It’s impossible to not feel the essence of cool that Kai Bradbury effortlessly gives off. Wrapped within it is a sweet, humble tone, offering a side to the actor that not many in Hollywood tend to embrace.
Kai doesn’t forget the hard work he has put in to get where he is already. He takes the long hours, hot days and cold nights in stride because he loves what he does. His latest project Motherland: Fort Salem on Freeform gives him the ability to encompass the joy, pain, and excitement of experiencing the story with the audience as it airs weekly.
The show takes place in an alternate universe where witches struck a deal for their safety 300 years ago and in turn, essentially become the US military. However, society is finding itself at a catalyst as the Spree, an organization of witches wracking havoc on the world, are gaining power and are getting close to becoming unstoppable.
Kai describes the show, saying, “Motherland is an alternate history, science-fiction fantasy. It’s definitely got all the aspects of a teen drama that you might want – action and romance – but it’s also got a lot of really incredible diversity and representation, and in that respect I think there’s something for everyone in the show and it’s not necessarily just for teens.” Indeed, the show does have many lines of diversity, from its casting to the genres of its plot points. Kai is one piece of that ever-evolving puzzle on the show, allowing viewers to submerge themselves in his character’s forbidden romance amongst all the mystery and death.
The actor portrays Gerit Buttonwood, a High Atlantic witch. “He’s from witch high society,” explains Kai. His character’s upper-class upbringing gives a lot of inherent status in his body language, according to the actor. “I think you can see that reflected in the other highlighted witches like Libba and Abigail. They’ve got a lot of confidence and excellent posture and sort of natural elegance.” That doesn’t mean that Gerit turns his nose up at others. “I think Gerit is a very cheeky, romantic lover, not a fighter. And yes, I’m very much in-line with some of those things as well,” he admits with a laugh.
While Kai does reveal that audiences will see more of Gerit and Abigail in their element, as showcased by the fifth episode’s Atlantian wedding, he refuses to say more, citing spoilers. He does reveal, “Unfortunately I didn’t get a lot of time with Sarah [Yarkin] who plays Libba.”
There is no telling what the future might hold for either character as the cast learns information as the show moves along. In fact, Kai didn’t have a lot of knowledge of what the show to go off of when he first auditioned.
Laughing, he says of his audition, “As far as what I knew about the plot, [it] was strictly that it was an alternate history where witches, for the past 300 years, have been running the US military and that was kind of all I knew!” He explains, “Because all of the universe is brand new, developed by our creator Eliot Laurence, there was so much to discover once I got the role and once we were working on set.”
Standing in the audition room, Kai said he had to go with his gut, give them his own take, and wait to find out more information after. It worked out for the best, both for himself as he got the part and for the rest of the cast as they got to unravel the show’s mystery together.
“I was starting on episode three and by then I got a draft for up to four. And we hadn’t seen anything of five yet and onwards so it was kind of a treat to the whole cast every time we would get new drafts of the following episode,” gushes Kai as his recalls his time on set. “We were just as hooked – reading them quickly in our trailers – as I imagine the audience is watching the show because we were not really told anything about the future arcs of our characters so that was very exciting.”
It’s doubtful that anyone could have anticipated the twist that was dropped on the audience in episode five – Gerit is already arranged to be married, ultimately breaking Tally’s [Jessica Sutton] heart.
The intense romance between Gerit and Tally heated up quickly and met it’s breaking point during the Beltane dance where male and female witches are meant to mingle with as many of their peers as possible before finishing their night in a sensual, intimate tradition. Though the relationship between the two starts off in episode three like mere crushes, the Beltane dance in episode four sets sparks flying off the dance floor.
Beltane starts with a dance by all participating witches, during which Tally and Gerit continually seek each other out while dancing with other partners. Kai sets the record straight first off when asked about the dancing – and if dropping his dance partner at one point was accidental or scripted. “Of course, well yes, the drop was intentional!” he says, laughing. “Sage Linder is a fantastic dancer and she was very trusting of me which is excellent but of course, that was choreographed.” The amusement is clear in his voice as is his budding laughter as he continues, “I would never drop my partner!”
The course of creating that dance and the scene as a whole was interesting to say the least. “As for the dance, it actually went through some different iterations. The initial dance was a lot more earthy and, I’d say, maybe a bit more… raunchy,” he says after pausing a moment to find the right word. “So we had learned a dance for about six hours plus and then they ended up heading in a different direction so we were called back much closer to the shoot date to relearn the adjustments on the choreography and then we shot the dance with 40+ professional dancers with us, making us look amazing.”
Kai says, “Some of us had previous dance experience, Jess and myself included, so that was really great to have. But it’s a long day shooting those dances. It took an entire day.” Going over the logistics, he paints a picture of what filming was like. “We had three or four cameras all around the dance floor, some on cranes. It’s a huge endeavor and we were battling the elements. Our dance floor got scorching hot in the sun and then by sunset, it got really cold.” The humor is back in his voice as he says, “So it was a very exciting, challenging day.”
The floor wasn’t the only thing that was scorching hot as things heated up even more for the characters following the end of the dance. This saw Gerit and Tally finally meeting up with one another to execute the tradition of the Beltane together.
Once you get a group of young creatives that are all like-minded and all from different parts of the world, you just get a great time.
Describing the connection between Gerit and Tally, Kai laughs as he says wholeheartedly, “It’s immovable.” He then jumps right into discussing the depth of their relationship. “I described it as a little bit of Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed lovers kind of thing where we certainly come from different backgrounds. Tally’s sort of a farm-class witch – Jess describes her as a bit of a country bumpkin. And Gerit comes from that upper echelon of witch society. So there’s a bit of that kind of forbidden romance.”
Kai is quick to defend Gerit when he’s called a flirt though. “The male witches are instructed to mix and mingle with all the witches at Fort Salem so they’re not supposed to be really spending all that time together with one person,” he says, adding that this helps enforce the secrecy of their relationship. “I think in that way, it’s a little bit of a forbidden romance as well.”
For Kai, getting to play off of Jessica Sutton in their many scenes is a joy. “Oh, I say this every time but she’s a gift!” he immediately begins to gush. “She’s just kind of a ball of light and is so hard-working.” He does share his admiration for the rest of the cast as well. “All the girls, really, of the main cast were so devoted to making this show the best that it could be so everyone was two feet in, always working super hard. It was such a pleasure working with Jess and getting to know her. She’s a really great friend and co-star.”
Although Tally said goodbye to Gerit at the end of episode four, audiences didn’t have to wait long for them to reunite and Kai got to share the screen with Jessica in no time. “Gerit and Tally reunite at the Bellweather wedding, at Abigail’s cousin’s wedding. So it’s great that we won’t have to wait too long for them to find each other again,” he says, though as fans know, that reunion started off happy and quickly downturned. As for where his character’s arc is going for the rest of the season, the actor is tight-lipped. “That’s all spoilers so I can’t say.”
What he can say is all his thanks and appreciation for all the Cravenwood fans and all the Motherland: Fort Salem viewers. When Kai talks of them, he gushes over their support and love. “It’s really brightened my day,” he says of the fans. “So I’m really grateful for them.”
The actor reflects on what it has been like to be on the receiving end of such enthusiasm. “Wow it is… there’s no words. It really is something so special because we started shooting this show almost a year ago and once you wrap, it kind of disappears and you just don’t know how it’s gonna turn out and how it’s gonna be received. This was my first time live-tweeting a show with the premieres. Really getting to interact at this level with the fans is so special and it truly means the world to myself and to the rest of the cast that people are really standing behind out show because I think it has a lot of great messages.” He concludes, the grin palpable in his voice, “It’s also super entertaining!”
The romances of Motherland: Fort Salem have definitely captured the eyes of viewers for various reasons. While fans wanted to originally get behind the relationship between Raelle and Scylla, some dark motives have them cautious. With Gerit and Tally’s whirlwind romance, it’s no doubt to also put some on edge as to whether they can trust Gerit yet.
Can he be trusted? “Um… yes,” Kai answers definitively with a laugh. “What I’ll say is Gerit’s love for Tally is true. But what is a TV couple without a little trouble in paradise?” Audiences got a glimpse of that trouble in episode five when Gerit’s engagement – to someone who wasn’t Tally – had been announced.
Are there other characters that raise red flags to not trust them? Kai laughs at this, admitting, “To be fair, I think anything goes in the world of the witches and anyone that you might suspect is suspicious, you might be right now and that might change or you might be completely wrong and that might change.” He offers some advice: “I would say don’t trust your gut on anything.”
Do trust that the cast has nothing but love for each other behind the scenes. The environment created between the cast and crew was a constant source of support and joy. “Oh, so much fun!” the actor says when discussing what the vibe had been like on set. “In the intense moments, there’s always levity. There’s always somebody on set to talk to, cast or crew. It was so great to have all the writers on set with us and they were so collaborative and supportive.” His fondness for everyone he had this experience with shines through. “And the cast really – just once you get a group of young creatives that are all like-minded and all from different parts of the world, you just get a great time. There’s always new things to talk about and we all grow from each other.”
Part of that growth comes from working together on a scene. While most scenes Kai filmed involved Jessica, it doesn’t feel right or fair for him to pick a favorite scene partner.
“Jess, of course, because we did work so closely together,” Kai begins. “It’s hard to give an answer because everyone’s bringing such different energy to the scenes. Everyone’s got their little tricks and ways and so yes, there’s no choosing favorites there,” he confesses with a chuckle.
Working in such a fantastic environment made it a place to thrive as a person and an actor. It created an incredible learning experience for him.
“Every project I’ve had the pleasure to work on has been challenging in their own way. As I progress in my career, I learn a little bit more about each aspect of what it takes to make a show happen,” Kai says. When asked to compare Motherland: Fort Salem to his other projects like Warigami, he says, “They’re different for me in terms of content. In Warigami, I had more fights to do; I had no romantic storyline. Whereas I’m doing quite the opposite in this one. I’m doing almost no fighting at all and lots of romance.” He lets out a small laugh at the realization of how different the two characters are before continuing. “I think fundamentally the characters are very different but they both share this kind of whimsical fantasy genre.”
Going forward in his career, Kai hopes to improve his craft and revisit genres he has done in the past. “Two things come to mind,” he says of what he hopes to see of his career over the next year. “I’m really keen on revisiting comedy. There was quite a bit of comedy happening in Warigami, some in Motherland as well, but something is calling me, and doing a short-form, multi-cam comedy sounds like it’ll be a blast. Something like The Good Place.” Secondly, he wants to do more films. “Most of my career I’ve worked in TV and it’s a very different medium,” he explains, citing the differences in pacing of the scene work and the rate of shooting.
No matter what direction his career will take him over the next year, it is undeniable that he will have a growing legion of fans to support him along the way as he shares his talents with the world.
Motherland: Fort Salem is airs on Freeform on Wednesdays at 9pm/8c and is available for streaming on Freeform and Hulu.