Madelyn Cline Plays the Long Game (2024)

Madelyn Cline is one of Hollywood’s fastest-rising stars, with a schedule that has recently included a trip to Paris Fashion Week and the Oscars party circuit in between two major press runs — yet these days, all she really dreams of is some rest and relaxation.

“Doing nothing, staring at the ceiling and laying on the floor” is how she describes her fantasy that things have slowed down. It’s yet another rainy afternoon in Los Angeles and Cline is dressed in her usual uniform of comfy cozy (“at this point I have more sweats than I do actual pants”), playing with the hoodie strings of her Off-White fleece as she talks. Her immediate plans are to head back home to Malibu, California, and meet her boyfriend, Jackson Guthy, for some oysters and beyond that she’s enjoying the luxury of playing things by ear.

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“One step at a time. Seeing what’s next,” she says.

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Cline, 25, is in an unusual position of doing her first proper press tour, despite being three seasons into one of the most popular TV series to have debuted in recent years. “Outer Banks,” in which she stars as Sarah Cameron, premiered in April 2020 and immediately spent weeks in the number-one most viewed spot on Netflix. The third and most recent season, which premiered last month, was viewed more than 154 million hours within the first four days (yes, that’s the number-one spot again). In the nearly three years since “Outer Banks” became a thing, Cline has been followed by 16 million people on Instagram and was tapped to join the “Knives Out” universe for the sequel, “Glass Onion,” which premiered last fall.

But her fame blew up virtually while she was at home in lockdown during the pandemic — and so much of the IRL publicity for her projects is still new to her.

“This past year has been different just because we’re properly doing everything, and it’s not just over Zoom,” Cline says. “So in a way it still feels very new and it feels like I’ve experienced two different things. You know what I mean? The pandemic and shooting during the pandemic, and also our show premiering during the pandemic. It just existed on your phone, but that only feels as real as this screen,” she adds, holding up her phone. “And so being able to properly go and do everything that accompanies the show being successful and ‘Glass Onion,’ that’s what feels like a ‘pinch me’ because I’m like, ‘What am I doing here?’”

The third season of “Outer Banks” was celebrated not only with a traditional premiere but with its own daylong festival called “Poguelandia,” (a reference to the friend group on the show, called Pogues), drawing legions of fans who turned up to nerd out on a day of their favorite show.

Cline guesses that early on people were drawn to the show, which follows a group of teenagers on a treasure hunt for gold, because of the element of escapism. It’s also a show about the friendship between the Pogues, something Cline thinks a lot of young people yearn for.

“I think people were craving connection and were missing their friends,” she says of the show’s initial success. “And the friendships on the show I think are one of the strongest things we have, the characters’ friendships with each other.”

Cline grew up 30 minutes outside of Charleston, South Carolina, an only child in a family she describes as “very quiet.”

“When I’ll go home and visit them we’ll sit out on the porch and we’ll have wine and we’ll just be sitting there and reading,” she says. “Or my dad will play games on his iPad. It’s so funny because I feel like we’re not a family that necessarily feels the need to fill up space. We’ve always been like that. So, it was just nice. It was very quiet. It was sweet.”

She was homeschooled after a few years because her dad traveled for work, and during the summers her mom would take her to New York for acting and modeling opportunities. She spent a year enrolled in college in South Carolina, but after landing a guest role on “Stranger Things” decided to drop out and move to L.A. to give acting her all.

“I’ll never forget the look on their faces,” she says of her parents, “when I pulled back into the driveway after packing up my dorm and leaving. I felt really bad. But I think they knew I had an interest in it and they knew that I loved it. I think they just really wanted me to get a degree first. [But] I was like, ‘guys, I’m in college to get a degree for a professional career and I have an opportunity in front of me and might just want to take advantage of it.’”

She spent a brief period living out of her car after her first apartment in L.A. was infested with bed bugs before crashing on friends’ couches. Then came “Outer Banks,” followed by “Glass Onion,” and safe to say she’d landed on her feet.

Despite being on one of Netflix’s biggest shows, she was incredibly nervous to head to Greece and meet the “Glass Onion” cast, which included Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson and Kathryn Hahn.

“I was like, ‘I’ve got to get my mind ready, I got to get my body ready.’ But I was so excited to go to Greece. I’ll never forget having all my luggage and walking out the door and getting in the car and sitting in the car being like, ‘Oh my God, I’m about to go to Europe for two and a half months.’ And I got really sad because I was like, ‘I’m going to miss my friends. I’m not going to see them for the whole summer. Oh my God.’ And then I got really overwhelmed. Because I was like, ‘What am I doing?’”

She’s bugged director Rian Johnson about writing a cameo for her in the next film of the franchise, but in general she’s mulling her options before committing to another film — one that works with the “Outer Banks” shooting schedule, that is. (They return to shoot Season Four shortly.)

“I’ve just been enjoying the journey since I haven’t been able to really do this before,” she says. “Right now, as we’re winding down, I’m enjoying sleep.”

Madelyn Cline Plays the Long Game (2024)
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