Day 6

Canadian mockumentary New Eden breaks the glass ceiling on female-led cults

What happens when two former members of an oppressive male cult decide to found their own women-run version? That's the premise of the new Canadian true crime mockumentary series New Eden.

The fictional comedy series imagines an ill-fated effort to build a cult for women — by women

A still image from Crave of its new mockumentary series New Eden. The fictional show follows 2 women cult leaders-turned-convicts, as they are interviewed about New Eden for the first time in a decade, according to Crave. (Crave/Twitter)

Originally published Jan. 3, 2020.

When Canadians Kayla Lorette and Evany Rosen set out to make their new true crime mockumentary series New Eden, the pair wanted to explore what it would be like if women ran a cult, instead of men.

The eight-part show now available on Crave follows two women convicts Katherine and Grace — played by Lorette and Rosen, respectively — as they're interviewed about their time as former cult leaders.

It may sound dark, but the off-the-wall exploration of true crime, gender and the court system is also a comedy. 

Day 6 host Brent Bambury spoke with Lorette and Rosen about the new show, which premiered on Crave on New Year's Day.

Here is part of their conversation.

New Eden starts out as this women's commune and it's supposed to be a space for sisterhood and female empowerment. But then neither Grace nor Katherine, your characters, seem to actually know what those things are or to particularly care about them. What is going on there?

Rosen: We were really examining: "OK, like there's so many male-led cults, and that's kind of a type, and what would it look like if that type was a woman or two women?" And Katherine's very manipulative and cruel, and Grace is very charismatic and makes stuff up, and you combine those and you've got yourself a cult leader.

Lorette: When we were asking ourselves that question, it was a lot more about how women kind of work in a collective way so much more. They like to kind of share space and kind of do things democratically where men perhaps like to have like a little more ego and lead in a way. So that was a lot of exploring it for us. Like, how would these women lead? How would it look different than a male?

What sets [New Eden] apart from the male cults that we know so much about?

Rosen: I think by the end what we discover is that there isn't much that separates it. There's a really important moment in the show where, you know, they don't set out to create a cult, they set out to create a commune and a collective environment. And then someone dies and then oops, it's a cult.

So I think the idea is sort of that it starts out as being so much more collaborative and democratic as this female-led space. But as things start to go wrong, Grace and Katherine need to make themselves gods, and then it really is no different.

Lorette: A discussion that we had that was less less funny, but more realistic, was this idea that when women are given space to have power and control, there can be a lot of pressure not to make any mistakes. It's like, if you're given this opportunity to have this kind of beautiful commune, you better not screw it up.

They wanted to prove that women could have power and could create their own space and were hiding some of the mistakes and bodies that happened to them along the way.

Watch the trailer for New Eden below.

You guys are the masterminds behind New Eden, but you gave the show a fake director named Travis.

Why did you want this fictional documentary to have a male director?

Lorette: New Eden overall is a lot about authorship. It's who's telling the story and how does it change when that person is telling it. And so for us it was very fun to explore like, what would this kind of artsy, pretentious guy in his early 20s want to say about women, and how can we like explore that to the point of like it almost being repulsive?

It was fun for us, and you kind of don't understand his perspective until later in the series when you start to go, "Oh, maybe I should question this lens a bit more than I was."

This show touches on these high-stake themes, like whose perspective gets to win in terms of getting a narrative. Were you worried that all of that stuff would make the comedy kind of impenetrable?

Rosen: We trusted the comedy would come, because we both have comedy backgrounds and we've both been making comedy for a long time. So the first thing we did really was take ourselves on a voluntary work trip to Ottawa because we thought, "Oh, we won't get too distracted here."

And then we built out what we felt was like a really airtight, true crime narrative. We figured out where all the bodies were, what year of what month they had been killed.

Lorette: We wanted all the humour to come from these absurd characters that we were going to build and we felt it in our gut that it was all going to pay off.

Season 1 of New Eden premiered this week. Are you thinking about Season 2, Kayla?

Lorette: Yes. The show itself, we kind of sold it as an anthology series. So if we do get a second season, which we would love to get, it would be a whole new world and a whole new story. The only rules within it is that it's a true crime documentary with two women at the centre of whatever this crime is.


Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Click 'Listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now