Tai Freligh interviews Sacred Lies showrunner Raelle Tucker…
Raelle Tucker was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico and raised in Ibiza, Spain. She is an Emmy, Golden Globe and Glaad nominated writer, producer and showrunner. Known for her work on Supernatural, HBO’s True Blood, A&E’s The Returned, Netflix’s Jessica Jones and creating the Facebook Watch/Blumhouse-produced anthology series Sacred Lies (2018-2020) – season two is currently streaming on Facebook Watch with the finale airing on April 9th, 2020. Flickering Myth’s Tai Freligh caught up with Raelle to ask her about Sacred Lies: The Singing Bone as well as how involved the fan community has been with the current season of the show and if a third season is in the works.
Tell us about the show and what to expect in the second season?
Sacred Lies is a dark, modern day fairy tale anthology show. This season we took inspiration from an obscure Grimm tale – The Singing Bone as well as true crime cases. It follows the story of a shut-in telemarketer turned armchair detective, Harper – played by Juliette Lewis – as she obsessively tries to solve a cold case involving two Jane Does… Along the way she teams up with a troubled foster girl named Elsie – played by Jordan Alexander, who’s own identity ties into the mystery… and together they search for Elsie’s estranged, criminal father, Peter, played by True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten, whose relationship with the murdered women is more complicated than it seems. The show is fast-paced, cinematic, mysterious and emotional – with plenty of wild twists and turns along the way.
What’s it like having a show on Facebook Watch?
What I have loved most about having a show on Facebook Watch is the unprecedented direct interaction with the fans. It’s the only place where the audience is actually commenting and discussing the show in the same forum they are watching it. We have an amazing, dedicated community of fans – they call themselves the Sacred Lies Keepers – who are incredibly active, vocal, and supportive. Because they were the reason we got picked up for a second season in the first place, this year we decided to involve them in some of the decision making for the show – something I don’t think any other series has ever done. We created polls on Facebook where fans could vote for characters names, locations, costume choices. We gave our fans unprecedented access – taking them behind the scenes and through all the steps of the making of a show – explaining the writing, casting, filming and post production process and answering their questions directly throughout the whole production. It may sound scary and a lot of work to have this much interaction with the fan base, but it has actually been the most rewarding part of this show for me. Our fans are generally kind, supportive, excited and true champions of our show.
Is it different to produce a show for Facebook Watch than network television or streaming?
No, the production process is much like as anywhere else I’ve worked – Netflix or HBO. Facebook Watch have been excellent partners and creatively very supportive of my vision. They gave me a lot of freedom to tell the stories I wanted to tell, and a healthy budget to make an ambitious show.
Did you have people in mind for the lead roles or was it open-casting?
I try not to picture actors while I’m writing – because generally that leads to disappointment when the actor isn’t available or interested in the role, and then you have to reinvent the whole idea you had of the character… But occasionally I can’t help myself – this season I just kept seeing Kristen Bauer who I had worked with on True Blood, as Elsie’s foster mother, Shannon. Every line I wrote for Shannon I could hear Kristen delivering in my head. After 6 years on True Blood, I knew her timing and speech patterns so well… and I found myself subconsciously writing this for her. I was so grateful – and relieved – when Kristen accepted the role! A similar thing happened with Kimiko Glen – who plays forensic tech, Lily. One of the writers pitched her when we were first coming up with the role, and then we couldn’t get her out of our heads. Again, it was pure luck that she was available and excited about the part. The other parts though, weren’t initially written with any particular actor in mind. Ryan Kwanten was a friend of mine and suddenly became available just as I was casting the role, so it was kismet. We auditioned hundreds of actresses from around the world for Jordan Alexander’s role. And even if I had written Harper for Juliette Lewis, I still would have been completely surprised by what she did with that character. Juliette is a true artist – she disappears inside her characters and really makes them her own. We wrote Harper’s lines and story arc, but Juliette Lewis breathed such life, humor and humanity into her, beyond anything that was on the page.
Talk about working with Jordan Alexander?
Jordan is freakishly talented. I still do not understand how she was able to do what she did – this was her first acting role, ever. She’s primarily a singer songwriter. But she just walked on to set, straight into scenes with a living legend like Juliette Lewis, and she had all this confidence and poise… she knew all her lines, she hit all her marks, she did some really intense emotional gymnastics as an actress and made it look effortless. If she was scared or intimidated she never once let on. Honestly, it makes me believe that sometimes people are just born to do certain things. And Jordan is born for this. It’s super exciting that we found her and were able to give Jordan her first break, but I am pretty certain you will be hearing her name a lot I the future, and I’ll be begging her to return my calls.
Any funny set stories with her or the other cast members?
We were dealing with some pretty heavy, sensitive subject matter every day, so there wasn’t a lot of goofing off on set. But there are some episodes coming up that involve a 600 pound wild boar… and we couldn’t have an actual wild boar on set – I am an advocate for animal rights so I wouldn’t want to put a real animal through that, and wild boars are also untrainable and would kill our actors pretty quickly. So we built this huge, photo-realistic boar puppet that we named Zsa Zsa Ga-BOAR… and she weighed as much as a real boar and needed to be operated electronically by 6 puppeteers… It took like 5 months to build this creature. But when we brought Zsa Zsa out to the woods to film this big chase, action sequence, we realized there was just no way we could move her around fast enough to do what we needed… she was so cumbersome it took like an hour every time we needed to turn her around and set up another shot. So we ended up doing all the boar sequences with CGI – but we still used Zsa Zsa’s head as a stand in…. So there would be this guy dressed all in black, carrying this giant furry boar head and chasing our actors through the woods with it. It was hard for anyone to keep a straight face, let alone look terrified.
What was Jordan’s audition like?
Jordan’s audition was pretty mind blowing. The first thing that jumps out is just how much the camera loves her. She’s gorgeous, but it’s not just that – she has this glow about her – like her skin lights up, and her eyes are so expressive – she can tell you so many things with just a look. Elsie is this tough girl who has been through so much shit she’s afraid to let anyone get close to her or even touch her. But she also needs to have a vulnerability that draws you in, that makes you feel for her, and root for her, despite the coarse exterior. Jordan’s got that perfect contrast – her look is edgy and fierce, but she’s actually such a sunny, kind, warm person, and that radiates. She had to sing, play guitar and cry in her audition – it was quite a workout, and despite never having acted, she nailed it like a seasoned pro. I just knew immediately that we had found Elsie.
What do you bring to the show as show runner?
Geez… tough question. I think what drives me more than anything is this kind of obsessive passion. I have been writing and producing since I was like 13 years old when I ran a theater company at my hippie school in Spain… and I have never stopped – even when I was waiting tables or working in strip bars to pay my bills – I never stopped chasing this dream. So now that I am lucky enough to be living my dream, I try to feel that gratitude every day. It’s an honor and a privilege to do what we do – to tell our stories to millions of people and hopefully be able to touch people and connect people with our work. And I take that responsibility really really seriously. I kind of torture myself and all my writers to dig deep and make sure we are saying something meaningful AND entertaining – ‘cause I really think we should always do both. I also think the WAY we make things should be just as important as the things we make. Making TV can be tough, grueling, unglamorous work, with crazy hours and lots of toxic personalities. But I don’t think it HAS to be that way. I think there is a kinder, more humane and compassionate way to do this work. But it takes prioritizing those values and fighting to hire people that aren’t assholes and share the same goals. And when you have say, 800 humans involved in a project from start to finish, that’s a lot tougher than it sounds. And it’s equally tough not to become the asshole when you haven’t slept in days and you’re being pulled in so many directions, and trying to answer like 200 emails every hour in the middle of writing a script in the back of a tent on a freezing set at 3am. So, I guess, in a nutshell, I try not to be an ungrateful asshole and not to hire any ungrateful assholes – that’s my showrunning philosophy.
Having worked on shows like True Blood and Jessica Jones, is there a certain aesthetic you bring?
I hope so! I love dark, romantic, fiercely female-driven stories, that explore characters you don’t always get to see at the center of a series – like a double amputee cult survivor, an obsessive telemarketer, a foster kid with a musical gift – outsiders, survivors. I like to find the beauty and hope in the darkest, grimmest places. I’m not afraid to be emotionally earnest – I don’t think everything has to be “clever” and “quippy” all the time – my ultimate goal is make my audience cry – or learn something about people they maybe would never meet in real life. And I worship a good cliffhanger! I want to leave people at the edge of their seats and dying for more – because that’s my favorite feeling as an audience member – and the main reason I love scripted content more than film. I love the anticipation of what comes next.
How did you come across the story that served as inspiration for the second season?
When Facebook Watch asked for a second installment I was actually pretty terrified. Because the first season I had this amazing novel to adapt – The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes. But that story had all been wrapped up at the end of season one. I had to start from scratch with no real source material… So I started reading fairy tales, the more obscure the better. I was searching for a fairy tale that could be shaped into a mystery… that had dark, romantic, and visual elements to it, and of course a moral at its center that I could feel good about. Because some of these fairy tales are thousands of years old and have some pretty questionable values – especially when it comes to women and children. Anyway. I settled on The Singing Bone because the title is just fabulous. And it’s a story about siblings and murder and a wild boar, and a bone that’s turned into an instrument that sings the truth. It’s just a really lyrical and powerful story and I like that most people have never heard of it. The true crime cases were a way to modernize the fairy tale and a way to call attention to the fact that we still have so many unidentified victims out there – like 40,000 in this country… I spent weeks online researching Jane and John Doe websites and cold cases, and pulling as many real life details as I could into the story.
Are there any current shows you think do a good job of telling stories?
So many! The amazing thing about peak-TV is how much incredible stuff there is to watch. The terrible thing is that there’s so much incredible stuff to watch and how can we possibly keep up? Right now I love Euphoria, I love Succession, Flea Bag, Shrill, You, The End of The Fucking World. But my favorite show of all time is Survivor. Seriously. I have seen every single episode of all 40 seasons. I am a huge, unabashed Survivor geek.
Any plans for a third season?
Right now we are focused on launching this season and trying to get people to find us on Facebook Watch. As a new network it’s still very much fighting to find its audience – which is crazy because the content is free and available to anyone… and I’m biased of course, but I genuinely think the shows on Facebook Watch are all really really fantastic. I will say this, the only way there will be a season 3 is if the fans rally and demand it – that is how it works these days. There has to be a big, vocal, invested audience willing to help promote and fight for their shows. We hope we get that kind of support again, but there is no guarantee. Regardless of what happens next, I’m grateful that we’ve been able to tell these stories. Creatively Sacred Lies has been the greatest experience of my career.
Show stills courtesy Blumhouse TV / Facebook Watch
Sacred Lies: The Singing Bones premiered on Thursday, February 20 on Facebook Watch and has it’s season finale on April 9th.
The second season of the anthology series features a new cast and a storyline that draws inspiration from a story collected from the Brothers Grimm, The Singing Bone, as well as real-life murder cases. This season of Sacred Lies follows Elsie (Jordan Alexander) as she searches for the family she never knew after being abandoned as a child. The search leads her to her father, Peter (Ryan Kwanten), an inmate who may be guilty of more than the crimes he’s currently incarcerated for and Harper (Juliette Lewis), a telemarketer turned arm-chair detective with an obsessive hobby of searching for unidentified murder victims. Kristin Bauer will recur as Elsie’s foster mother, Shannon.
The series stars Juliette Lewis as Harper, Ryan Kwanten as Peter, Jordan Alexander as Elsie, and Kristin Bauer as Shannon. Additionally, Kimiko Glenn, Antonique Smith, Siobhan Williams, Emily Alyn Lind, and Odiseas Georgiadis will appear in recurring roles.
Sacred Lies: The Singing Bones is produced by Blumhouse Television. Executive producer and showrunner Raelle Tucker (True Blood, The Returned, Jessica Jones), developed the season based on a story collected from the Brothers Grimm, The Singing Bone, as well as real-life murder cases. Two-time Emmy Award-winner Scott Winant (Fargo, My So Called Life) is returning as an executive producer. Also, serving as executive producers on behalf of Blumhouse Television are Jason Blum, Marci Wiseman, and Jeremy Gold.