In Freeform‘s newest original series Motherland: Fort Salem, Anacostia Quartermaine is a woman that you don’t want to cross. Demetria McKinney plays the tough-as-nails drill sergeant who is responsible for keeping the young witches on course, and told us what got her interested in the alternate history series.
Plus, the veteran actress talks about how she worked with the up and coming stars on the Motherland set, and the biggest challenge that she’s had on a series where just about anything can happen. Learn more about both Anacostia and Demetria in my interview before tuning into a new episode Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Brittany Frederick: What hooked you into Motherland: Fort Salem originally? Was it the world of the show or the character of Anacostia specifically?
Demetria McKinney: Oh my goodness, both! (laughs) The way that they just completely flipped everything we know in our lives on its head. These women coming together to empower one another in our strengths and our weaknesses while building and fighting wars together was such a unique idea for me. The world showcases its women repossessing their power on things that have been traditionally reserved for men.
Society has said men are allowed to be sexually open, participate in battles, [there’s] even an expectation to put their priorities on work. Traditionally they are not the ones to stay home with their children; the women are. This show had such a fresh perspective placed on the characters and the storyline that I just had to be a part of the world. I completely immersed myself in it. I loved it!
BF: How did you prepare for the alternate history element of the show? Did you do research on the actual history of witches, or limit yourself to the fictional canon the writers had created?
DM: I did a little bit of both. You want to make sure that you’re educated, but you also have to fill the jar just enough to where there’s something else to go in there. Understanding that a lot was going to change and being prepared for that, on top of just trying to give up authenticity, is the part of the craft that I really had to hone in on this. This was my very first time in a genre like this, so I wanted to make sure that I served the history properly, but left room enough to give a different vantage point of it.
BF: Your character Anacostia Quartermaine is the group’s drill sergeant and leader; did you find yourself in a similar role on set, being one of the more experienced cast members?
DM: As I look back at my life, I believe I have been training for this role for a while! I’m a single mom, so I have gotten pretty used to saying “No, don’t do that…” It definitely ran over into my character and filming with the cast. I am one of the older cast members, [so] I was given the responsibility and gift to give some guidance on my experience to help the ladies when they needed it.
I’m grateful that they came and asked me questions; it gave me the ability to be a mentor. It has always been important to me that women in this business help and support one another. We grew closer over the season with these discussions and experiences together.
BF: What’s the biggest thing that you had to learn filming Motherland: Fort Salem?
DM: The biggest thing for me was recognizing that I had to be comfortable in wearing these particular pants. I had to find the strength along with the vulnerability. I was also in a whole other country, so I had to push aside all of my preconceived notions, that I could live and breathe this world.
On top of all of that, this was a whole different genre that I’ve always wanted to work in, but this story needed to showcase that the best part of this magic was the tangibility of it. The fact that it’s not the usual safe, no consequences magic, but authentic real-life magic. You really feel like this could happen in our world. I had to come out of my own imagination and my own perceptions in order to really dig into the meat and potatoes of this show.
BF: Do you have a favorite episode for Anacostia fans?
DM: Episode nine, for sure! There is a pivotal moment that happens for my character. We really get to see her layers start to unfold. She’s like an onion. Anacostia is so complex, and there is way more underneath those layers than we first saw. The audience will start to see these different sides that she’s been hiding, but she is calculated on how she wants to use them. It’s a really cool shift to see, and I can’t wait for the audience to see it as well!
BF: On a lighter note, it must be incredible to just be on the Motherland set and play not only a witch, but a witch who’s also a soldier.
DM: I know, right? Especially with this show! There were so many things I read that I couldn’t wait to see. There were a lot of times where we had to use our imaginations on what everything might look like once they added special effects, editing, sound, and lighting. I really got to dive into the kid in me and picture all of these things that were in the script, but I wasn’t sure if what I had in my head is what the creator had.
But when I saw the first episode, it’s exactly what I pictured and even more! The team of writers, costumes, lighting, special effects, sound, et cetera is incredible and I am just happy that what I portrayed from the script to the pictures in my head matched up.
BF: What other Demetria McKinney role should fans watch after Motherland: Fort Salem?
DM: I started my career out on Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, playing a character named Janine Payne. I am proud that it has had the most episodes of any black sitcom in history, and a reboot is coming back soon on BET. If you want to see some more drama, I’m back on A House Divided. You can see it on UMC with Amazon Prime. I play a villain and it’s my first, but hopefully not last, time playing that kind of role. I hope everyone enjoys them!
Motherland: Fort Salem airs Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. on Freeform.