By: Kayla Caldwell
One of the many wonderful things about the Blumhouse Television-produced SACRED LIES: THE SINGING BONES is the diversity of casting, and the fact that the story is so female-driven. For that, you can thank showrunner Raelle Tucker. She created a handful of characters who are, at times, unlikeable, but not so much so that you don’t want to root for them.
As a woman, who happens to love the horror/thriller genre, it’s unbelievably
refreshing to watch a program with so many multifaceted female characters. But Tucker’s genius isn’t only saved for the women. Every character on SACRED LIES: THE SINGING BONES, no matter how big or small, has a thoroughly thought-out back story. If you’re wondering why that matters, just watch it. I promise you'll understand.
We've clearly established we're big fans of Tucker, who has also worked on True Blood, Supernatural, and Jessica Jones. So you can imagine how excited we were when we got to chat with her about the latest season of SACRED LIES, streaming now on Facebook Watch! Read on for Tucker’s thoughts on true crime, your true family, and what to take away from Sacred Lies season two.
The Singing Bones is one of the more obscure Grimm tales. Why did you choose that story for season two?
Raelle Tucker: The first season was inspired by the Grimm fairytale The Handless Maiden, which is also more obscure. I think what’s so interesting about these more obscure stories is if you research them a little bit, many of them have had variations from all different countries, for thousands of years.
These tales embody some sort of moral question, lesson, or truth that people have been imparting forever… It’s so interesting to take the essence of what these fairytales are really about, and modernize them, and introduce them to a whole new audience.
When we spoke with Jordan Alexander (who plays Elsie) earlier, she mentioned that this season is also inspired by true crime stories. Could you talk about that?
Raelle Tucker: Part of what makes up a season of SACRED LIES is taking one of these fairytales, and combing it with something that is very current, a mystery set in the modern world.
When I was researching what kind of stories I wanted to tell this year, I listened to a pile of true crime podcasts. I read a ton of cases online. I visited many of the Jane and John Doe websites that feature unidentified victims.
Through that research, I combined several real cases with the essence of The Singing Bones fairytale. We’re talking about real people, and out of respect for that, I wasn’t going to just name off a bunch of victims to promote our show. I wanted to take the essence of what their stories were, and call attention to the reality that most people in our country don’t know - that there are like 40,000 people potentially unidentified who can’t connect to their families.
How does a person become so disconnected from everyone around them that they can vanish and no one notices or tries to find them? I really took that opportunity to make a show that’s about human connection, that’s about finding family, and calling attention to that.
It sounds like you really did a true crime deep dive. Are you normally a fan of true crime?
Raelle Tucker: I am on a pretty steady diet of true crime podcasts and shows. At the same time, I always have a little bit of a mixed feelings about it. Why are we so fascinated in this story and how can we take that curiosity, that just seems to be human nature, and do something more positive or focused with it?
What kind of research went into this season, what with storylines like falling through the cracks in the foster care system?
Raelle Tucker: There was a great organization out of San Diego that came to our writer’s room, led by a young woman who had been through foster care herself. She had been in over 20 homes. She spent a full day in our writers' room, just talking about her life. She also read the first five scripts and outlines, and gave us feedback.
Of course, we have to take liberties, because we’re telling a television story. She made sure that nothing we were doing was completely unrealistic. That was an important part of what we did. I also met with some foster kids who were still in the system, and had an open table conversation about what they thought was important to talk about. All of the writers read a lot.
The characters on this show are so layered and unique. They’re not just caricatures of women, which I loved.
Raelle Tucker: I’m so glad you feel that way about watching SACRED LIES, because it’s deeply important to me as a woman, and a woman who has worked in a lot of genre, that we are really talking about our experiences in honest ways.
Both Harper and Elsie have moments of being truly unlikeable, prickly, and sometimes nasty. They’ve done - both of them - things that they regret. But I hope they are characters that you can really love, because those flaws make them feel human and real and relatable to all of us.
Even the victims in this case, have enough character development to let you know who they are.
Raelle Tucker: That was really important to myself and the writers… We did spend a ton of time breaking down back stories for virtually every single character on the show… It doesn’t take that much screen time, actually, to give characters dimension. It just takes a little more time when you’re figuring it out. And it’s worth it.
Did you envision Harper being played by Juliette Lewis from the beginning?
Raelle Tucker: I did not know who was going to play Harper when we found Juliette Lewis. Harper was a really challenging character to write, and I think it’s because I’ve never seen anybody like her. She was not any of the stereotypes, so it took us a long time in the writer’s room to figure out who she was, and what she cared about.
Honestly, when Juliette Lewis said that she wanted to meet with me about it, it blew my brains out. I was so excited. I’m such a rabid fan girl of hers. Natural Born Killers just blew my mind at 19 years old, and kind of defined my style in my twenties, and probably a lot of the crazy shit that I did, wanting to be as cool as Juliette Lewis.
She turned Harper into her own thing though. I have to give her all the credit, because she came in and she knew who this character was to her… She had very clear visions for the character she was going to play. She brought Harper to life in a way that I never could’ve imagined with anybody else. [Read more about how Juliette Lewis shaped her character, here.]
Why do you think it’s important for the horror genre to tackle serious topics, the way SACRED LIES: THE SINGING BONES does?
Raelle Tucker: I’m going to say something scandalous, which is that I’m not really a horror fan. I don’t really write anything coming from a place of, “It’s horror!” I really come from the place of, "Who are these characters? What is a really interesting emotional journey for these characters to go on? And how do I keep people on the edge of their seats, and really emotionally invested and enthralled?" I’ll use any trick to get you to invest in a story that I think is meaningful and important.
I feel like it’s my honor and my privilege as a showrunner… to really say something. No matter what I’m doing, in whatever genre, I think it’s really important to have a strong point of view, and something that you feel is urgent to communicate. And I think the audience feels that, and connects to it.
What is the moral truth you want people to take out of SACRED LIES: THE SINGING BONES?
Raelle Tucker: SACRED LIES: THE SINGING BONES is all about family… Other than food and water and shelter, the thing, we, as human beings, need most to survive and thrive is a tribe, a team, connection to other human beings. What I found really important about Jane Does is that these are people who have lost all connection.
There are characters like Elsie and Harper who have lost all connection to people in the world. And this is a story about finding that connection, finding your true family. They may not be the people that you are related to biologically, but there is a true family, out there, I believe, for every single one of us. And it’s about not giving up on that, and continuing to stay open and searching for that.
New episodes of SACRED LIES: THE SINGING BONES premiere Thursdays at 12pm on Facebook Watch.
Photos provided by Blumhouse Television / Facebook Watch