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An Interview with Claire Coffee from NBC’s Grimm

Photo Credit: Whit Anderson
Photo Credit: Whit Anderson

Claire Coffee began her career on stage at age 5 and went on to work extensively with regional theaters in the Bay Area and Central Coast of California before attending Northwestern University and then moving to Los Angeles. She has had a recurring role on daytime’s General Hospital and has guest starred on such shows as The West Wing, Cold Case, Bones, CSI, Psych, NCIS, and CSI: Miami. Currently, she can be seen on NBC’s Grimm as Adalind Schade. Keep reading for answers to questions about her character and the direction of the show as it premieres for its 5th season tonight at 8pm EST/7pm CST.

I watched the first two episodes, which I really enjoyed. It seems like, at least according to what she’s saying, that Adalind is changing for the better. And I know she said that she doesn’t want to change back again. Can you talk about that? Like is that going to last or is it just kind of what she’s feeling right now because she still has baby hormones?

That’s a good question. Those baby hormones, as I now know firsthand, are very persuasive at times. But yes, I think – I mean she finally feels like her life is far better without being a Hexenbiest than it is being a Hexenbiest. And she – you know her fear towards — we’re shooting episode 11 now — but her fear kind of in the beginning is that this is a suppressant that they used to suppress her powers. But, you know, they could trickle back in at any moment. And she is really scared of that happening because she – the relationship that is building with Nick and then, you know, with Kelly, she really wants to do it right this time.”

What’s her relationship with Nick going to be as time moves on? I mean, I don’t know that he’s going to forgive her any time soon, but they seem to be amiable, right now?

Yes, you know at the beginning of the season they find themselves – they’re both at a bit of a crossroads; Nick having lost his mother and Juliette his – the love of his life. And Adalind has no one. And I think that they can kind of – they really do bond over this child where, you know, this – the only feeling that matters to them at this point is keeping this child happy and healthy, so they form a bond over that. And I think it’s easy to let bygones be bygones when you have a baby that’s, you know, that really does need you 24 hours a day. So it gets them pretty sidetracked, at least for a while.

That’s my – that’s my baby that you can kind of hear in the background.”

Yes, yes, a special guest star. I like that.

“That’s right.”

How has motherhood been for you?

It’s been – you know it’s been – it’s so many things but, it’s been awesome. Cal is awesome. And luckily I’m able to bring him on set with me, so he hangs out in the trailer with my incredible nanny. And I get to pop in and out to feed him or hang out with him on breaks from set. So that’s been really good. He’s sort of like the set mascot. That’s right. But it’s been good you know, and I think, you know, I feel so much better informed this season, playing the role of a mother after having – now that I am one myself. I feel very bad about my birthing scene of Diana. I would have done it very differently had I know what it actually feels like.”

And, you know, you mentioned the relationship between Nick and Adalind. Have you had — it sounds so cute. Have you had a chance to reflect on her journey? Have you had a chance to kind of step back and say, what an arc for this character?

“Oh yes. I think rollercoaster defines it most accurately. It’s been – I really do try to take it day-by-day. And we don’t get the scripts, you know, except for probably a week in advance, so – so, it’s great. I never knew where she was going, which helps, because you can kind of take each insane thing at face value and not really worry about what, you know, too far in the future or how it’s going to affect things in the future. But you know as an actress – as an actress that’s really all you want is to be able to play extraordinary circumstances. And I feel like I got to play three different characters in the same show so far, so it’s been great fun for me.”

That’s great. When Juliette off the rails and now with her demise, there were fans that were really talking about the possibility of a Nick and Adalind coupling. I’m wondering, when you hear that is that crazy talk or do you go, hmm?

“I don’t – well there’s no crazy talk, I don’t think, on the show. There’s nothing too crazy. (Unintelligible) all the time. But I do – you know Nick and Adalind have had that very aggressive and contentious chemistry from the beginning, since she was the first wesen that he saw and she’s been a thorn in his side. And so I do think they have that – it’s – they are an expression of that, you know saying that there’s a thin line between love and hate. You know, they are inextricably linked I would say. So it’s not so farfetched. But there’s so many things complicating the situation at this point. And especially this season we have a brand new villainess entity. There’s this vested uprising afoot so, there’s a lot going on.”

Right. You know, when this series started, obviously you were a guest star. And now you are a main component of the main storyline. You’re an integral part of the show. To get to this point, I mean what does that say about your talent, about the creative team’s confidence in your, and really about the fans desire to see more of you?

“That’s a very flattering way to look at it for sure. I – yes, I always do mind getting killed off, so I’m so grateful that I had more than one episode. Before Grimm I’d done a fair amount of you know, oh its guest star and it’s going to be recurring. If the series gets picked up you’ll be a regular. And then you know, the series doesn’t go or that doesn’t happen. So I really at this point consider myself insanely lucky. And I feel great that the fans have, you know, have love to hate me this long. It’s – I’m very grateful on that.”

Right. Okay, in the midst of all of Adalind’s journey and her change, how is her relationship with Sean Renard going to be affected by the new relationship between Nick and Adalind as the season progresses?

“With Renard he – the captain has sort of different storyline in Season 5. And so – and Adalind, you know, with the baby, she’s definitely popping up more with Nick and the gang and with Hank and Monroe and Rosalee. With Hank I think there’s – nobody forgets that – how badly she screwed over Hand and tried to kill him and all of that. But it seems to be a little nit on the back burner as people are giving Adalind the benefit of the doubt. Thankfully for myself and her. And her relationship with Rosalee, you know, they’re – she’s really trying to get Rosalee to trust her and they’re forming a friendship that it will grow throughout the season.”

It is a great character. When you signed up for the role did you have any idea that they would be this complex, or did you think it was a quick evil character?

“Yes, I know when I signed up it was just – it was one episode with a potential to recur. And I was a sort of, you know, henchman for Renard and that’s as far as I knew. I try not to – I try not to wonder too much beyond that. And yes, it’s just been a very pleasant surprise how it’s gone.”

Well, a good surprise in the best way. So I’m wondering, now that Adalind does have a new baby, is she still – does she still have fears that perhaps this one is going to get taken away too? Or is that the – yes.

“There’s a fear that this one will get taken away. And with the new stress that arrived on the scene in Portland, her fears are not assuaged in any way. So she’s relying on Nick for protection.”

 

In terms of some of the other things that are going on with this – in the storyline, is there any impression that you are suddenly Juliette’s replacement? And I don’t mean just with Nick; I mean in general on the show.

“Oh, I don’t think so. I mean, you know, we – well the best thing I can say is you just have to wait and see. There’s so many – it’s a pretty twisty, turning season. So it’s definitely – she’s not replacing anything. I think this Adalind/Nick relationship is kind of providing just one more layer for the gang. Because it does – I think for the rest of the team, they definitely aren’t so excited to have her in the fold at first. And nobody is trusting her completely. So it’s a very slow process.”

 

In the past I’ve noticed actresses in particular, have cited Davis as a consistent champion of complicated, multilayered, female characters. Have you found that to be a factor with your character? And just in general, how have you found the experience of working with him as a collaborative partner?

“You know he’s fantastic. Both Jim and David they really – well first they balance each other out so perfectly. And you know David is – he’s just a champion of the show and all of is. I get calls from him every so often just telling me like oh, you’re doing such a great job. We’re so happy that, you know, you are with us. And just really proud all of the work. And that’s for everybody. And the feeling on set that the both of them have created is just – that we’re all one – a big family and everyone is just really wanting everybody else to succeed. So but it’s rare and really wonderful. And I would say yes they – I am so lucky that they’ve put so much faith in me to kind of carry out the insanity that is Adalind’s character. But you know as I talk to them a lot about like this, life is never complicated as well. So it’s not – it’s definitely extraordinary circumstances, but they approach everything the most grounded way possible. So, nothing is crazy to them. So like of course she’s going to lose her powers and gain her powers again and you know, sleep with Nick and then have a baby. And it will be fine and you know, they’ll be living together. And it’s amazing, this is what’s happening. So taking all of that at face value. But it’s a very longwinded way of saying yes, David Greenwalt is a fantastic champion of female – complicated female characters.”

 

Can you tease a little bit beyond these first two episodes of the season into what Adalind might be up to?

“Yes, Adalind – so her main concern is keeping Kelly safe. And she’s really trying to figure out a way that she can be quote, unquote normal person. And she wants to be a good person and you know, try to figure out ways to do that and be a good mom. And her relationship with Nick is also something that is ever-changing for the first half of this season. So it gets complicated, is I think the best – is the only thing I can say.”

What do you like and dislike about the new Adalind?

“I think – let’s see, what I like about the new Adalind is I get to shoot with the rest of the cast more frequently now that Adalind is in Portland and hanging out with the gang. So that’s the most fun is that they – with everybody, which I didn’t get to do so much as evil Adalind. And then what do I miss? Well I guess I would really like – I’m into dramas for a large part of the season. Because just having had the baby, so I was really loving it but now I’m kind of anxious to get back to Adalind’s fashion.”

 

We’ve all seen the evolution of your character Adalind, throughout the fourth season. But it also seems that the definition of what a Hexenbiest is has also evolved. Can you speak to how that has changed over the years?

“I think it’s gotten more specific, I would say. So at the start I was the only Hexenbiest and we had the B episode where you learned a little bit more about Hexenbiest, the sort of lethal, witch creatures that no one in the wesen community really liked. And I think now, you know, it’s gotten more specific with the rules of Hexenbiest age and how you can become a Hexenbiest. And you know Juliette became a Hexenbiest. She was not born a Hexenbiest so therefore her powers are more deadly. And then we have the Zauberbiest which is the captain. We learned about the male version of the Hexenbiest. But it is evolving for my character and she’s suppressing her powers how and what does it take for those powers to kind of come back and come through? And how can you suppress them forever, and those are things that we will continue to learn about in Season 5.”

Did you have input on how these definitions of Hexenbiest evolved, or were you – did you learn it as you got the script? Did you guys workshop what a Hexenbiest is? How did that come about?

No, it’s just all based on the script. When I first – you know in the pilot it was experimenting with a vogue because I was one of the first ones to do that; me and Silas. So that was probably the only thing I had a hand in, and the rest of it is all Jim and David’s.”

 

Will Adalind get involved with any of Nick’s cases? Or get involved with any of the action? I don’t know if there’s anything you can tease?

“Yes, a little bit. I think he probes her for some knowledge on the – more about the darker side of the wesen world. And from the kind of folklore perspective she proves to be helpful in a few ways.”

Okay, but she’s not out there with them like, you know, getting involved?

“No, she’s not trudging through the forest in the nighttime.”

The show’s going to be celebrating its hundredth episode. So what does being part of a show like this mean for you, personally?

“It’s unbelievable, truly. It’s very – I keep saying it’s that we’re all just so grateful and in disbelief and so proud of the show and so happy to be up in Portland. And you know 100 episodes these days is such an enormous accomplishment. So that is just a – we are hugely indebted to the fans of the show. It’s – yes, it’s outstanding.”

Great, thank you. With so many TV shows and many ways to consume television today, why do you think that Grimm is still so popular?

“I think that – well I think the characters; you know there’s a little bit of something for everyone with these characters. And the arches of the characters have been so complex. So I think that’s really fun for fans from the beginning to see how things change from season to season and even from episode to episode. And the monsters are – the monsters translate, you know, in any language I think scary is scary. And our visual effects and artists have done an incredible job of creating these very intricately disgusting at times, creatures. And you know that’s reason to tune in alone, just to see what the next monster is going to look like.”

What was the most challenging thing to shoot this season?

“There is a scene coming up where I had to hold the baby, answer the phone, and deal with a pot of boiling water with rice. So just from a choreography standpoint I would say, that was pretty challenging.”

What advice would you, Claire, give to your character?

 

“My advice would be, hang in there; be nice. Hang in there and be nice. I think that’s really – that’s what it comes down to.”

Will Adalind get a chance to meet her daughter, Diana again? And what kind of relationship do you think they could have?

“That’s a good question. I think – you know, we’re up to Episode 11 and I still haven’t found – you know, haven’t gotten her back yet. And she is aging rapidly, so we’re all sort of speculating as to how she will be when I finally see her again. And at this point whomever she’s with has spent a lot more time with her than Adalind has. So those mother ties are very, very strong, but the relationship would obviously be I think, difficult at first.”

You’ve been playing Adalind as primarily evil for the last four years. Are you enjoying playing a kinder, gentler Adalind, or are you eager to get back to villainy?

“I’m enjoying it. I like – you know, its fun to get to play something – it’s always fun to get to play something different. But I think yes, as I said before, it’s really just the day-to-day enjoyment of getting to work with the rest of the cast, I’m loving right now.”

You had a lot of interaction with Juliette. What is it like working with her and also what is your relationship with Bitsie like off-screen?

“Well working with Bitsie from an actor’s standpoint is great. She is super professional so that was great last year. And then off-screen Bitsie, Bree, and I are very close. We have, you know, girl dates frequently and yes, it’s awesome.”

Okay. And what is – what were your feelings when you first found out you would be having a baby and it would be Nick’s?

“I was shocked. Well you know I – they wrote another baby in because I had a baby in real life. But when I told them I was pregnant I said, you know, obviously we’re not going to do another baby storyline. Like, don’t worry we can use a body double; whatever. It will be all fine. And then, you know, halfway through the season they said actually, we are going to have you be pregnant and it’s going to be Nick’s. And I think my jaw, you know, jaw hit the floor. But it was – it ended up being outrageously kind of fun adventure. It still is so, I’m happy that they went that direction.”

When you get a script, what is your usual reaction when you see what they have in store for you, and the show in general?

“Well when I get – they always email the script first. And I sort of stop whatever I’m doing and I’m like scrolling through just to see, you know, okay what am I doing; what am I doing. And this season in particular, there were a lot of, oh my – what? Oh, my god. Those kinds of reactions. But we all – because they don’t – Jim and David keep very tight-lipped about what we’re all doing. And I never ask because, I mean, I want to know but I kind of don’t want to know because then it would just impact my performance in a weird way. So we do read. And I am privileged to read the script as a fan really. That’s the easiest way to put it.”

With the way things have played out with Adalind having the baby and you personally having your baby, what are the similarities and differences between your parenting and hers?

“I think – well the similarity is that mother – you know being a mother makes your life very simple in one way because you have a thing – the only thing you’re really concerned with at the end of the day is making sure your baby is happy and safe. So in those ways – in that way Adalind as mother and Claire as a mother are in lockstep. The differences are that Claire as a mother is over-researched and much more paranoid than Adalind is as a mother. I think she’s winging it a little bit more.”

 

Tune in tonight to NBC at 8pm EST/7pm CST to see Claire and the rest of the cast on the season five premiere of Grimm.

Written by Erica Schaaf

Erica is a former social worker and mother of three who has been writing since she was a child. She currently writes fanfiction for the Veronica Mars and The 100 fandoms and is published on Kindle Worlds as well as fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org. She hopes to one day have the chance to be a fly on the wall on set of her fave shows while filming!

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