to see where it goes in Season 2. You said it gets darker, and it’s like, wow, can it get darker?
It gets DARKER!  It was such a warm fuzzy feeling show in Season 1 [laughs].  It’s darker, and like I said, I get excited because I am a fan of the show.  I watched the first episode the other day with Elise (Eberle), who plays Mercy on the show.  We’re friends in real life, thankfully, as well [laughs].  She’s actually one of my best friends.  We were watching it together, and I looked at her at the end of the episode, and I was like “[gasps] OH MY GOSH!” It’s like I KNOW!!!  We’re both acting like little girls watching our favorite show.

I think it’s important.  If the actors on the show aren’t fans of what they’re doing, audiences can tell.  And I think if you love what you do, and you love watching what you do, it makes the show even better!
Absolutely.  You have to be really passionate about it.  I don’t know how you can be passionate about it, and not want to watch it!  Some actors, it’s hard for you to watch yourself, but I really, truly do love the show, so I’m like, okay, we can put my face away – I can look at everyone else.

Do you have other shows that you sit down and must watch?
Oh yeah! I’m like actually a huge TV-aholic.  I LOVE TV.  I love THE WALKING DEAD.  I love CRIMINAL MINDS.  CRIMINAL MINDS is one of my favorite shows!!!  I love way too many TV shows.  CRIMINAL MINDS and WALKING DEAD.  And I loved RED BAND SOCIETY.

I thought that was a really sweet show!
I know!!  I get so bummed because I get really into TV shows, and I believe they announced that the show wasn’t going to go any further, and I cried [laughs].  I’m not going to sugar coat it!  I literally teared up and cried – I really love the show.

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Photo Credit: Ricky Middlesworth

I’m with you – I get invested in shows, and when they go away, it’s difficult to handle!
Especially shows nowadays where I binge watch something on Netflix and I’m like, wait, it’s over!  And actually over, over.  I’m like, what do I do now with my life?  Like VERONICA MARS!!  VERONICA MARS, I became the biggest fan of.  I binge watched the seasons, so hardcore, basically, all I did when I was in Canada filming SEEDS OF YESTERDAY, when I wasn’t on set, I was sitting down watching VERONICA MARS going oh my gosh oh my gosh, what is going to happen?  Are her and Logan Echolls together?  Are they together or not?? [laughs] That’s how I spent my entire time in Canada.

I think I’ve seen the movie now 10 times because I don’t want it to end!
I only saw it once and I need to rewatch it like 10 more times.  It’s so good.  I love VERONICA MARS.  I become such a fan girl over things!  It’s bad.  How all of the other girls react over the boy bands and stuff these days?  I’m that way over television [laughs]!!

I did want to ask about Starlight Children’s Foundation – are you still involved as their Ambassador?  What is involved there?
Yeah, I haven’t had many events recently that I’ve been able to attend, but I am still involved with them.  I’m still one of their ambassadors.  Starlight is really, really, really special to my heart.  I love anything that they allow you to be hands on, allow you to be basically a normal teenager.  One of my favorite things to do is to be able to be me, and to go and enjoy my day – whether we’re having a luau or going to a gala, or something that people can get dressed up and not think about their illness, and just think “Oh what kind of dress am I wearing tonight?  You know what I mean?  They get to think about what normal teenagers get to think and that’s so exciting for me.  I love it, too, because it’s the whole family.  It’s something that their brothers and sisters can come to, and it’s not a day of sickness.  It’s a day of being the beautiful person that you are, and I love that.  I love that.  I publicize a lot of my work with Starlight and what-not, but it’s not about the pictures or the this or the that that’s out there.  It’s nice to be able to be a teenager with other teenagers and even building friendships.  Friendships are so important and to be able to be there not as an actress, but just as a teenager who wants to hang out with them.  I was home-schooled, and a lot of the kids are too sick to be able to go to school, so it’s like, “Hey, look at that, we’re now friends!” [laughs]  We’re good.  I’m so involved with Starlight and I love what Starlight does.

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Photo Credit: Ricky Middlesworth

I also am really involved with Smile Train. Which is a charity that I’ve been recently traveling with.  I’m actually going to India this summer and Brazil in the fall and I already went to Mexico, where I’m about to post some photos from that.  I only got to spend a weekend there, but visiting past patients, and visiting patients who were about to go into surgery, standing there, getting scrubbed up, and watching the surgery, right in front of me.  I didn’t think I would be able to do that, because I didn’t know how I’d react to it, because everyone told me, you’re going to get squeamish, but I was really interested in it!

It’s a charity that’s really close to my heart for multiple reasons. One being, I was actually born without two of my front teeth, so I know the importance of a smile, and my dad’s a dentist, and I grew up to Mexico with my dad.  He would do this thing called Flying Samaritans, where he would fly dentists and doctors to Mexico to do free dental work and medical work.  A little backstory for me – I actually grew very, very poor.  My dad went to dental school in his 40s, and like I said, I’m one of 5 girls, so we didn’t have very much, and my dad was in school.  We were that family that, the school that my dad went to, the dental school, they would basically have these different programs where people would bring us food, for Thanksgiving and what not.  I’m really thankful that I grew up like that.  My mom and dad both instilled in me, that even if you don’t have very much, you still do for others.  You still give back!  I’m the type of person where, man, if I saw someone that was hungry, shoot, that’s their sandwich now.  I’m really thankful that that’s the way I grew up.  Now, I’m in the industry, that for a while there, I was questioning, I’m very religious, so I questioned for a while, why am I in this industry?  This industry can be very toxic, and there is a lot of negativity that surrounds it, and I questioned for a while, why does my passion lie here?  I know this sounds kind of cheesy, but I really feel like in the moment God kind of spoke to me, and was like I’m in an industry that allows me a certain say or “power” and I can bring light to the charities of Smile Train and Starlight and I can bring to who knows – whoever is reading this interview, could possibly not know about Smile Train or Starlight, and it brings awareness to that, so I’m trying remember the good part of social media with that, as well! [laughs]

I don’t know where she’ll end up next, but we’ll be watching!

SALEM premieres April 5 at 10PM and will air Sundays on WGN America this spring.
SEEDS OF YESTERDAY wraps up the FITA/Dollanganger Series on Lifetime April 12.