Taylor Hickson hints at a darker, more emotional season two of ‘Motherland: Fort Salem’

MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM - "Up is Down" - (Freeform/David Bukach) TAYLOR HICKSON

Taylor Hickson, known for her work in Deadpool and Deadly Class, is back as Raelle Collar in the Freeform hit show Motherland: Fort Salem. The show is premiering its second season tonight and Taylor couldn’t be more proud of the work that the cast and crew put into this show, especially during a pandemic.

Created by ”Claws” creator Eliot Laurence and executive produced by Will Ferrell, Motherland: Fort Salem follows three young women from basic training in combat magic into early deployment in a women-dominated world in which the U.S. ended persecution of witches 300 years ago after an agreement. Taylor stars as Raelle, a reluctant recruit with major authority issues that continues to navigate her relationship with fellow witch Scylla.

Check out my Q & A with Raelle herself, Taylor Hickson.

How does it feel to have a season two?

Taylor: Honestly I’ve gathered myself up a little bit because this is my third TV series I’ve ever done and I got really lucky. Third time’s the charm because I finally got a second season. It’s such a great show and I’m so proud of it. I’m really happy that we get to share more of the story with everybody. 

Did COVID affect filming?

Taylor: Yeah, drastically. Actually, I’d say some of it was almost for the better and some was just very different. We owe a huge thank you to the crew. I think there were like 90 plus productions shooting last fall and winter and I think we were the only one that didn’t get shut down from positive tests. So, we kept going the whole way through, we never had to shut down and that’s to the very meticulous care of our crew. And we were zoned off much of the time so it was really, really interesting and I wish I got to spend more time with our departments that work their butts off and make this happen during a global pandemic but strangely, I’d say much of it was positive. It created a very unique intimacy with the crew. We were testing three times a week, we had a new department drafted under health and safety to take our masks before every take and shield us up when we’d cut. So like, really small details like that that really kept us safe, and everyone was just working really hard as a team to protect each other. And we were being respectful and responsible outside of work too. It’s really just owed to everyone. Our hours were cut quite a bit shorter, which was interesting, so we shot for a few months longer than season one, but oddly it went by faster and we had such a fantastic team this season, like I can’t say that enough but I truly think you’ll see that reflected in the work of season two.

What are you allowed to reveal about season two?

Taylor: I mean, I’m allowed to let you know the premiere date, which is June 22 on Freeform and it’ll be available the next day on Hulu. The threats are definitely even more dangerous, the stakes are even higher and we have lots of new characters joining us. I’m so excited for everyone to meet them. I mean I created some really really close bonds with the people that joined us this season. We’re gonna lean into Tally’s choices about becoming a Biddy and what that means for her, what it means for Alder, Abigail and Raelle are going to deal with the results of the witch bomb and what it means for them. Anacostia and Scylla team up which is awesome, I think everyone’s gonna have a lot of enthusiasm about that because I know I did. And the unit actually begins war college, so you get to meet their coven. There’s a lot I wish I could tell you about it all because I was so shocked and it sent me spinning for a loop for sure but it’s nothing like I expected. And I mean that in the best way. 

MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM – “My Witches” – (Freeform/David Bukach)
In season one, we saw a lot of character growth and a lot of emotional growth with Raelle. Going into season two, is this the same Raelle that we met back in season one? Where is she at?

Taylor: She’s massively changing. I mean, this season I really feel that Raelle is embracing her divine feminine side and you really see that in her interactions and choices and even a little bit physically. She’s changed so drastically since season one and I’d say maybe the only component recognizable about her is just that fire. She’s also beginning to understand the weight of her gifts as heavy as the responsibility is, I think she’s really finding a sense of community and belonging. She’s starting to feel needed and of use. Her heart has been broken again and again, so it definitely is an undertone to the directions and choices she makes and to her intentions.

And at the end of season one there was that huge twist with Raelle’s mother. Is that going to factor into this season?

Taylor: Yeah 100% That’s a massive carrier of the tone of the story this season.

Is the Spree still the main threat?

Taylor: It’s interesting, but yes and no. There’s something that presents itself to be even more dangerous and that definitely impacts the dynamic between the Spree and the witches, which is also a very important carrier of the story arc… I wish I could tell you more. I want to talk about it. I mean, Ashley’s like the Tom Holland of Motherland, but I’m next in line. She’s just so excited about it and wants to talk about it. We all want to talk about it, but we have to stay in check. No spoilers.

Speaking of Ashley, what’s it like coming back to work with her and Jessica and getting to spend more time with them?

Taylor: Yeah, I mean, we were in such close quarters because we only had each other and much of our cast is from out of the country and I’m the only one that’s kind of based here so realistically we only really had each other, and we couldn’t even really see each other outside of work because we were all being so careful. But I think it only grew, and this season, I think really emotionally took a toll on us but in a really great way that pushed us as actors and as people and, you know, our personal bonds in our lives outside of the show, I think it really just strengthened what we have. Because, yeah, we only had each other and we were working during a very difficult time for the world, so we really had no choice but to be there for each other and I’m just so thankful for those girls. I’m really lucky that I was where I was at the time that I was with those people. We really lucked out, like we were so grateful to be up and working, I think only 30 percent of the shows in the world, you know, were starting back up at the time that we did so we were super lucky to have that privilege and to continue doing what we love, and in such a devastating time for our communities and our families and in the world, overall. And it’s very much reflected in the story arc which is very relevant to everything that’s transpired over the last 12 months. So, yeah, we did a great job of incorporating what everyone was feeling, and I think that makes it so relatable. And it just truly marks a point in history that we had. It blew my mind when I was reading it.

One thing that I think is especially interesting about this show is the fact that you are playing witches, but it’s not the typical witch that we have come to know, like in Harry Potter and things like that. What is your favorite part about this unique take on the genre? 

Taylor: My favorite thing about the show was probably the grounded approach to witchcraft. There’s no like cackling or fairy sparkles shooting out of our fingertips, it’s quite true to witch lore and to what’s referred as work. I’m quite witchy myself. It’s a little nerdy to say but I have an altar in my room and I find it to be really meditative and much of that healing work that is practiced by modern day Wiccans everywhere was incorporated into the storytelling of the show and is something that I admired so greatly. They didn’t take like a hokey approach to it, or made it something that was so unfathomable from the world we know today, you know, it really grounds itself in a present day reality and it feels believable and the characters feel relatable, which was something that I was really attracted to when I was auditioning and reading the scripts. It wasn’t so far away that I couldn’t imagine myself in the role, you know, I had many similarities to her, and even in her healing work and the things that I practice and do for myself every day in my routines. I really liked the authentic approach and how true they stayed to Wiccan practices and even modern day magic. 

I love hearing when things have that roots in reality.

Taylor: Yeah 100 percent. And that’s what I loved about it, like, don’t get me wrong, I love Harry Potter, but I just feel like this made it feel a little more down to earth, or something that felt closer to home. And it something that maybe like younger girls, you know, when I was 14 or 15 like I was way too old to be playing with dolls but I was really imaginative, and I love watching shows that completely removed me from reality and I think this finds such a great middle ground where I can be captivated but I can also see myself in these women.

What is something that you are most excited for viewers to see in this upcoming season?

Taylor: Oh, I mean, what a cliche thing to say, but the twists and turns. I sent me through a loop. I wish I could give you more details. I mean, I don’t think it will be anything like what you’d expect. It’s got quite a darker tone compared to season one, so I’m interested to see how everyone takes to that and what everyone’s going to think. My thing is just watching the reactions, like that’s the most exciting thing for me. Watching people react to how I react. But, yeah, you see it even in the cinematography, it’s very emotional, it’s very heavy. It’s quite a darker tone, so it was a really new take, which is funny because there was like so much happiness and laughter behind the scenes, which I really think gave us the groundwork to go deeper and to really connect with each other, and everyone was just being there so that everyone could do their best work. We were all really there for each other, and I just can’t wait for you to see it because I really think it is reflected in the product that we made, and I’m just so thankful to everyone that put so much time and hard work and heart into this and I love it. And I hope to get to come back and do it again.

Motherland: Fort Salem season two premieres tonight on Freeform.