For those of you unfamiliar, MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM follows three young witches with basic training in combat magic prepare to defend the country against looming terrorist threats by using supernatural tactics and weapons. What started off as an idea in creator and executive producer Eliot Laurence’s brain has now come to life onscreen. Known most for his creation of TNT’s series “Claws”, Laurence has taken patriotism, otherness, and magic and has flipped it upside its head for young adult audiences in Freeform’s latest series.
Ahead of tonight’s Season One finale of MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM, I got the chance to chat with Eliot where we discussed everything from the season finale (don’t worry, no spoilers!) to what fans can expect in Season Two!
INTERVIEW MAY INCLUDE SPOILERS
Hi Eliot, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today and congratulations on the news that MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM has been renewed for a second season! How are you feeling?!
Eliot Laurence: I’m so happy and excited! I got to call the actors today and give them the good news and there were a lot of happy tears. So many groups of people went the extra mile on this show in terms of the crew and the other departments, it was such a labor of love. I’m so, so happy and so grateful and so excited to just get into Season 2!
Recently, I binged the entire first season and loved it. It even felt kind of timely due to the state of the world and how the government is handling things. That said, what brought about the creation of this series?
Eliot Laurence: It came from a life-long obsession with anything even remotely witchy. I’ve been obsessed since I knew what the word meant; I was reading mythology and all kinds of crazy stuff as a kid and it never stopped as I got older. When I became a screenwriter I always wanted to address my great love of witchery in some way. It was a few years of me trying to kick ideas around and figure out what it would be. I think one day close to when the MOTHERLAND idea happened, I was sort of narrowing in on some ideas – a Gossip Girls in NYC but it’s like Hogwarts but I thought [that idea] felt boring and unnecessary (laughs). The lightning bolt of the military thing happened and then I was like, okay, it’s in Salem and one of the Salem Witches was actually a witch and cut a deal with the Massachusetts Militia – after that the details started cascading. I was just genuinely obsessed and could not think about anything else. All of the “what-ifs” of the show, “What if the military was run by a matriarchy” those “what-ifs” just all kept being so provocative. I just went with it. I had never written anything sci-fi fantasy, I had always loved that stuff but had written mostly dark comedy at this point, but I just went into the nerd river in my raft and I just drifted (laughs). I tried to do it as a book series first and even put a book proposal together. People were very nice who read it but nobody wanted to buy it. That said, people were universally like, “I like this idea, it’s really wild and nuts and exciting.” I got busy with other projects and was working with this wonderful producer named Kevin Messick on this and he called me one day and was like, “Why don’t we do this as a TV show” and it occurred to me, why didn’t we think of this like 8 years ago, it’s such a TV show! Since I had done all of that research and planning and rough planning out for like 5 books, I had a season to pitch. We did it and we found a home and the rest is history. It’s a long-simmering labor of lover.
In terms of what makes it topical, it’s interesting cause it does sort of check a lot of boxes but I don’t create that way. I just make the show that I most want to see and my own curiosity is around stuff with gender, power, reclaimed history, feminism, etc. Because I’m curious about all that stuff I think the show resonates. From that moment I was talking about, the PB&J moment of the military and witchcraft fusing into one, even from that moment I knew this was an incredibly deep world where you could just keep exploring. There are so many more stories to tell within the world.
The season finale ended with some surprising twists that will leave viewers shocked. Are you excited to hear the response from fans and did you always plan to end the first season on a cliffhanger?
Eliot Laurence: I like to do that just as a storyteller, I like to end in really interesting places that kind of shake people up and make them hungry so that they demand answers with their pitchforks! (laughs). I like doing that and Freeform has been generous enough in the last couple of months in anticipation of a pick-up, to fund a mini-writers room. We’ve been playing around with ideas and basically have season 2 all mapped out and it’s pretty epic, let me say. Freeform was very kind to Kevin and I but they were like, “You guys have given us a very exciting season particularly with the finale that upends so much, you have to make sure Season 2 is extra enough” (laughs). And it is, it’s so twisty and dark and it’s a bit scarier than season 1. There’s some real darkness that we are dealing with in season 2 so I just can’t wait to get into it, I’m so excited!
As a horror fan, I found myself almost instantly drawn to the Spree. For Season 2, are we going to be learning more about them?
Eliot Laurence: Absolutely because it allows us to do that in a really fun way. We have Scylla (Amalia Holm) out there amongst the damn Spree and at the beginning of season 2, we are going to pick up on that storyline. We are going to see how the Spree runs, how their cell system operates, what they’re motivations can be. It’s a Spree that is sort of changing its face a bit after what happened at the soccer stadium. Instead of killing a bunch of people, they release sort of an information bomb with the announcement of the ancient enemy Camarillas returning. We are going to unpack this new enemy that makes the Spree look like totally normal people. Basically, the Camarillas are going to be the big bad of season 2 and they are such a big bad that historic enemies like the Army and the Spree might actually have to join forces. The Camarillas basically are openly genocidal and want to wipe witch-hood from the face of the earth. They tried to do it before in our alternate history – they were sort of behind the Inquisition pulling strings and actively seeking out these bloodlines to wipe out. They are back in a big way and they’ve even found a way to replicate, in a crude but effective way, witch vocal powers, which we saw a little bit in Episode 5 and definitely in the finale. So, we will see the Army and the Spree joining together against a more horrible enemy.
My last question for you is since you originally wanted MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM to be a book series, where do you see yourself taking this concept in the future?
Eliot Laurence: Like I was saying before from that initial idea, that lightning strike of the army and the military, and seeing how deeply fans are digging into it and writing their own fan fiction, it just feels like it has that fertility. It seems like that kind of idea that could generate lots of multi-platform stuff. I would definitely like to revisit doing a book or possibly even a graphic novel could be super, super interesting. It’s not from a greedy place, I just think people would really appreciate having some of this stuff – like the charms that the mother’s give their daughters, that could be super cool. Long answer to your question, I just think it’s the kind of idea that just keeps giving, so yes, movies, books, Instant Soup, cereal, comforters, yup (laughs). At least graphic novels because there are often too many stories to tell in the time we have to tell them and I know a lot of viewers love the show but were like, “We just want so much more!” – I want to give that to them in other ways.
Make sure to check out the season finale of MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM when it premieres tonight on Freeform at 9pm ET/PT.
- [Series Review] UNSOLVED MYSTERIES - June 29, 2020
- [Interview] Co-Directors Jonathan Milott & Cary Murnion for BECKY - June 29, 2020
- [Interview] Writer/Director David Koepp for YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT - June 27, 2020