EXCLUSIVE | 'Motherland: Fort Salem' star Taylor Hickson on the show's attempt to showcase real Wiccan culture
In an exclusive with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), Hickson shed light on what the audience could expect and the hopes she harbors for a potential Season 2
One of the new shows that had Twitter abuzz after the pilot episode was Freeform's 'Motherland: Fort Salem'. Created by Laurence Elliot, the fantasy-supernatural thriller is set in a world where humans and witches co-exist.
It follows three young women from basic training in combat magic into early deployment in a women-dominated world in which the US ended the persecution of witches 300 years ago after an agreement.
The witches fight the battles for the country making them a new breed of superheroes. And one of the three young women is Taylor Hickson's Raelle Collar — a rebellious, feisty witch with authority issues.
Soon after the debut of the show, MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) caught up with the star to talk about the response to the show, her character and her dynamics with co-stars Jessica Sutton and Ashley Nicole Williams.
Did you know 'Motherland: Fort Salem' has a 100% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes? And this is just considering the pilot episode is out? Was this the kind of response you saw coming?
Not that it's always a bit of pushback (laughs). Especially because we're opening up so many hard conversations just in the pilot. There are very uncomfortable issues to talk about, but I think that's a great way to see improvements in society and media.
We've already touched on women versus women, what emotional repression and toxic masculinity look like, LGBT representation. We touched base on skin color, segregation, the divide between witches and civilians, which is very much a massive metaphor for segregation in today's world.
So, these are really tough things to talk about. And we knew there would be a bit of pushback from some areas, but then, the overall initial response has been incredibly positive. We're so grateful our viewers are really taking to it. We're really excited to see the enthusiasm from them.
How did 'Fort Salem' come about? And what were your thoughts on being part of the series?
That would be the best question I think for the brilliant mind that burst 'Motherland', Elliot Laurence. The way that they pitched it to us... upon receiving the pilot script, it was like reading an engaging dystopian novel. I had a million questions, I wanted to know more about this alternate history and I love him (Laurence).
'Motherland' pushes boundaries. These real relevant issues and history come together to make a very strange love child. And, off the bat, you see the empowerment of a very heavy female presence driving the narrative.
So that initial gender role reversal, that was so apparent on reading through the first couple pages of the script, it was definitely seductive as a female in the film.
We're all signing for those roles that are something other than secondary roles, like a girlfriend, the sister, or the wife. These female characters are driving the story. That's incredibly attractive as a young female actor.
What we do know about Raelle is she’s out there to prove a point and never backs down from a fight. What more can you tell us about the character?
Raelle is very jaded, guarded and very intense. She really loves to push back with authority. She's very reckless in her mindset. She speaks about taking herself to the front lines and getting blown up because she feels that she's condemned to the same state as her mother, so she might as well get it over with after her mother's passing.
I really feel that she doesn't feel she has much to live for anymore. And that's why she has such an emotional party with her dad because you're not entirely sure that she's going to come back home to him.
So I think that conflicts her incredibly. In all cases, I would say the primary motivation for Raelle is her mother's death. So at first, you see her being very reckless and therefore she's in a total mode of self-destruction. And then as the story develops, her arc becomes more about making her mother proud as she begins to feel heard, validated and valued.
She's starting to feel special in honing her craft. She wants to make her mother proud. And then of course, as some obstacles come along and she's taking hurdles and more setbacks, I think she becomes quite angry again.
Do you agree the series makes an honest attempt in capturing the themes of the Wiccan culture?
We're so proud of our portrayal and the homage paid to Wiccan culture. It's such a widely misunderstood community. So we're working diligently to break that image of the cackling green witch and share the truth about what they stand for. So it's very much about community growth, healing, coming together, self-care, love and empowerment. I think the idea of the witch has been so demonized in folklore and media.
Even today, in all the shows out there, it's a much more far-fetched approach. We want to take a much more grounded road to witchcraft and its portrayal. So, there's a lot more of incantation, chanting and vocalizations and healing rather than us shooting sparkles out of our fingertips and having green skin and a hooked nose. We wanted it to feel a lot more authentic and believable and also pay tribute to a misunderstood community.
What was it like working with your co-stars Jessica Sutton and Ashley Nicole Williams?
We've been getting a lot of comments on our live interviews about our chemistry that we're all a little bit obsessed with each other. It's never serious, which is sometimes a problem, I think because we would often miss focus. We'd get goofy after working for 12 to 16 hours a day. At the end of a hard week, we're just tired.
Our team is so lovely and when we really came to work together, it was beautiful. We were all incredibly present and we were always giving each other something to work off of because a lot of these scenes can be very grueling or very emotionally and physically demanding.
Having these kind or angry scenes shows a lot of emotional pressure between the characters. I can't thank them enough for always being present even when the shot wasn't on them.
My chemistry with Amalia [Holm] too, was like working on two different shows, working with her and then working with the other two girls. So it really allows a safe space for Raelle to be vulnerable with the Scylla. There are so many great dynamics within this series and I had so much fun as an actor getting to play with all of them.
While it’s a little too early to ask, can we expect a Season 2?
We're hoping as much as you are! With the illness going around, obviously that would be a bit of a setback for us in terms of walking into the actual filming and development of Season 2. So, fingers crossed there, but, we've always remained optimistic. We always talk as if we're going into Season 2.
The plan is we're going forward until we can fully gather information, see the response from viewers and the network. Until then, we're just remaining hopeful and staying excited. In the midst of all this chaos, the upside that we're looking at is more people will be at home, binge-watching TV. So hopefully they'll enjoy some new witch content.