Jessica Sutton in "Motherland: Fort Salem". Picture: Freeform/David Bukach
Jessica Sutton in "Motherland: Fort Salem". Picture: Freeform/David Bukach

SA actress Jessica Sutton on being a lead in 'Motherland: Fort Salem'

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Jun 27, 2020

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If you haven’t seen "Motherland: Fort Salem" yet, add it to your binge-watch list.

It has a kick-ass female cast, who explore their prowess in a magical battlefield. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t battling personal demons but that is what makes the storyline so compelling as the new recruits at Fort Salem are prepped for their next journey by the seasoned staff at camp.

The series centres on a brewing war between the U.S. Army and a terrorist organisation known as Spree. 

South African actress Jessica Sutton plays one of the major leads in the show.

On bagging this role, Sutton explained: “The how of it all felt very much like what Elizabeth Gilbert coined 'Big Magic'. It was shortly after the success of 'The Kissing Booth' that I decided to try my luck at getting international representation. 

"My now- managers sent me a self-tape, which I assumed was a mock audition before they made the decision to take me on or not. Two days after sending the tape, they signed me. Four days later, they called me at midnight to say the studio loved my tape and wanted to meet me. 

"That’s when it dawned on me that I had indeed taped for an actual role, on actual pilot for Disney! Two weeks later I was on a plane to Vancouver to be a lead in an international pilot.”

Jessica Sutton as Tally Craven in the supernatural drama, "Motherland: Fort Salem". Picture: Supplied

On the fantasy, supernatural angle of the series, she added: “Being someone who grew up on 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Harry Potter', ‘Yes please!’ was what I made of it. The script was like nothing I had read before. 

"Eliot Laurence’s attention to detail and world-building totally enchanted me. Beyond the apparent gender role reversal, he portrays the witch as a symbol of power. It was so refreshing to offer something that goes against the clichéd depiction of the witch as the Halloween crone or the temptress who fornicates with the devil.”

Expanding on her character, she revealed: “I play Tally Craven, who is best described as “a living exclamation mark” and the glue holding her unit together. Without giving anything away, she, like the show, is one big surprise.”

Tally’s mother is against her enlisting as her aunts were killed in action but Tally is determined to serve.

“The fans have dubbed her ‘captain of the baby brigade,’ which makes me laugh because in so many ways she really is this wide-eyed, innocent-hearted ‘baby,’ who gets thrown smiling into the deep, dark world of hurt and death, hard-hitting truth and ‘lock and load’ war. She was an absolute dream role for me, a love letter in a way to my 10-year-old kid self, who believed wholeheartedly she could save the world,” she added. 

In the series, she works with a massive cast and more closely with Ashley Nicole Williams (Abigail Bellweather) and Taylor Hickson (Raelle Collar). 

She offered: “From day one, we all kind of looked at each other and said, “I love you”.  We have forged a sisterhood of such depth and support on and off-screen.”

Recalling moments on set, Sutton admitted: “My most embarrassing moment on set was during episode four with Kai. Neither of us had done a love scene on screen and we were so nervous. Despite a closed set and the support of cast and crew, nothing could really prepare me for the moment when the robes came off.

"It was 3am and I was clutching basically a stranger with tape strapped to my body to cover my bits. In between takes, while being posed and spritzed (for that sweaty glow), Kai very sweetly whispered to me, “Hey Jess, you are doing really great, but for this next take… do you mind… not biting me.”  I was mortified. He said it so sweetly too…”

As for her upcoming projects, she confirmed: “The end of last year saw me wrap on an action-packed feature called 'Rogue', directed by MJ Bassett and starring Megan Fox.  

"Release date and details have yet to be disclosed but hopefully will be gracing screens by end of the year. 'Motherland: Fort Salem' season 2 should see me return to Vancouver when we are cleared to start shooting. For now, I wait.”

"Motherland: Fort Salem" is available on Showmax.  

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