We are first introduced to Raelle Collar (Taylor Hickson) in Freeform’s Motherland: Fort Salem as a witch in training with an attitude, a grudge and the power to heal.
When we look closer, we see the painful weight of her mourning the death of her mother, a witch who died in service to the U.S. government.
Determined to avenge her mother’s death, she arrives at the boot camp struggling to fit in with her bunkmates: Abigail Bellweather (Ashley Nicole Williams) and Tally Craven (Jessica Sutton). Instead, she finds comfort with Scylla and starts planning how to fight back against the regimented, pro-military Fort Salem system.
The Koalition spoke to Hickson about her role in the show, the inner workings of Raelle, Hickson’s music career, and more.
“We did a lot of research into actual Wiccan culture. I always knew the depiction of the witch in folklore and in the media was obviously very much exaggerated. I would go so far as to say demonized. Walking into that we were grateful we were granted an opportunity to make a much more grounded approach to witchcraft and Wiccan culture and Wiccan history. That’s what I love about Motherland, it really pushes boundaries, you’re seeing history and real relevant current themes and issues making a love child here which makes for a very strange premise but I have to say it’s incredibly engaging.”
While the characters in Motherland are often met with challenges reserved for the magical, most of the time they struggle with issues that young women actually face today: pressures to succeed, pleasing the family, issues with authority, complicated romantic relationships, and peer pressure.
“Her worst quality is trusting people. That’s her greatest downfall, is her being so mistrusting and being so overly trusting. There’s no middle ground there, but I think her greatest quality is just her love for people that are close to her in her life and her bravery, what she’s willing to do for them. She spends a lot of the story navigating that and it goes back-and-forth between questioning if there are selfish decisions or if it’s for the greater good of the people. She’s challenging her own loyalty. I think that is what makes a lot of these characters ironically for me, we challenging the ideologism of the straight and narrow, good vs evil. No bad guy thinks they’re the villain. She’s very dynamic to explore.”
“Initially, I’d say, when you meet [Raelle] and all her jadedness, it always kind of continues along the lines of her mother’s death. Initially, she’s reckless and in a total mode of self-destruction, it becomes more about making her mother proud and lastly to avenge her mother’s death. Her motivations change as the characters around her change, and their motivations change. I think that is what makes these people so authentic, they’re allowed to change their minds, they’re not static, they’re not stuck to one idea or goal. It changes as everything changes around them as they learn, and as they grow.”
Created by Eliot Laurence, the show is set in the present day in an alternate version of the United States, where instead of burning witches during the Salem Witch Trials a few hundred years prior, the U.S. government made a deal with the supernatural beings. All future generations of witches would fight on behalf of their country. They are driving the entire arc for once, which is just what Taylor Hickson prefers.
“It’s so cool, the anatomy of the witch and the use of our vocalization in Motherland is really a direct translation to women having a voice, homing power and carrying authority. The women are piloting massive movements and change in the world and in themselves, that’s what we really hope for: to use this depiction to empower other women, other youth. It’s a testament to the value of the voice.”
To learn more about Motherland and more about Hickson, check out the full interview below.