Motherland: Fort Salem: Taylor Hickson reveals how the series changed her outlook

MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM - Freeform's "Motherland: Fort Salem" stars Taylor Hickson as Raelle Collar. (Freeform/Frank Ockenfels)
MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM - Freeform's "Motherland: Fort Salem" stars Taylor Hickson as Raelle Collar. (Freeform/Frank Ockenfels) /

Motherland: Fort Salem is Freeform’s upcoming show about witches trained to be weapons. We chatted with star Taylor Hickson about how it changed her.

Motherland: Fort Salem is set in an alternate world where witches exist, and they’re forced to undergo intense training to become militarized weapons. The new series will debut on Freeform on March 18, and we had the chance to chat with one of the show’s stars, Taylor Hickson.

You might recognize her from some of her other projects, such as Deadly Class, Giant Little Ones, or Deadpool. The young actress has made quite the splash in the industry, and her upcoming role in Motherland might be one of her most exciting yet.

She tells us how the show changed her relationship with the women in her life and what will shock and surprise audiences about the fantasy series and its many characters.

Hidden Remote: I wanted to start by saying I loved your work on Deadly Class, I’m sorry that the show didn’t get to continue past season one.

Taylor Hickson: Thank you! I know we were very bummed, but we put our heart and soul into it, and I think it was the best outcome we could have created. We’re very proud of it.

HR: You should be, it was a great show. I know it still has a lot of fans. I think Motherland: Fort Salem looks great, too.

TH: Thank you, it’s totally two different worlds, but I’m still stuck in uniform somehow.

HR: Oh, that is true! So, are you someone who likes the idea of witches? Is that a role you were interested in playing?

TH: As an individual, I was always very spiritual, even from early youth. But upon meeting Eliot [Laurence – the showrunner] and getting into the world of Motherland, it definitely expanded my knowledge and deepened my interest in Wiccan culture and history. It wasn’t something I expected to fall in love, but it was a great surprise.

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HR: Can you tell me a little about the character you play on the series?

TH: I play Raelle Collar. Initially, she is very jaded, defensive, guarded, tense — loves to challenge authority, but she’s also very passionate, true to herself, and her idealism. She’s very raw and real and grounded. You get to see her open up over the arc of season one. I’m super excited about it.

HR: On this show, you worked with a predominantly female cast. Was that exciting for you?

TH: To be honest, it was actually quite intimidating. In the media, you see a lot of woman vs. woman, so, I think, subconsciously, I was walking into it expecting the same energy, and it really took me by surprise by the support that was shown. It changed my relationship with women, in general. I never grew up with that many female friends. I didn’t know how to communicate with other women in a way that was healthy in middle school years, it just didn’t take for me. I had little to no friends, and the majority I did have were male.

Walking on that set really did change my relationship with women and how I see them in media and how crucial it is that we support each other instead of tearing each other down. I think that is something incredibly moving that this series is doing.

HR: I’m looking forward to watching, I’m a fan of witches in general, and I always enjoy seeing how shows approach female friendship. I feel as if it has grown and evolved a lot over the years on television.

TH:  This show opened my eyes to that. I’ll admit I didn’t realize how much attention it really needed until I started on Motherland. I want to have good relationships with women. I think the relationships I do have with the women in my life are the most important. Being able to share that and see it occur more often in media, it creates a more positive experience.

HR: Did you do a lot of stunt work on this show?

TH: To put it lightly, oh my goodness! The amount of self-inflicted injury, it was ridiculous but so much fun. I learned some ancient martial arts using a rope dart. Our stunt girl, Michelle Smith, taught us. She is incredible; she’s an enigma. The things she can do with her body defy space and time.

The idea was that Chinese farmers, during the war, couldn’t afford guns or heavy equipment to defend themselves, so they attached daggers on the end of ropes. They would swing it in such a way that it would create an impenetrable space to protect themselves.

Motherland: Fort Salem
MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM – Freeform’s “Motherland: Fort Salem” stars Ashley Nicole Williams as Abigail Bellweather, Taylor Hickson as Raelle Collar, and Jessica Sutton as Tally Craven. (Freeform/Frank Ockenfels) /

HR: Do you think your work on Deadly Class helped prepare you for the work on this show?

TH: I’ve been on a few demanding shows, so I can definitely say that some of my previous stuntwork contributed to what I did do on Motherland: Fort Salem. But I would say I learned more on Deadly Class by watching Lana [Condor] and María [Gabriela de Faría] perform their fight scenes.

Between every set and on their breaks they were out between the trailers dueling it out and practicing the choreography because we had so little time in our schedules. They were very determined and it showed. The stunts were incredible on Deadly Class. I’d say I learned more from observing, strangely enough.

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HR: It seems like you tend to do more genre-heavy shows, is that intentional?

TH:  It’s actually not intentional! But it is something I’ve grown to love and admire because it’s make-believe, which is my favorite part of my job. It’s why I do what I do, to step into someone else’s shoes and become more empathetic and compassionate. It lets me keyhole into some mindset and energy that I wouldn’t normally be familiar with. As an actor, it has created some challenges for me, but I think it has made my career path the most interesting that it could have been.

HR: What do you think surprise audiences the most about Motherland: Fort Salem?

TH: Oh gosh, I wouldn’t even know where to start! I think some of the relationships and the arcs and paths they take — or don’t take — I think that’s going to surprise a lot of people. The motives behind the characters’ decisions are really going to be shocking. I know they shocked me as I was reading the script. Eliot is incredibly inventive. Don’t give in to any assumptions while watching it because it will do you wrong.

Motherland: Fort Salem
MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM – Freeform’s “Motherland: Fort Salem” stars Amalia Holm as Scylla, Jessica Sutton as Tally Craven, Taylor Hickson as Raelle Collar, Ashley Nicole Williams as Abigail Bellweather, Demetria McKinney as Anacostia, and Lyne Renee as General Sara Alder. (Freeform/Frank Ockenfels) /

HR: What would you say has been your favorite part of the entire process?

TH: On-screen, a lot of my favorite moments were with either Amalia or Jess because their characters bring out the vulnerable side of Raelle, and those are my favorite places to go. They have a heavy presence in their work, and it’s something that I find very admirable in them as actors and as people.

Off-screen, we were always playing pranks or,  one thing I really loved is almost every lunchtime we would — you think most people who spend 18 hours a day with each other would want space — but every lunch we’d light candles, and we’d be like “are you coming to my house or am I going to your house?”

Or we’d go into each other’s trailers and squish into one chair and talk about the other eight hours of our lives when we didn’t see each other. We just caught up and became friends and talked about each other and supported each other and laughed. It was those little moments that I really took away from the show.

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Motherland: Fort Salem premieres March 18 on Freeform at 9 p.m. ET.