Motherland: Fort Salem creator Eliot Laurence is a visionary when it comes to queer representation, bold & fierce female characters, and world building. Because of him and his team, we’ve been gifted with Raylla, Tally Craven, Abigail Bellweather, and so much more.
We got a chance to speak to Eliot Laurence in an exclusive interview where we broke down love, loss, and being a badass witch on Motherland: Fort Salem! And when you’re done with this interview, make sure to hop on over to Twitter and let Freeform how much you love Motherland: Fort Salem and how much you want a season 2!
1. How has it been bringing to life such a queer and feminist show? What have you learned about yourself from it?
Wow, great question. I guess, just how much I like to be surrounded by brilliant creators, who happen to be female, whether it be in front of the camera or behind it. I think what I’ve learned more than anything is that my happy place is to be surrounded by a lot of brilliant women and just bathing in the way women work with each other; which feels kind of different. And I guess working on the show confirms my inclinations in a way that’s been really fun.
2. As a queer person, how has the Raelle and Scylla positive response been for you?
It’s so cool, I mean we’ve gotten so much love on social media for having that relationship. And a lot of that gratitude goes right to our network for not ever questioning that in any way. We feel lucky to be doing a show with Freeform and have that not be a thing. But there it is, Raylla, right out front. And even though it’s right up front there, there’s also a flavor in the show of the whole queer vibe, all of that stuff gets blurry under the big label of witch. Here are these young people, and their lives are perscribed for them, so under that banner things get… there’s that scene with Abigail where, just to entertain herself, she tells these two guys to makeout, and it’s not suddenly, “Oh, they’re bi or gay or anything.” It’s just kind of all blurry under the matriarchy that is the military in this show. So, I love that because it feels especially queer and flipped and fun.
3. This episode we saw Raelle confront the reality of what Scylla is. Could you tell us a little about what’s going through her head; especially during that look alike fight scene?
I mean, the painful questions are weighing on Raelle. “Was anything we had freaking real?” and “Were you playing me the whole time?” or “Was I just the perfect mark for you?” So, I think there’s a part of Raelle, as hurt as she is, that wants to believe that some of it is real. And because we get to see the show from Scylla’s point of view, I think we know that it is. And she fell in love with her mark.
As for that fight scene, Raelle just feels done. At a certain point Raelle knows it’s not Scylla, but she’s gonna use that to get it out of her system and try to have some sort of closure. Which, of course, isn’t going to be possible because this is TV. But she’s trying to exorcise it, and do her duty during that moment.
4. Abigail dealt with the loss of her adversary Libba in this episode. Why did she take it so hard, in your opinion?
Because she always hated her. Abigail hated Libba’s guts for so many years. And some of it was based on their own history as much as it was based on family rivalries for ever and ever. And I think in that moment we see Abigail grow up to the fact of what a waste that was. “I could’ve known who you were as a person. What was all of this performed rivalry, all about at the end of the day, when we are all facing life and death? It’s a military show. Stakes are high. “Why were we doing any of that? Why were we not supporting each other?” Just waking up to that, it’s where Abigail’s coming from there.
5. Tally has grown by leaps and bounds in season one of Motherland: Fort Salem. What can we expect from her now that she’s realized Fort Salem isn’t what she believed it was?
Everyone’s growing up in a way. Like Tally, she’s just that optimism, which will never truly die. You’ll see it almost die, a lot. You’ll see a slope for the rest of this season. You’re going to see even more of it. But because she’s Tally, she’s always going to have her empathy at the end of the day. She’s most defined by that, and her curiosity, which always shines through when it comes to her.
6. How are trans and non-binary witches included in Motherland: Fort Salem?
That’s a fantastic question, and part of the world building that I want to bring in on the show if we are lucky enough to continue. We don’t know anything official yet. We feel very positive, and we get so much love from Freeform, but there’s nothing official. But that is absolutely part of the conversation I want to have in season two, because it is a show about gender. It’s about a lot of things; you could make a list of all the different things this show is about. But gender is so up there, and what a fascinating way to get into that.
7. One of the signature moves for the Fort Salem witches is stomping. What does the stomping mean?
Well, it’s not even that it means some sort of crazy thing, it’s just a different world, so I’m always looking for ways to, not necessarily hit you on the head with how alternate it is. I mean, one thing that people notice is that the cellphone thing hasn’t really happened. Mobile devices really haven’t happened, and it’s sort of in that time frame. But I’m always looking for other ways. There’s something about stomping that felt more badass. At the end of the day I’ll always go for badass. And, it just felt a little more extra than clapping, which sounded polite for these fierce warrior women. In this world it just grew out that way.
8. Could the same thing be said for the braids that a lot of them wear?
Yeah, we did a lot of research on witchcraft when it came to this and there’s a lot of magic in braiding and knotting, and so I imagined the yesteryear where mothers were sending their daughters into war and braiding their hair as a way to protect them. And weaving protection in their hair and how that stuck as a tradition. Also, it just looks really cool, so then we get badass and historical at the same time.
9. What about Motherland: Fort Salem merch? Are people going to be able to buy the jackets or the charms because there’s big interest online for Motherland Merch?
I appreciate you telling me this, because I’m not a big social media guy and the network has been very kind to tell me positivity, but I did not know that. We have been thinking about that. I’ve been thinking about that from day one. For example, the charm, like Raelle’s charm. What about other charms? I think people would buy that. Imagine General Alder dolls? Or Funko Pops.
I really think we should do this. And I want to explore and build up on other ways to tell the Motherland story. I’m thinking about graphic novels, and at one time I tried to do it as a novel. So there’s a lot of witch stuff to unveil and I’m excited to do more.
10. What are you doing to keep grounded during quarantine?
I try to walk every day, but then I have these days where I’m like, “I don’t need to walk today.” And then suddenly it’s like three days where I didn’t walk. And then I start to go crazy, so that is good for me, making myself go out and do things, reaching out to people who need help, doing some house work, and a lot of cooking.
Motherland: Fort Salem airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on Freeform.