Facebook is slowly but surely getting into the original content game. They launched their new video platform Facebook Watch earlier this year and now are slowly rolling out original programming. Their latest production is a weird, little mystery called Sacred Lies.
Its a refreshing 1/2 hour drama about a woman with no hands who is somehow involved with the murder of a Cult leader. It’s currently airing every Friday night and on episode 7 (at the time of this interview). I did an email interview with Producer Raelle Tucker, who also produced Jessica Jones, The Returned, True Blood, and wrote for Supernatural.
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It’s been a pretty wild, winding path – I was raised by hippie parents in communes, traveling all over the world – and even lived in a cult for a few years (the Rajneesh cult). I spent most of my childhood on the island of Ibiza in Spain. I grew up without a television in my house – so when I had the opportunity to watch something it was like magic to me. I knew that was what I wanted to do – for as long as I can remember – make television. I moved back to America when I was 17 to pursue that dream… and spent a decade waitressing and working in strip clubs and writing my ass off until I finally got my break. Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to write and produce shows like True Blood and Jessica Jones. But Sacred Lies is the first series I’ve created.
Facebook is clearly investing in original programming, how do you feel being at the beginning of their new TV platform?
It’s unbelievably exciting. They were really brave and bold in the development of Sacred Lies. Our protagonist, Minnow Bly, is a cult survivor, a double amputee, and she ends up in a juvenile detention center. That was a lot to bite off for a network, but they never asked us to sugarcoat anything – they embraced that the show was tackling some heavy issues – I think they were excited about the kind of dialogue that could start on Facebook. The Facebook Watch platform is pretty amazing – our show is available to anyone in the world, for free. And fans can engage with the cast, creators and crew directly in a way that I’ve never experienced before. In the few weeks since the show premiered a community of super fans have formed – they call themselves the “Sacred Lies Keepers” – and its fascinating and awesome to see how passionate they are and watch that community spreading like wildfire as more and more people are finding the show.
Can you talk a bit about what it was like filming this? How long was it shot, the hardest part of shooting, etc?
We shot in Vancouver, BC, over about three months. It was a pretty challenging production – we had an entire cult village built out in the woods and it rained a lot – so it was basically a giant mud pit. We had a juvenile detention center built on stages that needed to be filled with teenage girls – we had a lot of characters and moving parts – not to mention visual effects in almost every shot because of Minnow’s lack of hands. But it was by far the greatest experience of my career. Because we all felt that we were a part of something that had a really positive, profound message at its heart. And you could feel that passion and sense of purpose every day on set. It was kind of like being a part of a cult, actually.
It’s interesting they clearly could have gone the sympathy route, but so far she’s [Minnow] not very sympathetic at all. How do you walk the balance between keeping a character realistically nuanced and over the top unsympathetic?
Hmmm… it’s interesting – I don’t see Minnow as unsympathetic. I see her as strong, and fierce and complex. She is not a victim. She is a survivor. And what she has survived has changed her – made her do some scary things. But I think we are all capable of doing terrible and terrifying things. The same way we are all capable of acts of kindness, generosity, selflessness. I try not to write characters that are purely “good” or “evil” because I don’t believe that’s how people really work. It was important to me that the show not become about feeling sorry for this “poor girl without hands” – because Minnow is a lot more than her disability – she isn’t a perfect fairy tale princess – she’s flawed and complicated, and I think that makes her more relatable ultimately.
I was in a car accident earlier this year and lost the use of both my wrists for 3 days. You don’t realize how important wrists are until you can’t use them. How did Elena prepare to for this role?
Elena started working with a physical disability consultant Kristie Sita before filming began. Kristie is this amazing young woman – same age as Elena – who lost her hand in a boating accident when she was a teenager. Rather than let her disability define her or stand in her way, Kristie has embraced it and gone on to be a very successful professional dancer. She worked with Elena every day on and off set – not just on the physical reality of living without limbs, but the emotional effects that kind of trauma can have on every aspect of your life.
Elena spent about four months with her hands taped up so she could not use them on set – sometimes she needed help to feed herself or go to the bathroom – until she learned the do things without hands the way the character would.
Other times Elena would have to puppet prosthetic limbs and hide her own arms in her costume – and that took a lot of practice as well – to make the fake limbs move naturally while delivering an honest, emotional performance. Elena’s commitment to getting this right – to representing an amputee as accurately as humanly possible – was truly inspiring.
What do you hope people get out of watching?
The show tackles a lot of deep, real issues: spirituality, religion, living with a disability, the incarceration of children, racism. So there’s a lot to talk about and people may take away different things. But at its heart Sacred Lies is an adaptation of a fairytale – and every fairytale is a morality tale. Minnow’s journey – and to a large extent, the journey of all our characters is no matter what happens to you, no matter what you have to endure and survive, you always have the power to decide what you believe in and who you want to become. No one can decide that for you.
What’s next for you?
I have a few things in the pipeline, but creating and showrunning a series is the closest I’m gonna get to giving birth – and Sacred Lies was a giant, monstrous, beautiful baby. I need some recovery time and a vacation before I’m ready to do it all over again.