‘Motherland: Fort Salem’: Sheryl Lee Ralph on President Wade Catching Alder Off Guard

'Motherland: Fort Salem' Stars Lyne Renee and Sheryl Lee Ralph
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Freeform/Jeff Petry

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Motherland: Fort Salem Season 2, Episode 9 “Mother of All, Mother of None.”]

General Alder (Lyne Renee) may have gotten the upper hand on President Kelly Wade (Sheryl Lee Ralph) a couple of times — notably when she puppeted and pushed her for her own agenda — but the tables turn in the penultimate episode of Motherland: Fort Salem Season 2.

First, President Wade surprises the general for showing up for the interrogation of Nicte Batan (Arlen Aguayo), the founder of the Spree. Then she reveals she knows exactly what Alder has done to her — and tells her, due to her history with Nicte, it’s time for her to step down. When it comes time for Nicte’s execution, Tally (Jessica Sutton) leads the rest of the witches in protest.

“I just love this show. I love what it stands for, the rise of power, the use and the tone of the female voice, how it can be a weapon for hurt or healing,” Ralph tells TV Insider. “I love it.”

The actress who plays this world’s president takes us inside the episode and teases the Season 2 finale.

First of all, President Wade has such a great entrance at the beginning of this episode and there’s something so delightful about watching and probably for her, too, in that “I know” when she surprises Alder by coming for Nicte’s interrogation, right?

Sheryl Lee Ralph: I loved it. It’s interesting, the place we are in front of used to be a mental institution, so they always say, “Be careful in the hallways by yourself because the spirits are here.” So for me, to pull up in front of that building, to have General Alder out there with her biddies, I’m like, “The spirits are out of the building now, yes.”

'Motherland: Fort Salem' Star Sheryl Lee Ralph

Freeform/Jeff Petry

How important was it for her to have that upper hand going into this from the moment she arrived unannounced?

It was great because I don’t think [Alder] believes I’m going to heal from her puppeting. She’s done one of the worst crimes that one can commit against anyone in terms of the Hague. Puppeting someone in our universe of Motherland: Fort Salem is a crime and it is one that a lot of people don’t survive. So the fact that I have survived and I now come back in my right mind, she’s not ready for that. She is taken, as you saw, completely off guard, which is a very interesting place for General Alder.

Then there’s that great confrontation in Alder’s office, with Wade calling her out on puppeting and pushing her. Had she just been waiting for the right time to do that?

That’s also very interesting because there’s a lot that people think they know but they don’t know. You’ve seen all season what happens when you get into somebody’s head. You leave a bit of yourself behind, so in her greed for more power to stay in power, when she puppeted me, she doesn’t realize what she might have left behind.

'Motherland: Fort Salem' Star Lyne Renee

Freeform/Jeff Petry

And when better than when she’s also ordering Alder to step down from her post? What had she thought about Alder’s leadership and what does she think having someone else in the position will mean?

I can’t tell you all of that, but I can tell you when she chooses to use her full power as president, there’s one thing we know about Motherland: Fort Salem: You never quite know who the enemy is. You just never know. Last season, we thought it was the Spree. This season, we thought it was the Camarilla. Then we met Nicte Batan. Oh my God. Then we see what’s happening with General Alder. What could possibly happen next? It’s going to surprise a lot of people.

Talk about filming that scene with Lyne. Because it was so good.

Oh my gosh. First of all, I have not seen it and you never know exactly how things are going to end up, but I say to people all the time, when the character is right and your relationship with the character is right, some things just start to come to life. And when I was standing there, looking at her, and thinking about what she had done to me, I was trying to still be a good president and not let my power take over but I was so angry that I couldn’t help it. I don’t know if you see the knife at all, but when I picked up that knife, I was just thinking about all the ways I could use that knife. It’s just a culmination of everything but even then, you never know.

'Motherland: Fort Salem' Stars Ashley Nicole Williams, Taylor Hickson, and Jessica Sutton

Freeform/Jeff Petry

President Wade also has a front-row seat to Tally really stepping up, first in the interrogation, then leading the charge at what should have been the execution.

When you have built a road for others to walk on and they are reminded of who built it and then have a certain respect of your power but have become stronger, you gotta respect that because you obviously did something right even if they might dethrone you.

Who would you say Wade trusts in Fort Salem right now?

I don’t think Wade trusts anybody really. She’s a strong leader who uses her knowledge of people to get her further along and reelected, but who does she really trust? She really trusts herself because she’s right in what she’s been thinking.

What can you preview about the finale?

President Wade will stand strong and she will be at the center of it. We will see that certain people of power might have to step back. Other people that you might not have thought would come to rise to the level of power, you might find them there. And those young women, those three witches, will continue to grow in their strength.

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The logline teases “impossible, world-changing choices” made. How might those affect Wade or the world she must think about as president?

It’s going to get crazier. In my mind — I’m not going to say for sure — power concedes to no one. It’s hard to give up power, especially when you’ve fought to keep it. You gotta keep in mind, though, you can’t let it go to your head because people will kill you.

Does it end on a cliffhanger?

You’re going to say to yourself, “What?”

Motherland: Fort Salem, Tuesdays, 10/9c, Freeform