Amalia Holm on Scylla, Raylla, and her endless gratitude for "Motherland" fans
Every so often, a show comes along that really sweeps fans off their feet, and in 2020, that show is Freeform's Motherland. The witchy action-filled drama has a queer love story at its center, that of Raelle Collar (Taylor Hickson), a gifted healer with a chip on her shoulder, and the mysterious and charismatic Scylla Ramshorn (Amalia Holm). The two young women waste little time falling into an intense relationship, but the audience finds out long before Raelle does that Scylla is working for the enemy -The Spree. However, the complicated connection between Raelle and Scylla, which takes on a life of its own, and the show's terrific ensemble cast and storylines have really captured the attention and hearts of queer fandom. I had the pleasure of chatting with Amalia Holm about the show, Scylla and Raelle, and how grateful she is for Motherland's passionate fans.
Queer Media Matters: When Motherland began, were you in any way prepared, or did anyone sit you and Taylor down and say, this is going to be a big deal in queer fandom?
Amalia Holm: Looking back, no. I think no, not enough for me. People did their best. Maybe not specifically about queer fandom, but it’s a big show for all of you and this is gonna change some things. But I don’t know if I was even perceptive of it at the time or could take it in? I don’t think you could have prepared me really. The love we’re feeling right now: it’s out of this world it’s unbelievable. I think you need to be there to understand it.
QMM: So, you were not prepared and it’s been an overwhelmingly awesome experience?
Amalia: Exactly, yes.
QMM: Having the central romantic relationship on a show be between two women is still very rare. And to have fans connect with it like they have is an even bigger deal. The relationship between Scylla and Raelle reminds me a lot of Buffy and Angel, the light and the dark being drawn to each other. Why do you think that’s why they work so well together?
Amalia: I have so much to say about it. The simplest way I could put it is Scylla is a seeker, she’s restless and she wants to fight for something good, and she’s desperately trying to find a way to do it. She’s alone in the world, and that gives her energy to fight. She meets Raelle, in a way the exact opposite but withing the same realm because she also feels alone in the world but she’s tired. Her angst or her fears is what makes her skip class, in the first episode already. What also sparks off that incredible intensity and passion between them is that Scylla sees the potential in Raelle. She sees something she was very surprised to see - we’re so much alike, but we’re just taking different paths for it. The way Raelle is a Helper and Scylla is a Necro, that’s also life and death, but also at the same time I’d say in the beginning Scylla’s way of living is really on the edge, really doing something with her life, whereas Raelle is close to being ready to finish her’s and that contradiction, what they stand for, that contradiction, there’s something really yin and yang about that makes them attract each other. And what Raelle is to Scylla is someone who sees her and who actually doesn’t just go away because she’s so vague in her answers. In episode two in the opening scene, she might be a little bit angry about it or frustrated with Scylla’s behavior but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t come back. I don’t think Scylla is used to people being reliable like that or people being open to actually fight for you.
QMM: Raelle’s not giving up on Scylla and that’s not something Scylla’s not used to.
Amalia: Exactly and that provides a sense of security and safety that’s she’s never had before. This love is the first deep love connection that she’s had. Growing up, I bet she had different passions, passionate relationships, but this is something different. This is like a safe harbor.
QMM: That’s such a great answer. At what point did this stop being a mission for Scylla’s and start being real? What was the turning point for her?
Amalia: I can say that there’s not one point, really. I think that for their story in general that I think sometimes love will get to you before you realize it yourself. You try to push it away and it just catches onto you. I can say that when the Spree agent in Episode 4 shapeshifts into Raelle to put Scylla in her place, that’s when she realizes that I have chosen Raelle, I have fallen for her. Whereas up to that point I think she’s kind of like, well I like this girl but this is still a mission. Episode 4 is, in a big way, well I wouldn’t say a turning point, because falling in love is too complex for a single point. I mean it would be romantic if it was like, one look, but if there’s a look, that would probably be in Episode 5 when she’s choosing her over the mission… but that’s when she already loves her, and I know she has feelings for her long before she knows she loves her.
QMM: Taylor (Hickson) has spoken about how filming those dungeon scenes was really tough and emotional for all of you. Can you talk a little bit about your experience?
Amalia: They were tough. And in a weird way, they were so much fun, looking back but also in the moment we were really bringing our best and our everything to the stage. You could tell that we all were because in between takes, in Episode Seven, when Shannon Kohli the director came up to us to give notes, she was very discrete about it because she was also crying. So, therefore was this intensity throughout the whole stage and set that just shaped the best preconditions for us to do our utmost. It was tough in a way because it’s always tough to go to your saddest places, your most desperate places within you. But at the same time - maybe this is just looking back on it with a lens of happiness and love for how those scenes were and to get the privilege to try to do the marvelous writing justice, together with Taylor who I love working with. Therefore, I don’t remember it as that bad. If that makes any sense.
QMM: Yes, totally. When did you learn that Raelle’s mom was actually going to be Scylla’s contact in the Spree and what was your reaction?
Amalia: I don’t remember exactly when it was but I think it was around Episode 7 that I learned that and… mind blown. I had not seen it coming in any way. Nobody had, and the way that Eliot (Laurence) has answered some questions too, and been saying, is that he didn’t know that from the start, but then it came to him and it all made sense. I’m still a little shocked by it.
QMM: Oh it’s a jaw-dropping moment for sure.
Amalia: (laughs) Yeah, I’m very excited to see what that is going to bring to the start of Season 2. It’s very good from Scylla’s point of view to have yet another Raelle connection. Now they’re two people in The Spree that Raelle loves, so now I hope she’s more open to at least listening to their motives.
QMM: Launching a show in the middle of a pandemic is certainly not something anyone can really prepare for but Motherland really found a way to connect with their audience through live-tweeting, which had waned in recent years but came back full force with your show. What’s it been like to interact with and experience the show through the fans’ eyes?
Amalia: To be able to experience the show through the fan’s eyes was unbelievable. It was such a joy and I was trying to keep up with it, but I was lagging one or two minutes behind all the time so I couldn’t do these great tweets - like my castmates did the greatest tweets commenting on what happened. I was like okay, I’ll do that 5 minutes after. And then some of the viewers had already done great and hilarious catchphrases or one-liners for those moments and I loved that. It really elevated the watching because it’s always weird to watch something you’ve been a part of because it’s hard to view it after your view another show, but that really helped, and it’s so much fun to see how these characters are welcomed and how they’re viewed. Because we have our relationships with these characters, from growing with them and knowing the cast, knowing what was written from the beginning and then to see everything falling into place… it really enriched my experience of the show to be able to live-watch and read what the viewers were thinking, liking and not liking, and all the strong emotions, I love that.
QMM: Speaking of fans, they rallied hard for Motherland to be renewed, and that sort of social interaction with networks is super important. What would you want to say to all the Switches out there?
Amalia: Oh, I, there’s no way I could thank you enough. I’m forever grateful for your guys’ engagement. I see you work so hard. We’ve all seen you and we’ve been going crazy and crying. I want to put words to the gratitude because it’s all been such a collective action and the power that lies in that, people joining in from places all over the world to get more of this. And I obviously want more of it too because it’s the best story I’ve been a part of, it’s the best character I’ve ever played, and it is the best job experience I’ve ever had with all the preconditions and the heartfelt engagement from all aspects in production as well. I’m so happy that you guys made this happen. End of words. I don’t have the words to describe my gratitude.
QMM: I think you did pretty well. Final question: there are so many amazing female characters on the show, if you weren’t playing Scylla, who would you want to play and why?
Amalia: Well I think I’d want to play Abigail, because I’m interested in what it would be like to portray someone who’s grown up with that much pressure on them, and to have a name that resonates with people before you even have a name to introduce yourself. Also, the relationship with Petra Bellweather who is a power machine - that would be very interesting. That or General Alder would be my pick. But I don’t know, there’s plenty more. There are so many great characters. And what I love is it’s not one or two characters carrying this whole plot, it’s so diverse, so respectfully so to all the characters. I love that it’s not just two people and the rest are just filling it up. There’s no character I wouldn’t want to play, just to put that out there. I like them all so much and they all have their unique challenges and dichotomies.
Motherland Season 1 is available now on Freeform on Demand and Hulu.