When it comes to being a jack of all trades, Raelle Tucker is it. She’s an Emmy-nominated television writer, producer, and showrunner who has worked on critically acclaimed shows such as HBO’s True Blood and Netflix’s Jessica Jones. As if her resume didn’t speak for itself, she also is the creator of the Facebook Watch series SACRED LIES, an anthology show based on the novel “The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly” by Stephanie Oakes. Now in its second season, Tucker has focused this chapter on an obscure Brothers Grimm fairytale, “The Singing Bones”, as well as true crime cases of unidentified victims.
Prior to the release of SACRED LIES: THE SINGING BONES, I had the opportunity to chat with Raelle Tucker where we discussed everything from the inspiration behind the second season, representation and inclusion, and what she hopes people will take away from the story being told.
The Singing Bones, the newest season of SACRED LIES is based on a Brothers Grimm tales as well as actual true crime cases. That said, how did this story come to be?
Raelle Tucker: We are an anthology show so we made the first season and because there was a huge amount of fan support and love for that limited 10-episode story, there was the question from Facebook Watch on if we could do it again (laughs). It’s mildly terrifying when you have a close-ended piece like we did last year. Coming into this season it was important to take the things that we all felt made last season successful and resonate with people so deeply which was finding that poetic fairytale tone but grounding it very much in the modern world and in something that’s socially relevant and meaningful. Last year we talked about juvenile detention as well as cults and forensic psychology. This year I had stumbled upon various cases about unidentified victims and how there are over 40,000 unidentified victims in the United States. There are people lying in storage bags that we don’t know who they are, no one has reported them missing or noticed they have disappeared. For me, that became the ultimate mystery and also just a commentary on where we are. We are so connected in all these ways with social media and our phones, how is it possible that people can just become so disconnected that they disappear and no one notices they are gone. That was what drew me in, that is the ultimate mystery and I wanted to talk about that. Then I sort of combined that with the Grimm fairytale called The Singing Bones – the moral of this very obscure fairytale is the truth always rises to the surface. The Singing Bones is a story about siblings murdering each other and their bones being found by a shepherd and turned into an instrument that always sings the truth of what really happened. Taking that, as well as these true-crime mysteries and combining them gave me a similar mysterious/suspenseful fairytale tone to explore that kind of tied in with Season 1 in a lot of ways.
What makes this series stand out from other scripted television is the amount of diverse representation and inclusion. How important was that to you in creating this series?
Raelle Tucker: In both seasons it has been really important to me to explore the stories of people that aren’t usually the heroes of a television show. In Season 1 we had a double amputee and an African American forensic psychologist and in Season 2 I’m talking about a troubled foster kid and a shut-in armchair detective telemarketer – these are not the people who we instantly flock too as the fairytale ingénue. That’s what’s really important to me. I feel like inclusion is about exploring stories that aren’t the shiniest, sparkliest, or sexiest. It’s about finding the hero in people that are kind of everyday people or people with real challenges and humanizing them and getting to root for somebody who isn’t just your kickass cop or your Kungfu fighter or hot assassin. When we talk about all these female empowerment tropes, specifically, it’s very rare that we have strong complicated people of color and different sexualities at the center of shows that aren’t forced into one of those boxes.
As a huge fan of True Blood, I was excited to see that both Ryan Kwanten and Kristin Bauer van Straten were a part of SACRED LIES: THE SINGING BONES. Having been a writer/producer on that show, did you know you wanted to work with them again?
Raelle Tucker: I spent six seasons [True Blood] working with these actors so the beauty of getting to write for these people over many years was getting to know them as well as the sides of them that people haven’t really seen within the characters they were playing. I’m always looking for opportunities to work with people that are super talented that I think I could help in showcasing a different part of themselves. I know those things are there but most audiences don’t. I love Ryan Kwanten, he and I have been friends since True Blood and I’ve always been looking for the right project for him. We are used to seeing him as Jason Stackhouse who is this kind of joke and a lothario and I know that [Ryan] is a really serious, subtle, capable dramatic actor. It actually takes so much skill to play that stupid like Jason Stackhouse was. I really wanted to explore, with him, a much more grounded, nuanced role and also see him as not being the good guy. I feel like he really embraced that and it was really exciting to see him do that. And Kristin Bauer is just comedic gold. I think she’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with. In a show where you’re talking about unidentified human remains and foster care and all of that stuff, we needed some brevity. We needed some moments where there was a character that we could just love to hate, that was fun, and she nailed that so perfectly with “Pam” for all those years. When I started writing the character of “Shannon” for this season, she was the only actress that I had in mind and it was written specifically for her.
I also want to say one thing about Juliette Lewis. She should be commended for the kind of bravery that she shows in this role and how completely she immersed herself in that character, down to the way that she walks, the way that she moves and her voice. It feels so natural on her that people who don’t know her are like, “Oh, Juliette is playing herself” and that could not be farther from the truth. She is so much more beautiful and glamorous and well-spoken – it’s a departure from who she really is. I think she’s so convincing in it that I wonder if people will even be able to tell what a big stretch this and how fully she’s embodying it. I think it’s one of her strongest performances in years and I’m just so proud of her and so honored to have a legend like that on our show.
What was the process like in finding the different directors for the series?
Raelle Tucker: It was super important to me, again talking inclusivity and having one of our characters be gay, that we needed to have representation across all sexualities and races and backgrounds both in our writer’s room and behind the camera. Other than Scott Winant, who is our producing director, EP, and directed four of the episodes, all the rest of our directors are queer females. They brought so much to the table and so much perspective and authenticity and vision – it was really, really important that they were a part of this process. A couple of our directors are just at the beginning of their journey and it was sort of taking a shot on people but they killed it. We had such incredible talent and it was a really inclusive set. We have a female DP for both seasons and there’s a lot of women and female energy behind the scenes that are incredibly fierce and powerful in a way that I had never had on any other show.
As we have discussed, a series like this is really important because it’s touching on topics that many people are hesitant to talk about. That said, what are you hoping people take away from this series?
Raelle Tucker: Fairytales, in both seasons of our show, have sort of an emotional, moral message that they are trying to impart. In the first season, it was about personal responsibility and belief – only you can decide what you want to believe in and who you want to become. This season is all about finding your true family. Not all of us are born into families that, like the ones on TV, accept us or can be there for us in the way that we need. There are so many people that are therefore disconnected and end up sort of being lost in the world. The message at the center of this show is that you can find your true family – whoever they may be. They may not be related to you but somewhere out there your true family exists. There are people who will accept you and be there for you. Connectivity is why we’re here and if we become totally disconnected from each other, we sort of disappear. That is what’s at the center of every character’s journey on this show this year – they are all just searching for their real family, connectivity, a place where they belong. Some of them don’t find that and thankfully some of them do. Like most fairytales, there is some version of a happy ending.