Jordan Loughran has been preparing for her role on Raised by Wolves her whole life: A science fiction fan since childhood, the London-born actress is very comfortable with futuristic worlds, having starred on recent SFF series Emerald City and Evermoor. When prepping to play Mithraic teenager Tempest on Ridley Scott’s far-future series, then, Loughran turned to an unusual but invaluable piece of reading material: the book Betrayal (on which the film Spotlight was based), which helped her dramatize Tempest’s loss of faith and subsequent losses of identity and community.
Tempest’s plotline is one of the series’ most sensitive, combining sexual assault (by a Mithraic cleric), teen pregnancy (on the planet Kepler-22b, no less), and pro-life issues—the last because android caretaker Mother (Amanda Collin) will not allow abortion to even be considered. Traumatized and disillusioned by the church that was supposed to protect her, Tempest is forced to embrace her approaching fate as a mother, often clashing with Mother’s own brutal parenting style. Yet Tempest is never a passive character on Raised by Wolves, whether pushing her quasi-siblings to question their surroundings or, in a truly harrowing scene, killing a wounded subhuman creature—only to wind up channeling Daenerys Targaryen’s infamous Game of Thrones horse heart scene by digging out what she discovers is its fetus.
The character, carrying the potential first human child to be born naturally in humanity’s new home, would seem to draw comparisons to key Christian figures like Mary (mother of Jesus) or even Mary Magdalene. Yet rather than match Tempest to a specific Biblical analog, Loughran instead envisions her embodying a whole population of “people who aren’t given full autonomy or agency over their bodies”—acknowledging contemporary issues even in the far future.
With two episodes remaining of Raised by Wolves’ first season, Loughran spoke with Den of Geek via email about where Tempest’s loyalties lie, unlearning a lot of her own internalized biases as an actor, and her hopes for the future.
DEN OF GEEK: Did you watch or read any particular science fiction works to prepare for the role of Tempest and for this kind of futuristic setting?
JORDAN LOUGHRAN: I didn’t watch or read any particular piece of science fiction, but I have been a fan of the genre ever since I was a kid, so I was very familiar with those kinds of worlds and was excited about jumping into the world of Raised By Wolves.
How does Tempest compare to past roles you’ve played on other SFF/speculative series like Emerald City and Evermoor?
I don’t tend to make that many comparisons between the roles that I play as I kind of see each of them as their own person. Thinking about it, I feel like Tempest shares some common ground with Tip (from Emerald City) in that they both are made to grow up before their time and they share a desire to make their voices heard. Playing Tempest has been one of my most intense and emotional acting experiences I think, so while shooting I set aside time to check in with myself. I don’t think that was something that I’d consciously thought to do on a job before; it really helped.
Tempest’s plotline is one of the series’ most sensitive, combining sexual assault, teen pregnancy, and pro-life issues (i.e., abortion is never an option). How did you approach all of these aspects of the character’s journey?
Going into the role, I wanted to focus on Tempest being in a process of recovery. In that way, I looked at each aspect in how it now affects her worldview and her journey towards healing. These are highly-sensitive issues, so I always made sure that Tempest remained at the heart of everything I was doing.
Did you draw from personal experience or draw inspiration from elsewhere for your performance of Tempest questioning her Mithraic faith and its corrupt figures like the cleric who raped her?
To prepare, I read the book Betrayal, which the film Spotlight was based on. I felt it spoke most to the story I was telling as Tempest. How her loss of faith is also linked to a loss of identity and to a certain extent, a loss of community. It also helped me get some insight into the complexities of interacting and maintaining a relationship with people who are still a part of the faith/community that you’ve had to walk away from because of the trauma that’s been caused.
What was it like shooting the scene with Tempest killing the creature, only to discover its fetus inside?
That scene felt split into two parts for me. The first part felt like an action sequence; so it was very physical in that way. The second half of the scene was then incredibly emotional, so the only way I can describe it is like doing a very sharp turn in a fast car.
Do you see Tempest as an analogue to Mary (mother of Jesus), or Mary Magdalene? Or if not, some other religious figure (maybe a saint) and/or historical figure?
I haven’t really thought of Tempest in that way. In some way, she could potentially be seen as a representation of people who aren’t given full autonomy or agency over their bodies.
Of the various conflicting groups—Mithraics, atheists, Mother and Father, creatures—who do you think Tempest feels the greatest affinity with?
I think Tempest feels the greatest affinity with Mother. She’s who Tempest confides in the most. The promise Mother makes to look after Tempest and help her work through and heal from her trauma, and the fact that Tempest can see her trying, is a big factor in why Tempest feels a strong connection to Mother.
Can you tease what to expect from Tempest’s story for the last two episodes of the season?
That’s tricky, I don’t want to give too much away! I think over the last two episodes you see a lot of Tempest’s vulnerability; she starts to take down some of the walls she’s put up for her own protection.
Your essay for iC4RE was really moving, as you candidly shared your experience as a woman of mixed heritage and how when you were starting out as an actor, most of the roles that were available for you to audition for perpetuated negative stereotypes. You end the essay by exhorting people to “keep talking, keep questioning, keep challenging, keep learning, keep un-learning, keep doing”—how have you found these goals and actions reflected in your work? What are your hopes for the future?
I had to unlearn a lot of things that I’d internalized over the years. I had to ask myself why I would mentally view myself as a long-shot when I’d read various descriptions like “English rose” in the character breakdown. If I was removing myself from those types of roles because “that can’t be me,” who else was I removing? Ultimately, when I was doing that, I was just reinforcing a very damaging narrative, and that was something I no longer wanted to do.
I’ve been very lucky to work as a part of some diverse casts, including Raised By Wolves; as a result, I feel that you’re able to have a more rounded view of the world as you become and make yourself aware of other people’s experiences. It gives you a better perspective on how you fit into the world and what you can do to make it a better one. My hope for the future is that the world that exists will be an equitable one and that we as humans will be able to acknowledge the mistakes that have been made and the harm that has been done, and make active, positive change as a result.
Raised by Wolves is available now on HBO Max.