Eliot Laurence can’t help but wonder what might have been.
With Motherland: Fort Salem barely into its third and final season on Freeform, Laurence feels like he’s just scratching the surface.
After all, Motherland had its start as a five-book series by Laurence. When publishers didn’t bite, he went in a different direction with his concept.
“We’ve kind of poached some of those ideas and used them in the first two seasons,” Laurence explained in a recent virtual media roundtable. “But there’s a lot more that I figured out about the world, and it could keep going, for sure.”
In fact, Laurence is negotiating to produce more stories from Motherland in a graphic-novel format. Are we going to get such a book set in the Motherland world?
“The provocative questions keep emerging from it,” he said. “There’s a lot more stories to tell. I’d like to kind of go through the first couple hundred years of the country and look at that through the history of witchcraft. There’s certainly more richness to explore.”
In the meantime, Laurence has worked to tie up most of the existing storylines.
“We even tie up some really basic questions that we’ve teased since Day 1 like what a witch really is. We’ve been on the fence between sci-fi and fantasy for these three years. And now we’re going to take a step toward sci-fi in the end.”
The trick is to balance such disparate storylines as the draft dodgers, Fort Salem, the witch-hating Camarilla, and the not-so-dead General Alder.
“The network helps us if we get too lost in the weeds that we can’t see,” Laurence explained. “Sometimes as a writer, it’s perfectly clear in your head, but it’s not on the page yet. So we have a lot of help making sure it’s landing. But it’s tricky. One of the challenges of the show is making sure it all weaves back together.”
Despite it being the final season, Laurence brought in actor Michael Horse (Twin Peaks, Claws), who “plays a character who’s terrifying but ultimately you love because he’s Michael Horse. He’s pretty bad-ass.”
But circumstances and Covid largely reined him in.
“There were a lot of threads to tie up,” Laurence explained. “It was another year of producing the series during Covid, which limits what you can do in terms of bringing people in.”
After being hinted at for the first two seasons, lineage and history will move to the forefront this season.
“So many histories were taken away by colonialism and the brutality of history,” Laurence said. “It’s about connecting to stories that were always yours, but you never knew were there. We’re really going to use the season to get deep into what a witch is, how ancient their history is, and how they shaped humanity.”
Former enemies, the Army and the Spree, will join forces in the interest of self-preservation against the Camarilla. But it will be a rocky transition.
“It’s rocky for all of these people to realize that ‘You know what? We’re better together,’ ” Laurence said. “As the Camarilla gets deeper and deeper and deeper into the government, that becomes more and more clear.”
Much has been made of lesbian couple Raelle and Scylla. But what will be Motherland’s legacy in the LBGTQ community?
“I’m just proud that the show exists in this [political] climate and that we have been able to create these beautiful images for three years of queerness, the power of the other, and the power of people who are different,” he said. “It’s such an essentially queer show in that sense and it has been since Day 1.”
This should have been the season when Raelle and Scylla spent more time together. But that didn’t turn out to be the case following Taylor Hickson’s car accident, which led to Amalia Holm’s Scylla gaining more screentime.
“Raelle is out for a handful of episodes, but we were able to figure out a way that made sense in the story,” Laurence said. “But when they get back together, I can’t even, I can’t even [go there].”
Despite the variety of couples on Motherland, Laurence doesn’t fret much about ‘shipping wars.’
“I have to listen to that little teeny voice that told me the story way back when,” he explained. “I also know that the more you try to chase somebody’s pleasure, sometimes the more you repel it. You can’t really make everybody happy. We just try to dig deep and figure out what was true to the story.”
How will Laurence wrap up the series?
“Sometimes you tie up everybody, giving a little sense of where they’re going in life,” he said. “Then there’s finales that cut off in mid-sentence like The Sopranos. My finale is not the cutoff. But it’s not the full ‘here’s what’s going to happen.’ It ends on another question.”
After his nuanced portrayal of witches on Motherland, Laurence wants to tackle demons next.
“I want to come from the point of view that ‘You know, they’re not the bad ones. After all, look at all the bad things people do.’ ” he said. “It’s that kind of flip on the idea of what we demonize. It’d probably be a bit more adult than Motherland and probably a bit darker but hopefully super-cool.”
As with any beloved series that’s gone too soon, there’s a fan campaign attempting to save Motherland.
“It’s every writer’s dream to feel that love, so I’m so tickled by it,” Laurence said. “We end the season in a provocative way that does kind of reinvent the show. So you never know what’s going to happen. Maybe the fans will speak, and people will listen.”
Motherland: Fort Salem airs at 9/8c Tuesdays on Freeform.
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.