By Patricia Tortolani By Patricia Tortolani | November 2, 2020 | People Covers Features
As the star of this year’s breakout Netflix series Outer Banks, actress Madelyn Cline reflects on coming of age, falling in love and finding her voice during unprecedented times.
You know, the year you felt wild and free, fell in love, found your voice, rolled around on the sand, watched the sunrise. We’ve all had one. Hence the appeal of Outer Banks, the breakout hit of summer 2020. The Netflix coming-of-age story—featuring a cast of tan, taut and ridiculously good-looking actors—that had us transfixed while we were trapped at home in our sweatpants.
But the funny thing is, when you take a step back, Outer Banks is about so much more than one hot and sexy fictional American summer. The show offers brutally honest commentary on classism and prejudice in the guise of a teen drama. A fact not lost on actress Madelyn Cline, who plays rich girl Sarah Cameron: If you take one look at Cline’s social media, it’s clear that the 22-year-old, who left her home in South Carolina to pursue a career in Los Angeles, has indeed found her voice—and is prepared to use it.
I just binged Season 1 of Outer Banks. Please tell me Season 2 is coming soon!
We’re currently about a month into filming in Charleston. And I’m just as excited as everyone else!
A lot has changed since you filmed the first season. Is the vibe on set different this time around?
Yes and no, which I know is as clear as mud. It’s kind of like a big old family. And we all stayed pretty close during our hiatus. So it just kind of feels like we’re picking up where we left off. But one reason it feels different is obviously because of all the protocols we’re following for COVID, just to make sure everybody is safe.
The character you play, Sarah Cameron, is a total badass. Do you relate?
I don’t think I’m a badass. But I definitely think I live a little bit vicariously through Sarah in that way. This season especially, she starts to really come into her own, you know. She’s stopped following what other people tell her to do. And you kind of really see that come to fruition; you see her become her own independent person. And so, in that regard, I think I can definitely relate to her. But she’s definitely more of a risk taker, which is something that I admire. I feel like sometimes I tend to hold my cards close to my chest.
Have you had a moment in your life where you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone?
Definitely when I left home and moved out to L.A., I had never been before. That was a massive risk. But when you’re in those moments, you’re not thinking; you’re just doing. It’s like deep down you just know you have to do it. Then you think back on it, you’re like, ‘Holy shit, I can’t believe I did that.’ You’re truly flying by the seat of your pants. For me it was a big risk.
risks are easier to take when you have a safety net, which you see with Sarah.
Yeah, definitely. I think in Sarah’s regard, she’s jumping because she’s got John B. In that same way, when I made that jump out to L.A., I realized that home is not necessarily a place; it’s the people around you. You find your community, your people, that you can lean on. And that becomes your safety net. Friends become like family.
Totally. I’d love to talk about how you and the cast were able to support each other during lockdown.
We became really, really close last summer, more so than I ever anticipated. And it’s a really, really special thing. Some of us did quarantine together, which is cool. It makes it all a lot easier when you have people around you to go through it with you and to hold you accountable. If there’s something wrong, or if one of us is not doing well, we’re there for each other. We’re like, what’s going on? Are you OK? Let’s talk about it. Let’s unpack, which is really cool. And it’s really necessary at times.
What’s an example of a recent high and a recent low you’ve experienced?
Having the contrasting experiences of the show coming out, and doing what it has, but then being smack in the middle of lockdown. I don’t think we were able to collectively as a cast truly celebrate and cheer to what happened. In relation to what’s going on in the world, I think that is small. Another thing, too, is looking back on the time I was living in L.A., unemployed and living paycheck to paycheck. Not really knowing how I’m going to split up the paycheck, whether I need to sacrifice maybe some of my groceries to meet rent. And then being at the point where I am now. That’s a big reality check. And it’s one of those things that I think about constantly. I think about that every day when I wake up. It’s one of the things I’m really grateful for. In life there are always peaks and valleys, and having those highs and lows definitely puts things in perspective.
For a teen drama, Outer Banks touches on some pretty complex issues.
Yes. And I appreciate that they weren’t shying away from conversations that need to be had—however uncomfortable they may be. And I think even as a YA show, our job as actors is to illuminate and not stigmatize. And I really appreciate my castmates because we’re all very, very in tune with what’s going on. And we were not about marginalizing anyone by staying silent. For example, when Sarah breaks down that barrier between Kooks [rich people] and Pogues [working class], it shows that the barrier is completely irrelevant and it shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Another important topic is the relationships, specifically toxic relationships. It’s important for young women to see that if something is not healthy for you, then leave. For Sarah there was the relationship with Topper [her boyfriend on Outer Banks]. But also the relationship with her father. Like, what do you do when you look at your parent or a parent figure and they’re not at all who you thought they were?
I’ve had that happen to me with an adult figure in my life, when I was younger, and it’s pretty devastating. So I understand what it feels like to be told, ‘Don’t be silly; don’t cause an uproar; don’t say anything controversial; don’t say something disrespectful to an elder.’ And I’m not saying that you should just outright disrespect everybody. But you also shouldn’t just smile and wave it off.
What is the best advice to give your 16-year-old self?
I would say to my 16-year-old self to pick and choose your battles. Be patient with people and also, at the same time, don’t be afraid to speak your mind.
The actress answers our rapid-fire questions.
First thing you thought of this morning? Coffee
Last series you binge watched? Money Heist
Favorite plot twist in a movie? The plot twist in Parasite
Spirit animal? Hedgehog
Song you know all the words to? ‘WAP’
Something most people don’t know about you? I’m a sucker for ASMR.
What stresses you out? I stress myself out the most.
What relaxes you? Candles and meditation
Emoji most commonly used? The little purple devil emoji that is smiling
Weirdest app on your phone? Dumb Ways to Die. It’s a fun little game that keeps me preoccupied for probably about five minutes.
Photography by: By Dennis Leupold; Stylist: Mimi Cuttrell; Hair & Makeup: Ronnie Tremblay