SACRED LIES - Season 1 | ©2018 Facebook Watch

SACRED LIES – Season 1 | ©2018 Facebook Watch

SACRED LIES is based on Stephanie Oakes’s novel THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY, which is in turn partially based on the Grimm fairytale “The Handless Maiden.” Raelle Tucker has adapted SACRED LIES as a streaming series for Facebook Watch. The first season is airing in half-hour episodes that premiere on Facebook Watch on Friday nights.

Tucker has been a writer/producer on other series, including TRUE BLOOD, THE RETURNED, and JESSICA JONES, but SACRED LIES is the first show that she has created.

ASSIGNMENT X: Can you describe what SACRED LIES is about?

RAELLE TUCKER: SACRED LIES is the story of a seventeen-year-old girl, named Minnow Bly [played in the series by Elena Kampouris], who escapes a cult in the Montana wilderness, and ends up getting into some trouble. And we learn that she has no hands. She’s carrying around her hands in the pockets of her jacket. It becomes a mystery of what happened to Minnow’s hands, and did she maybe kill the prophet of the cult that she escaped? It’s a story with a young female protagonist that you’ve never seen on television before. She is a disabled person, but she is also an incredibly brave and badass and complicated human.

AX: Was the book THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY given to you as, “Here’s something you might want to adapt,” or did you come across it and go, “Oh, I really relate to this”?

TUCKER: I bought the book online because I just wanted to read it, and it sounded like something fun for me to read on the weekend. And by the time I read twenty pages, I knew that I needed to make this into a show, and I paid for the rights myself, and I developed it myself while my agents were saying, “Hey, we could get you a paying job.” And then I spent a couple of years trying to sell it, and people were really afraid of this material, and weren’t quite sure how to make this into a show, until Facebook bought it straight to series, and saw what we were trying to do, and really let us make the show of my dreams.

AX: SACRED LIES is based on both a book and on standing fairytales. How do fairytales come into it?

TUCKER: The book THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY was inspired by the Grimm fairytale “The Handless Maiden,” so the original young adult author wrote the book inspired by a fairytale. So when optioning that book and translating it to television, we embraced the fairytale elements that were already built into the story, in some cases, enhanced more of them. I think what makes Grimm fairytales so exciting is that they are dark and scary and also really hopeful, and fairytales have a happy ending ultimately, so they take you through all the emotions.

AX: When you were casting your leads, what were you looking for?

TUCKER: The search for Minnow Bly was worldwide. That went on for four months before shooting. We looked at actors in England, and Australia, and South Africa, and of course Canada, and the United States. We were looking for a young actress who could be the center of a show, hold the center of a show like this, but also play somebody with a disability, that would be an incredibly physically demanding part, and have the fairy princess-meets-dangerous – she’s both a fairy princess and she’s really dangerous – and so finding somebody who had all of these components that would make you be sucked into the mystery of this character’s journey, was really tough. Elena Kampouris has done Broadway, she has incredible chops that are hard to explain, and she has this effervescence and this natural ability to be in her body, and to emote while also puppeteering prostheses and all of that. It’s no small thing. She did an exceptional job.

AX: Do you put a prosthesis over the hand to make it look like a stump, do you have her wrist bent so that the actor’s real hand is under the wrist, or do you put on chromacolor gloves and paint out the hands?

TUCKER: Honestly, it’s a combination of all of those things. Elena Kampouris had to perform for six months with her hands actually taped up with green dots on them. So we did a lot of her hand work in CG, but she also had five different prosthetic rigs, so if her arms were behind her back, that would be one rig. If her stumps were picking something up, that would be another rig. Every one of those rigs was also then worked on in VFX in post-production. You can’t just put a prosthetic on top of her hand, because her arm would be too long, so everything was meticulously gone over in post-production to try to be as accurate as possible.

There are over ten million people without limbs in the world, so it’s incredible, the stories that you will hear, and the challenges they face, and how brave those people are, and inspiring. We were lucky enough to work with a consultant on our show named Kristie Sita, who had lost her hand at the same age that our character Minnow had, and she is a professional dancer, and she’s one of the most beautiful and courageous and cool people I’ve ever met, and she spent every day on set behind our monitor, working with our actors, making sure everything that we did was accurate and that she could help us understand what that experience would be like.

AX: Is something mystical going on with the hands themselves?

TUCKER: When we first meet her in the pilot, her hands are discovered in her pockets, and then become part of a police investigation, so this is not a genre pilot or show that way. This is a fairytale, but it’s set very much in grounded reality. It is not a magical, supernatural show.

AX: You also have Chanelle Peloso, who’s currently also on THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE: SAN FRANCISCO, who plays Rose in SACRED LIES …

TUCKER: Rose is a really important character in our show, in that she’s a teenage girl who follows her mom into this cult, deep into the forest, and she’s kind of a rebel, and she’s very attached to this book of Grimm’s fairytales that she doesn’t want to let go of, and – spoiler alert – the Prophet doesn’t want you to bring any books, he doesn’t want you to have any outside information. So she comes head to head with the Prophet about wanting to hold onto these fairytales. And it doesn’t end well, but I will say that Rose’s story is, again, the story of a survivor, and she’s very brave, and very bold, and courageous.

AX: What is the philosophy of the cult, or is that part of the mystery?

TUCKER: The cult is totally fictionalized, but it has a philosophy, an origin story. We took a lot of time to really try to flesh that part of the story out, partially because I grew up in a cult for a few years when I was a kid. I was a part of the Rajneesh cult. If you’ve seen WILD WILD COUNTRY, then you know what that is. But I actually had a fairly positive experience in the years that I lived in a commune, and so it really was important to me to approach this not from a sensationalist point of view, but to really try to understand why people are so drawn into following someone, and what that devotion is about.

AX: Do you find that participation in a cult is partly comes from a desire to fit in somewhere?

TUCKER: I think everyone’s answer is probably different, and it’s probably quite a complicated thing to answer. I think people are attracted to looking for a family. I think a lot of us don’t fit into our families in the way that we hope and want to. I think we’re often looking for a deeper meaning, because we don’t necessarily feel that we have a purpose. I think community is a big deal, and something that, more and more in our society, we have less and less of, less and less connection, and people that we can trust around us. So I think there’s a sense of comfort and security in it as well.

AX: Netflix’s UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT, which goes into its fourth season in January, is also about a young woman who escapes from a cult, although that is a comedy. Did you look at KIMMY SCHMIDT and go, “We shouldn’t be too much like that,” or is the tone of SACRED LIES so different that it’s a non-issue?

TUCKER: I don’t think it ever crossed our minds, because these are set in such completely different worlds, such completely different characters and tones. This is a very dark drama, and while there are moments of laughter and fun in it, that’s really not the focus of the show, so I don’t think there will be any real comparisons.

AX: With Facebook Watch, SACRED LIES is one of the platform’s first scripted projects. Do you feel like, “We’re one of the first, so we’re going to get a lot of attention, and that’s good,” or you’re afraid that people are going to go, “You’re on where?”

TUCKER: I am afraid that people won’t be able to find it, largely because we’re in the time of peak TV and there are so many incredible shows out there. I think we are going to hopefully help Facebook establish their platform and show the kind of range of television shows, or streaming shows, that they can make. And it’s an exciting place to work, because it’s a place where fans can directly connect to myself, to the actors, to the crew. You can talk to the actual production designer. We will all be in this platform, talking about our show. I think that can be a really different experience for viewers, and I hope that they find the show.

AX: Because unlike something that’s on conventional television, where you watch it in one place and have to go somewhere else to discuss it, with Facebook Watch, you are watching it and discussing it in the same virtual space …

TUCKER: Exactly. It’s very different. We’re all really excited. The cast, the crew, everyone, we’re really excited in joining the Facebook Watch Community page of SACRED LIES and talking directly to fans, and really getting to explore the work that we did with everyone.

AX: Have you ever worked in theatre? Is this like having a virtual stage door where people can meet you after the performance?

TUCKER: Yeah. I come from theatre, so I grew up in the theatre, and ran theatre companies. This does really bring me back to my origin story.

AX: Do you know if one of the things Facebook especially liked about SACRED LIES was that the protagonist is a young woman, who I think is one of Facebook’s preferred demographics?

TUCKER: I don’t know whether all of their shows are catering to young women. This show in particular, I think it was a selling point. I think they were very excited to do something in the young adult space that was as dark as all the young adult novels that are coming out that people love, but often you don’t see that translated into the films and the television shows for that audience. People are afraid. We are not a graphic show. There is violence in our show, but we don’t exploit any of that. In the end, we are a really hopeful show, and a really positive show for young women, and I think that was important to Facebook.

AX: Does Facebook require you to do the episodes at a certain length, or do you have the ability to run the episodes to run as long as you feel it needs to be?

TUCKER: We agreed early on that the show would be a thirty-minute show. That wasn’t held to down to the minute. Some of the episodes are thirty-two minutes, some of them are twenty-eight, but yes, we agreed on the half-hour drama format, which I was very, very excited by, because I’d never done anything outside of the hour space, and it kind of forces you to really find out what matters and what’s important in every scene. So it cuts out all the fat, and it highlights the heart of every moment of the show in a way.

AX: Prior to SACRED LIES, were you active on Facebook?

TUCKER: I’ve always been active on Facebook. I grew up in Ibiza, Spain, on a tiny island, and I’ve been away from my family and all my friends since I was seventeen, really. So this is the one way that I’m able to communicate with all the people I grew up with, and a lot of my family. So yes, I’ve always had a presence, but mostly just for my personal life, and now it’s very different to be making my work in the same place where I’m chatting with all my buddies, but it’s exciting.

AX: How does one actually find SACRED LIES? Do you just type in “Facebook Watch” to the Facebook search box?

TUCKER: Yeah. I will say, if you type SACRED LIES into your Facebook, it will absolutely come up, and you can hit the show page, hit “Follow,” and “Like,” and then episodes will automatically be sent to your notifications.

AX: How has it been being the show runner on a series you’ve created?

TUCKER: Well, I’ve run several shows before. But this is the first show that I actually created. It’s a different experience, creating your own show, because there’s nobody to hide behind. I can’t say, “Oh, that was Alan Ball’s decision [on TRUE BLOOD], that was Carlton Cuse’s decision [on THE RETURNED], that was Melissa Rosenberg’s decision [on JESSICA JONES].” Those were all collaborations with really incredible, prominent people that I was lucky to work with, but these are my choices, and so having to find your own voice, and trust that you’re going to make something that is all your own and, for better or for worse, have to stand in front of it and defend it, is incredibly gratifying and exciting, and really, really scary.

AX: And what would you most like people to know about SACRED LIES?

TUCKER: I would like people to know that the center of this story is, there’s one message that’s really clear at the center of this show, and it’s, you are not the things that happen to you. No matter what the dark journey through the woods is, you always have the power to decide what you believe in and who you want to become.

This interview was conducted during Facebook Watch’s portion of the Television Critics Association (TCA) 2018 summer press tour.

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Article: Exclusive Interview with Creator Raelle Tucker on SACRED LIES


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