A Different Kind of Fairy Tale
Raelle Tucker is a brilliant storyteller, but her self-made success is an unlikely fairy tale all on its own.
Emmy-nominated television writer, creator and showrunner, Raelle Tucker is over the moon about the second season of Sacred Lies: The Singing Bones which dropped on Facebook Watch on February 20.
The first season of the anthology series was such a success that Facebook Watch asked for a second season and Tucker answered the call with a new set of unlikely heroines.
"They believed in this weird, crazy show I wanted to do. Everyone else was like that's nuts. We love the script, but it's not a show." But both Tucker and Facebook Watch saw things differently and so did the huge number of fans who wanted more.
"(Season Two) is about this eccentric telemarketer who moonlights as an armchair detective and she is obsessed with identifying unidentified victims. She meets this foster kid, Elsie, whose identity is also a mystery. They form an unlikely bond as they search for Elsie's family, a killer, and seek justice for these women along the way.
What ties (season one and two) together is that both have female-driven, eccentric protagonists- not the type you are used to seeing on television.
"They exist in this dark magical world, but unlike fairy tales, our version of magic is DNA. Last year we used forensic psychology to talk about why people fall into cults and this year we are talking about unidentified people and how we can use DNA to reconnect people that are lost."
Tucker grew up in a fairy tale world of sorts and that magic has stayed with her. "There's something so delicious and engaging and sexy about the fairy tale. I want to live inside of one. I think we all do."
In addition to Sacred Lies, Tucker is best known for her work on HBO's True Blood, Netflix's Jessica Jones, and The CW's Supernatural - a pretty impressive resume for a kid who never had a television growing up.
"I grew up on the island of Ibiza (Spain). I moved there when I was 6 years old with my hippie parents. There were no paved roads on most of the island. No one had a telephone or a television. Most of my friends didn't have electricity.
"My school was international, in a big blue house with XEROX copies of books that we were learning from, so I had no input from the world other than my imagination. Plus, I was out playing in nature and riding horses all the time.
Raelle Tucker: I'll just move to Hollywood and it will all be exactly like this!" So, at 17, Tucker dropped out of hippie high and moved to LA completely on her own. She had never had a credit card or paid a bill.
"I spent a lot of time writing my own stories, my own novels, my own plays. At 13 I opened my own theater company with all these other hippie kids. We started seriously producing big shows, and we would sell out!
"It was a no-brainer!" she laughs. "I'll just move to Hollywood and it will all be exactly like this!" So, at 17, Tucker dropped out of hippie high and moved to LA completely on her own. She had never had a credit card or paid a bill.
"It was a harsh learning curve to put it mildly. It took me about 11 years of working all kinds of jobs. I finally landed one writing television. Against all odds with no connections and no education."
That first job in television was for John McNamara's Eyes, an ABC series about a team of dysfunctional private investigators. The show didn't last, but Tucker was in and on her way.
She wrote for the first two seasons of the CW's Supernatural before getting offered more genre work from Alan Ball on HBO's breakout series True Blood where she stayed on for six seasons. "You don't say no to HBO and Alan Ball. It was a dream job."
Tucker finds a way to write what she loves in any situation. "It's hilarious because I am not a supernatural fan. I didn't read comic books growing up, I don't love horror films because I'm very squeamish and terrified. I really like to do thrillers, though, and true crime, female-empowering work. There were very few female supernatural genre writers. I took what I love to do and applied it to what I was given."
Then came Tucker's turn to create her own story. She developed, wrote and produced Sacred Lies, based on Stephanie Oakes' novel The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, a story that deeply resonated with her own, in which a young girl comes out of the only world she knows into a whole new reality - much like Tucker's transition from dirt roads of Spain to the hard concrete of LA.
Tucker: My goal as a writer is: Is the story that I'm telling going to be positive? Is there a way to say something that can touch people, be meaningful and help someone - including myself - to look into a dark place and find hope?
Through it all and perhaps because of it, Tucker has stayed grounded and her focus is clear. "My goal as a writer is: Is the story that I'm telling going to be positive? Is there a way to say something that can touch people, be meaningful and help someone - including myself - to look into a dark place and find hope?
"I want to take characters that you don't normally get to see as the heroes. On our show, that's Elsie (the damaged foster girl with the temper) and Harper (the weird telemarketer who pushes everyone away.) They are never the leads of shows. They are never the ones you're cheering for.
"Putting the people that you don't normally champion at the forefront as strong powerful women who survive and find each other by the end of the season is a feel-good story."
Part of Tucker's feet-planted-on-the-ground mentality involves having a team of writers around her who are not like her. That's a good thing.
"I have an entire writing staff. I could not do this by myself, I would not want to do this by myself. I hire a room full of people who are not like me. I try to be as inclusive as possible. I have a very diverse room full of writers who all have different specialties
"There are writers in the room who are funny and those who are plot-focused story people, people who love crime and research. I try to find a balance of writers who have different life experiences and voices, and we collectively create a voice for the show. I don't try to make everyone write like me. We become our own tone.
"That's my favorite thing about television and why I work in television. I love the collaborative process.
"I care so deeply about the opportunity that people have given me to have this platform to tell stories that touch lives. I'm incredibly grateful."
Sacred Lies airs Thursdays on Facebook Watch
Watch the presentation May 30 here. Jimmy Fallon, Tichina Arnold, Kelly McCreary, Ryan Michelle Bathe, and Drew and Jonathan Scott Among Presenters
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