Arts, Culture & Lifestyle

Meet Madison Bailey, the breakout star of soapy teen drama Outer Banks

The star of Netflix’s soapy teen drama "Outer Banks" talks landing her biggest role to date.
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Like most of us, Madison Bailey has spent the better part of the past month glued to her phone. “[My screen time] is honestly embarrassing and I wouldn’t tell anybody what that number is! Like you couldn’t pay me to tell you,” she says over the phone.

Unlike most of us, however, Bailey has been keeping busy preparing for the release of Netflix’s Outer Banks, a soapy YA thriller set on the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. The show follows a group of working-class teens, known as the Pogues, as they become involved in a high-stakes treasure hunt involving one of the members’ missing father.

Between clashes with the rich kids in town, a.k.a. the Kooks, love triangles, and plenty of action, Outer Banks has something for everyone. Bailey stars as Kiara, an environmentalist with a rebellious streak, and an honorary member of the Pogues despite coming from a well-off family. 

Ahead of the release of Outer Banks, which is now streaming on Netflix, Bailey spoke with L’Officiel USA about her breakthrough role, growing up in North Carolina, and what’s been keeping her sane while quarantined.

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What have you been up to during the lockdown? How have you been staying sane?

I’ve been cooking a lot, making a lot of new recipes, playing tennis 4-5 times a week, and FaceTiming my friends. Honestly it’s just all about the adrenaline with the show coming out…it’s taking 100 percent of my focus. It’s just this build up and this energy. That’s what’s holding me right now.


How do you feel about the show coming out during this time?

I’m sad for a couple reasons. This is my first huge role, and it’s sad that we’re missing a premiere, but there are a million and three other things that are more important!


How did you get into acting?

I’ve always liked performing, because I grew up singing, so I always viewed the industry as something I wanted to be a part of, but I didn’t know where I fit into it. In high school my friends forced me to do a school musical with them. I was like, ‘I really don’t want to do this!’ I was nervous, but I did the musical and I was in love. I already had an agent for modeling and they had wanted to sign me for acting for so long but I said no. And then I called them, and they were so excited that I had changed my mind, and I haven’t thought about doing anything else since.

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Since you grew up singing would you ever consider pursuing a career in music?

I always wanted to be a singer until I hit 13 and 14 and realized I’m actually really scared of singing in front of people. It makes me really nervous! I don’t think I’d ever pursue it on its own, but if it came hand in hand with acting then I’d totally be down to do that.


Your character Kiara is very headstrong, and sort of the peacemaker of the group. Would you say that’s similar to how you are in real life?

I think I’m super similar to Kiara, I feel like I’m playing myself at times. Kiara’s sort of in between a lover and a fighter, and I would consider myself to be both. 


What did you learn from playing her?

I think I learned to just relax a little bit. She’s on the chiller side of things, and I think it’s cool to see that dynamic of somebody who can be the smart one of the group and has ideas and can be the leader but also wants to have fun. 


What drew you to the show?

I read the script and my first thought was, ‘this is going to be so fun’ because it was action packed, and I’d be hanging out with these boys all day. I’ve been on so many auditions where I’m the bitchy cheerleader girl, and I liked playing a role that was one of the boys. I have 3 brothers! I was so excited to get that and play more of a tougher role, because I feel like before this I haven’t really gotten that opportunity much.

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You’re actually from North Carolina, what was it like to grow up there?

I’m from a small town, it was interesting. You see the topic on the show of the class divide between the Pogues versus the Kooks. They’re not called Pogues and Kooks, but you know exactly who they’re talking about. I liked it because you don’t see [the North Carolina version of] that often…I connected to it 100 percent, like I know every single one of these people.


You and your costars seem to have really good chemistry. Would you say that is something that happened naturally and what was it like to work with everyone on the cast?

The connections were pretty immediate. We hung out every single day, off-camera…I was 24/7 with them. We hung out on the weekends and we’d have parties or hang out by the pool. I made some very genuine friendships. Rudy [Pankow] and Chase [Stokes] immediately moved in together at the beginning of filming. [Madelyn] Cline had moved in with me for a month. It was all very immediate.


What are you binge-watching right now?

I’m re-watching You, one of my favourite shows. At any given point I’m watching The Office and Big Mouth intermittently. I’ve been really into animated kid’s movies. I was watching Inside Out the other day, which I can watch a thousand times and I’ll still cry every single time, it’s one of my favourites!

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If you could work with anyone, who would it be and why?

I really want to work with Scarlett Johansson. I think she’s incredible. She has a career that I kind of want to to emulate of starting with fun, light content and now this year being nominated for multiple Oscars for two different films. That’s what I want. 


What are three things you can’t live without right now?

I can’t live without my phone, I wish I could say my phone but I really can’t. I’m quarantined! So just my phone, my crystals—I love meditating—and my sneakers. Then I can pretty much do anything I need to do.


What are you most looking forward to post-quarantine?

It’s getting a little stressful! I’m ready to start doing something, at least auditioning. I hope it’ll all fizzle out before we’re prepping for season 2 (if we get a season 2). There’s no other show I’d rather be filming than Outer Banks. It’s a family and I’m ready to get back to that.



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