We talk with talented television writer and producer Raelle Tucker about her career, her inspirations, and her new hit show “Sacred Lies”.
Before making Sacred Lies a massive hit on Facebook Watch, Raelle Tucker led a very exciting life. It’s inspiring to me to see someone who had grown up without a TV work on some of the most popular and highly loved series, such as Supernatural and True Blood.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Raelle via telephone, and we discussed her short time in a cult, what and who inspires her, and women in television.
INTERVIEW WITH RAELLE TUCKER
1. With the show being on Facebook Watch, which is a relatively new and unknown platform, do you feel that this has affected the show in any way?
In terms of creatively, creating a show for Facebook Watch wasn’t different in its process than creating a show for any other platform. The only thing I would say that is different, but a real benefit for the show I think, was that Facebook Watch really wanted to do something bold and unique and that was going to stand out. They very much believed that we had this very strong vision for this show, and they completely trusted it. They didn’t try to change it, and they weren’t afraid of it.
I think making a show about a protagonist without hands is a really daunting task for a network. We pitched this show around to every cable outlet. I think people were really afraid of how an audience would feel about watching a character with a physical disability like that week to week, and if that would be too much and too heavy — and if the show was too intense talking about God, and religion and incarceration.
I think Facebook embraced the fact that it was going to create conversation, and I think that works towards its benefit in terms of creatively.
In terms of it reaching an audience, of course it affects the show that Facebook Watch is a new platform and that people don’t fully associate it with premium content…YET. So, it affects the show because people haven’t really heard of it yet. It’s not out in the mainstream, it’s not established. But I do really believe, and not just because Facebook is paying my bills, but I do believe that Facebook Watch as a platform is here to stay. I think it’s going to make an incredible amount of noise. Once you realize it’s there and it’s available to absolutely anyone in the world with an internet connection.
Fans will also realize they can actually access the actors, the people who worked on the show, the producers, and the directors. People are on Facebook who worked on the show, and they are interacting directly with fans about the show. I think once people understand all of the things that makes Facebook Watch unique and accessible and awesome, they’re not going to be able to stop the success of Facebook Watch. And I hope that at that point, more people will find out about the show.
2. I completely agree. I think that the point you made that it’s available to everyone will just increase the watches of it. And I am going to share the crap out of it as well. I just love it. I love the strong female cast and crew. The book was written by a female, and you are creating and writing it as a female. I also notice that half of the directors are female as well, so that’s also something that our website advocates for heavily.
Please do share, Tiffany. We really need all of the help we can get because it’s peak television, and there are 500 television-scripted shows on in the world right now. Making noise, no matter where you exist, is difficult. But thank you so much for noticing that our DP is a woman, half our directors are women, most of our writing staff are women. We care a lot, particularly because our main protagonist is a young girl. We cared a lot about the female sensibility being very strong in front of the camera as well as behind it.
3. That was actually my next question…was that intentional? And you pretty much answered that. We’re really trying to support women so we get more women in the industry.
Oh yeah. It starts with telling stories about women that are unusual, not just the kind of characters that we usually get to see, but women that are allowed to be all kinds of different things. Like, Minnow is incredibly complicated. She’s not a classic hero, and she’s not your girl next door.
I think when we create work that is specific to the female experience, and it’s exploring aspects of the female experience, then it makes sense that the people that work on the show, in every department, need to be able to tap into that.
4. I agree. I am currently reading the book, and I think it’s just as intense as the show. I wanted to know what drew you to the story and made you want to adapt it as a TV show?
So, I spent a few years in a cult myself when I was a little girl, in the Rajneesh cult. If you’ve seen Wild Wild Country, you’ve heard of it. I had a really positive experience. I wasn’t in Oregon at the ranch where all the shit went down. I was in a commune in Ball County that was affiliated with the Rajneesh cult. But my experience was incredibly positive. That said, as I started telling my own story as narratives and as a showrunner, I’m looking to explore how people end up in cults. Because I think my family isn’t normal by any means, but they’re not stupid or irrational or insane, you know. They’re drawn to seek an answer in a specific way for a reason, and I really wanted to tell a story in that world.
So, I was already predisposed to read everything about cults. That’s why I bought the book, because I knew it was about a cult. I realized a little bit into it that it was inspired by a Grimm fairy tale, The Handless Maiden, and that just like blew my brains out because I love fairy tales. But I feel like, where they are so often adapted for screen, for children essentially, they aren’t as complex or dark or enticing as fairy tales originally were. I found Stephanie Oakes’ adaptation so sophisticated and smart and creative, so it was two things that I was really obsessed with combined.
Then set in the Young Adult (YA) space, which again I feel like in YA adaptations and what we see on film, they tend to tone everyone down for that audience. Like they don’t believe in that audience, although they love those books already in the darkness or sophistication of the stories. I felt that we could kind of break new ground if we trusted that a YA audience was smart enough and deep enough and introspective enough to go along for this ride.
So for me, as a creator, I saw an opportunity. It had such a unique tone and such a unique world. Minnow was unlike any character I had ever seen, and I felt that if anyone should make this, it should be me. I felt so strongly that I had an emotional connection to the material, that I needed to make it. So I spent my own money optioning the book. And spent a couple of years trying to sell it.
5. I admire that. And I’m so glad that you decided to do it. The book is amazing, and the show is so fantastic. Do you have any words of advice for any women wanting to get their start in the business?
Absolutely. My advice would honestly be the same to women or men. It’s really about looking at what you specifically have to contribute. You have to think about what stories you have to offer the world. It’s no longer good enough to just want to replicate something that already exists. You have to think about what you can bring to the table.
And again, that’s why I was drawn to a project like this. I knew I had a background that could identify with this story and could offer a different kind of perspective and something new to the conversation. And so if you want to break in, I think you have to be really unique…and the way to be unique is to just dig into your life and your own knowledge. And be specific about your own experience and try to write that into whatever you’re doing.
6. Who are some of your inspirations?
Oh, boy. They’re just so across the board. I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from some of the greatest showrunners in the business, because I’ve been fortunate enough to work with them. Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood) was a huge mentor to me. I worked with him on True Blood for six years. Before I ever went to work with him, he’s the reason I started writing television. I saw Six Feet Under, and I thought, oh my god, television can be so much more than I ever knew. And so he was a huge inspiration. It was the experience of a lifetime to get to work with him for all of those years, and to understand how he makes what he does. It’s really across the board.
I’m a huge Lena Dunham fan. Massive Lena Dunham fan. Because again, this is a young woman making work from her own experience. She’s putting her life out there in this incredibly honest and vulnerable way, whether you like her or not. I have so much admiration for that. And she’s a powerhouse. She’s in her mid-20s with her own TV show, writing it, producing it, directing it, starring in it. That alone is just incredible and inspiring.
And this will freak everybody out, from a territorial stand point, I’m honestly like the craziest Quentin Tarantino fan. I absolutely love his films. I can’t speak personally on anything about him, but I can just tell you that anytime a Tarantino movie comes out, I will be there opening night, and my jaw will open. I just think he’s magic. So, yeah. I could go on in conversation for hours on the people that I love and admire. There are so many of them.
7. Finally, what is your favorite scary movie?
I have to confess. I am terrified of scary movies. I am afraid of blood. I shut my eyes whenever anything scary is happening. So this is a really hard question for me because I honestly can’t. But, oh um, what was it called? It was about a sexually transmitted, it was recent…It Follows. I think it’s called It Follows. I love It Follows. I felt it was such an artistic, sophisticated, complicated and super creepy story, without needing to be in my opinion, incredibly graphic all the time. I think the horror was really subtle and underneath psychological in a way.