HEAT VISION

Madelyn Cline on 'The Giant' and 'Outer Banks' Season 2

Madelyn Cline
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The actor jokes her Netflix show is trying to break its record for how many times "John B." is mentioned: "We’re going to do our best. It’s all for TikTok."

Before she became the female lead on Outer Banks, Netflix’s latest global TV phenomenon, Madelyn Cline reaffirmed her love for independent film on the set of David Raboy’s The Giant. Shot in the summer of 2018, Cline plays Olivia, who’s desperately trying to look after her grieving best friend, Charlotte (Odessa Young), as a series of murders rocks their small Southern town. One of The Giant’s many strengths is the small-town atmosphere that Raboy captured through the use of natural light, and soft-spoken dialogue, which brings each location's diegetic sounds to the fore. Cline also credits the film’s eerie vibe to Raboy’s application of 35mm film, a rarity among today’s low-budget indie films.

"It created this super ominous effect of being in this town where these real mysterious happenings are going on," Cline tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It created this really spooky feeling even as we were making the film, and we joked a lot about having a ghost on set. It was one of those things where the film was super spooky and all these things would just happen. It would even rain or stop raining when we needed it to.”

Cline, who’s currently shooting season two of Outer Banks in South Carolina, is quite proud of her fellow castmates and crewmembers for keeping each other safe during the prolonged coronavirus pandemic. While it’s certainly been an adjustment, the cast and crew have become even closer through their selfless efforts.

“Yeah, [season two] has been going really, really well. We’re definitely having to find a different kind of rhythm and we’re definitely having to find our footing,” Cline explains. “But for the most part, it’s been going really well. I’m super proud of our crew for working with us and bearing with us through all of this. I know it’s not easy, but everybody’s been working really hard to keep each other safe. As cumbersome as it sometimes feels, it’s definitely strengthened the bond between cast and crew, and I’m super grateful for that.”

Much of Outer Banks’ drama revolves around Chase Stokes’ John B, which is short for John Booker Routledge. Consequently, the character name of John B was said aloud so many times throughout the show’s first season that it achieved meme and drinking game status. Naturally, breaking the season-one record of 149 John Bs is already on the mind of the cast as they currently shoot season two.

“We’re going to do our best. It’s all for TikTok,” Cline says with a laugh. “It’s definitely become a joke on set how much we say people’s names that we’re directly addressing. It’s a good time. Everybody has a really great sense of humor on this show.”

In a recent conversation with THR, Cline also reflects on her audition for True Grit at age 12, the key casting director who championed her for Outer Banks and why she loves independent film.

So when did you shoot The Giant in relation to everything else?

We shot The Giant in the summer of 2018, so that would’ve been two years ago. Wow. Time, what a crazy concept.

The movie begins with a conversation between your character, Olivia, and Odessa Young’s Charlotte regarding dreams, and Olivia raises the question of whether dreams continue after we wake up. So I’m curious about your own experience with dreams. Do you have a particular recurring dream? Do you have lucid dreams? Do you ever write them down?

Dreams have always really fascinated me and I think it’s just because the idea of what is happening while we’re unconscious. Where do our minds go? I don’t lucid dream often, but when I do, it’s interesting because when I wake up, it usually sticks with me for a while. The feelings that I was having during the dreams, whether they were negative or positive, stick with me. And I think what really drew me to that particular conversation was the fact that it felt very, very truthful to me. Are dreams a separate reality? It’s super, super trippy. Where is our mind going? And how that feeling, especially for me when I wake up from lucid dreams, sticks with you. And how the mind sometimes can’t separate between what is real and what isn’t. Is it really real? It’s very trippy. But yeah, it’s an interesting concept and I can’t quite always make sense of it.

In regard to you and Odessa, was it difficult to portray years of friendship between your characters when the two of you had only known each other for a matter of days?

Yeah, it’s an interesting concept for sure to create a lifelong friendship in just a few days. When I first got to Madison [Georgia], which is where we shot, Odessa immediately stormed into the production office and gave me the biggest hug ever. Then she looked at me and was like, “You’re my best friend.” And immediately in that moment, I was incredibly grateful for how warm, open and welcoming she was to the project. After that, we drove to Lake Oconee to meet up with the rest of the crew and some of the cast to have a volleyball/lake/beach day. And then, [writer-director] David Raboy and the two of us drove around Madison, and they took us to all the haunts. We drove around in the truck, we listened to country music and we just talked about everything. We shot the shit. It was a really beautiful introduction and it made me feel so welcome. It also made the transition of being strangers with someone to being best friends with them a lot easier because we talked about everything. I felt like I knew them after that.

Did David use natural light for most of the film?

For the most part, yeah. It was pretty much all natural light. What I like about it is when you watch the movie, it’s very dark. We also shot on [35mm] film and because we shot on film and used mostly natural light, it created this super ominous effect of being in this town where these real mysterious happenings are going on. It created this really spooky feeling even as we were making the film, and we joked a lot about having a ghost on set. But it was a friendly ghost! It was one of those things where the film was super spooky and all these things would just happen. It would even rain or stop raining when we needed it to. Things would just work out, and we joked about having a little Casper on set. (Laughs.) But yeah, I love the fact that David played with everything that was given to him naturally. Nothing felt contrived in this film.

You can really feel the atmosphere in this movie. Even when the characters would talk to each other, you could still hear the sound around them. To create that vibe, would David direct you to leave some space in between your responses and speak softer than usual?

Sure, yeah. He would always tell us “low and slow. “ He wanted whatever ominous presence was there to be more present than the dialogue.

Interesting.

Yeah, it was really interesting because it definitely feeds this pressure-cooker type vibe that the story has. It always feels like you’re waiting for something to happen. It’s almost like you’re waiting for a jump scare. You’re not sure what’s about to happen, and also, as an actor, it was really fun to play that direction from him because there’s so much that lives in silence between two people. And being able to discover what that means in a moment, especially in a moment you’re creating with someone like Odessa who’s so incredibly talented, is really, really fun. You’re able to create what that moment means and feed the story.

Did you actually cut someone’s hair during a quick party shot?

(Laughs.) Yeah, I did. So, funny story, that was Jack Kilmer’s last night on set and I believe it was also for the guy whose hair I cut; his name is Nick Cirillo. It was one of the last nights filming the movie, and we were all pretty sentimental. So it was a perfect time for one of those end-of-summer party scenes where you’re enjoying the last few nights with those people. So it felt very close to home. We really had the best time shooting this movie. So they were just gathering footage of us having a good time at my character’s house, shotgunning beers — non-alcoholic beers — and just trying to get the most candid footage they could. (Laughs.) It was one of the last takes and I think it was a dare, but I ended up cutting a little bit of Nick’s hair off. (Laughs.) It was quite funny, and it ended up making it into the cut. It was one of those things where we were laughing about it in real life and they ended up catching it on film.

You’re at a very early stage in your career, but you’ve already established a pattern of indies in between projects meant for the masses. Do you plan to keep one foot in the independent world, even as Outer Banks opens more doors for you?

I would love to. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a thousand more times: I love indies so much. I love the creative leeway that you get as an actor. I love the chance to explore. I love smaller, more intimate sets. I think they’re much more fun. It becomes so much like a family — not to say that larger sets don’t. I’m currently working on a really large set right now and it does feel like a family. But because indies are kind of where I started, my heart will always have a soft spot for independent film. It’s really exciting to see an independent film that you put your heart and soul into do really, really well. So yeah, in the future, I think I definitely want to keep one foot in the indie world for sure.

So I grew up with shows like Beverly Hills, 90210 and Dawson’s Creek, and then I eventually watched The O.C. and Gossip Girl thanks to girlfriends who got me into them. That was also my cover story whenever my friends would scroll my DVR.

(Laughs.) Yeah.

So what was your teen drama of choice?

I’ve actually never seen Gossip Girl, but growing up, I watched a whole lot of Friends and a whole lot of Seinfeld. Those are my go-to even though they're not necessarily teen drama.

Did you ever think you’d end up on one of these shows?

I thought it would be cool to. Watching those shows, it always seemed like a lot of fun to be on a young adult drama/dramedy show. So I knew it would be cool to end up on one, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up, especially one that reaches so many people. It still feels like such a far-fetched idea.

So is there lots of Madelyn/Madison, as well as Maddie, confusion on the Outer Banks set involving you and co-star Madison Bailey?

So much Maddie confusion. We have Madison. We have myself, Madelyn. We have “Matty B Cam” [Matt Lyons], who’s our B camera operator. And then we have Maddie Pate, our showrunner’s dog, who is sometimes around. (Laughs.) And obviously, we all go by Maddie. So we’ll have differentiations between all of us. People call me “Cline.” People call Madison Bailey “Bailey.” And then we have Matty B Cam. But sometimes, we’re in a rush or whatever and someone will say “Maddie,” and then all of us, even the dog, will turn and look to see what’s going on. (Laughs.) There is so much confusion. It’s an on-going joke between all of us.

Outer Banks is set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, but it’s shot in Charleston, South Carolina which is near your own stomping grounds. I know that two of your co-creators are from North Carolina, but since they may or may not be on set all the time, have you ever contributed some details or sayings that are more accurate to the overall area?

So I have actually never been to the Outer Banks, but I’d love to go at some point. My dad grew up going to the Outer Banks; my mom has also been, but it’s just something I never ended up getting the chance to go do. But usually, for accurate portrayal and things, we look to [co-showrunners] Josh and Jonas Pate. Even though we aren’t shooting in North Carolina, they do their best to accurately portray their childhood summers growing up and vacationing in the Outer Banks. They wanted to shoot in North Carolina, but the show is their love letter and homage to growing up and spending time in the Outer Banks. So we do our best to honor that portrayal as much as we possibly can.

Does South Carolina have a rivalry with North Carolina? In other words, do you know South Carolinians who pretend to be annoyed that your show shoots South Carolina for North Carolina? I’m sure it goes both ways.

For sure. I’ve definitely gotten shit for it from North Carolinians. My dad’s family is from North Carolina, so there’s a friendly rivalry for sure between North and South Carolina. (Laughs.) A lot of people joke about which is the better Carolina, but I’m going to stay neutral on this one. I have my opinions, but…

That’s very wise of you.

(Laughs.) Yeah.

In season one, “John B” was said 149 times. Are you guys determined to break that record in season two?

We’re going to do our best. (Laughs.) It’s all for TikTok. It’s definitely become a joke on set how much we say people’s names that we’re directly addressing. (Laughs.) It’s a good time. Everybody has a really great sense of humor on this show.

“John B” is also the world’s most dangerous drinking game.

(Laughs.) It really is actually. That actually brings me back to the early days of quarantine. We definitely may or may not have played a few Outer Banks drinking games. (Laughs.)

Is season two going well despite the challenge of shooting in the COVID era?

Yeah, it’s been going really, really well. We’re definitely having to find a different kind of rhythm and we’re definitely having to find our footing. But for the most part, it’s been going really well. I’m super, super proud of this cast for bringing everything to their performances. And I’m super proud of our crew for working with us and bearing with us through all of this. I know it’s not easy, but everybody’s been working really hard to keep each other safe. As cumbersome as it sometimes feels, it’s definitely strengthened the bond between cast and crew, and I’m super grateful for that.

So I’ve noticed for a while that Netflix tends to look after actors in their system already. Of course, you first appeared on Stranger Things, and now you’re on Outer Banks. While the casting directors are different, do you know if one somehow affected the other?

Yeah, I feel really lucky in that I had a really, really wonderful relationship with our Southeast casting director Lisa Mae Fincannon. She really, really went to bat for me on this project, and I don’t think we’d be sitting here having this conversation if it wasn’t for her. So I feel really lucky that she fought so hard for me. During the audition process, I came to Charleston for my callbacks and my producer sessions, and I walked outside with her and Jonas Pate. Then, she was like, “Basically, we just really, really don’t want Netflix to say no. We really, really believe in you and really, really want you for this project.” As an actor, you don’t get a lot of that in Hollywood. It’s pretty cutthroat, and when you have someone going to bat for you like that and when you have Netflix kind of cheering you on as well, it’s pretty fucking cool.

I already feel ashamed of myself for asking this question, but has Mr. Stokes performed his version of Han Solo for you yet? [Writer’s Note: Outer Banks’ Chase Stokes went through multiple rounds of auditions to play Han Solo in Solo.]

(Laughs.) No, he hasn’t! And now I’m upset! (Laughs.) I’m literally about to go walk next door and knock on his trailer to ask why.

You also have a cool audition story since you read for True Grit's Mattie Ross. What do you remember about that experience?

I don’t remember a whole lot because I was pretty young. (Laughs.) But I do remember going to Tracy Kilpatrick’s casting office in Wilmington when I was about 12 years old. It was probably the closest I had ever gotten to a project besides Outer Banks and a couple of other projects I ended up testing for a little later on in L.A. But I do remember being so nervous. I remember going to the open call and just having absolute word vomit. (Laughs.) I remember not knowing what to do or what to say, and crying afterwards because I blanked on the words. I got so nervous and stuttered my way through the audition. (Laughs.) But yeah, I remember at that point, it was pretty close. It was between me and a couple other girls, and Hailee (Steinfeld) ended up getting it. And congrats to her. But yeah, that was the first project I ever got really, really close to and it was a pretty cool experience to learn what that was like at a young age.

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The Giant is now available on VOD and Digital from Vertical Entertainment.

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