Since then she’s probably best known for her roles on Caprica and The 100. In 2015, she joined UnREAL and became an instant scene-stealer as goofy P.A., Madison. The pig-tailed teen got promoted to producer in Season 2 after performing certain, ahem, favors for her boss. Now she’s pulling out all the stops to prove her legit worth.
Talk Nerdy had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Genevieve and she’s as fun-loving, spirited and adorkable as you’d hope.
Is it true that Madison was meant to be a short-term character who would only appear in a few scenes?
There was no guarantee. On the break-down for the audition, it said “possible recurring.” When I went in they said, “It might just be for a couple of episodes, we don’t really know. Nothing is finalized for her.” And I was like “Okay” and then I’ve been in every single episode now. (laughs). I guess I got very lucky.
I love the trajectory that she’s on this season. It’s so much fun. I know you were quoted as saying you’d like to play an evil character, that they’re always at the forefront. Do you think Madison is a step in that direction?
I absolutely do. I think it’s super fun to play these people who– You know, without a villain, so to say, there really isn’t much of a story. I really enjoy playing characters, or having the opportunity to portray the people who cause problems and make the stories happen, in a sense. She’s definitely making some stories happen.
So, is it true – do they have cookies on the dark side?
Oh, I do believe they do. I wouldn’t enjoy it so much over here if they didn’t. (laughs).
We’ve seen some of Rachel and Quinn’s backstory. We know a little bit about what drives them. Will we get some background on Madison and what makes her have this power hunger she’s got?
There was a little bit of it in the first episode of Season 2 when she tells Rachel her mom died. She’s really young, only 18, 19, she’s still a teenager, and she’s already lost her mom. Which I can’t imagine how hard that would be. For anyone who has lost a mother that must be so difficult. That honestly may have something to do with it. These two women in her life are probably the two most influential women, if her mother is not there anymore. And they are some pretty dark women to use as an influence. That might have something to do with it a little bit. She doesn’t have a kind, particularly caring woman to look up to.
Have you created your own backstory for her at all?
A little bit. It’s pretty laid out. They didn’t really leave me hanging too much. I really think that’s she’s an extremely driven person and I think she will take any opportunity she can to move forward. Even if she gets a little blinded by what’s actually happening. She’ll still try to go for it. I think she has some kind of internal struggle with making sure she’s doing the best and always sort of winning, in a sense. I think that’s a big personality trait. And I think they do a good job of portraying that.
I think she also has that trait, that a lot of people do, of wanting to be a people pleaser. Especially when it comes to Rachel and Quinn. The scene where she says she’s always going to be known as the girl who went down on her fiancé and then told her her dad was dead was so funny, but it perfectly captured Madison’s worry about not pleasing Quinn.
The opposite—I got so covered in milk doing that. (laughs). I was soaked, my sleeves were soaked in milk. But yeah, the only thing that’s going to stop her, or upset her, is Quinn or Rachel being disappointed. Mainly Quinn. At the same time, though, she’s absolutely still scared of them because they are her bosses.
So far my favorite scene this season is when Madison interviewed Chantal. She seemed more and more distraught, even going so far as throwing up afterwards, but then declared the whole thing awesome! Tell us about the war of emotions there.
I think that was such a big moment of understanding. That second. She’d never been made to push things that far and any producing she had done, even the little tiny bit at the end of Season 1 where she just doesn’t know what she’s doing—is she doing a horrible job?—she’s never had to be the person to say those awful things. That’s the first time she’s been forced to do that job properly, in a sense, and I think it shocks her how far she had to go to get the reaction and it’s just overwhelming. But when she realizes, “Hey, that got the reaction that I wanted. That was great,” then she’s all good to go. (laughs) At that point, when she realizes that’s how far you have to go to get it and she understands that, she’s ready. It’s just that switch of…Madison has to feel that much guilt to get the proper amount of drama.
I have to tell you, you were so good in that scene. It was unbelievable, really and truly.
Thank you so much. It was really fun to do. I’ve said this a couple of times. It was actually the first scene I did for all of Season 2. That was my first day on set and that was the first scene I did.
What has been the fan reaction to that scene and to Madison’s turn on the show?
I think people seem to really like it. I think they liked seeing that little switch at the end of…oh no, here comes another one! Here comes another crazy, manipulative person. Which is such a big part of the show. Manipulation. I’m pretty happy with how people have responded and I think everyone has been pretty happy with everything that Madison’s had to do so far. I’m very pleased.
We’ve already seen that she’s starting to manipulate her girls without coaching and knows to follow the action. Are we going to see an even bigger change in her?
This is just the very beginning for her. She’s learning all of this as she goes and this is her season of Everlasting to actually make an impression. If she doesn’t do well in this season Quinn and Rachel are never going to trust her to do it again. So she has to do a good job. (laughs) She’s really, throughout the season, she’s really pushing to impress Quinn and Rachel.
What do you ultimately want for Madison?
I would love to see her kind of get a little more in control. Not of Everlasting, but of herself. (laughs) Because she still is so naïve. I’d love to see a transition of growing up, which I’m very happy with what they’ve already started on that. And we’ll see where that goes. I don’t want her to lose her goofy charm, because she is still a kid and she is still goofy and awkward and I think that’s really fun so I don’t want that to disappear. I would just love to see her transition into doing the job properly.
As she transitions are the pigtails going to come down? I know fans are clamoring for it.
I don’t know, I guess we’ll have to wait and see. (laughs) But I have had a lot of people say, “Oh, are you actually the actor. You don’t look like her without the braids.”
Who haven’t you had a real chance to work with on the show that you would like to?
Madison didn’t get too much time with Darius because he was totally under Rachel’s care. I think he’s the only character that Madison didn’t spend too much time with because she’s just focusing on her girls. Only reason I’m sad about that is because BJ is great. I still hung out with him on set and everything, we just didn’t have too many scenes together where we interacted. But I got to work with everyone else fairly evenly, which was awesome. But yeah, the suitor is kinda the only character that Madison doesn’t get involved with.
Since Madison and Jay are both vying for Quinn’s attention and working to manipulate their girls are we going to see a showdown between them?
(laughs) They’re both trying to do the same thing. Right? Their goal is to have one of their girls win. I absolutely love working with Jeffrey. He is a glowing angel in a person. We’ve had so much fun this season. We didn’t get to work too much together in Season 1 because I wasn’t in the control room, really, and if I was I was getting yelled at to get out. It was really nice to work with him and we had a great time. I think the relationship between Madison and Jay is super fun and very sibling-esque. Their bickering is very entertaining and she’s a kid so he kind of gets annoyed at her like a kid and it’s oddly endearing. I really enjoyed it.
Do you have any other projects you’re working on?
I did a horror film before UnREAL and I did a short right before UnREAL. The horror film is called The Hollow Child and I don’t think it’s finished yet. I think it’s still going through some tweaks. I had some ADR for it. So when I know, everyone else will know.
Same for the short. The short was called Counter Act. The short was really fun to work on. It was about the sit-ins that happened when black people were not allowed to sit at the diner counters. It was about the sit-ins that people would do to change that. That was a really interesting one to work on. It was hard to think about because it really wasn’t that long ago that this stuff was happening. That’s something to definitely check out. It’s also in the works. I think it’s done now and they’re just trying to figure out festival circuit stuff for it. I’ll be updating social media.
What do you nerd out about?
(laughs) Oh my goodness, well, I’m always nerding out, first of all. My whole family, we’re all giant nerds, we’re huge geeks, every single one of us. I’d say, right now, this is embarrassing, people are going to chew me out for this, but I’ve never actually watched Battlestar Galactica all the way through, properly before. Even though I did Caprica, I’d only seen a few episodes here and there, and never all the way through. I’m watching, properly now, and Oh my God, it is so good. It makes me cry. I did not expect it to make me cry. I did not expect tears from that. Oh my Lord, the tears. So right now, that’s the main thing. And I’m so mad at myself for not watching it years ago.
What inspired you to watch it now?
I knew I needed to see it. It’s my boyfriend’s favorite show. He was so grumpy at me for not having seen it. Jokingly, of course. We decided to sit down and he’s showing it to me and it’s amazing. It’s so good. And my family is mad at me for not watching it too.
You can catch Genevieve on Lifetime’s UnReal, Monday’s at 10/9C.