Claire Coffee’s Adalind Schade is the most cheered-yet-jeered character on NBC’s supernatural procedural, “Grimm.” The Northern California native has settled into her role as the show’s perpetually mischievous Wesen creature, but her journey to this point has been a rocky one.
Hero Complex recently caught up with the actress in a side hallway on the set of “Grimm” in Portland, Ore. The small enclosure had been dressed to look like a bedroom in a medieval castle, and despite the dreary surroundings, Coffee strolled around happily, chatting with cast and crew members at craft services and laughing at longstanding inside jokes from three years of working together.
Coffee’s easy smile makes it all the more vexing that her on-screen character is vindictive and, as executive producer Jim Kouf says, “puts a face to the monstrous behavior within human beings.”
In real life, Coffee loves baking and antiquing and the rain — definitely a plus in Portland — but in the hit fantasy series, her character was being held prisoner in a dungeon after a member of a Wesen Royal family felt the need to retain her, luring her with misleading promises of getting her kidnapped baby back. We asked her a few questions about playing Adalind and the plot hoops she has to jump through.
Hero Complex: It’s been three seasons, now a fourth, as Adalind, a hexenbiest. Do you remember when you were notified you got the role?
Claire Coffee: It was late on a Friday night and I was out with friends. I was so excited, but you know, you’re in the pilot and it’s potentially recurring … so we’ll see. But I knew she was bad ass. Actually, they had a scene that I auditioned with that didn’t make it into the pilot where I was talking to a police officer, and at the end of the scene she ended up eating his head off. I’d never done anything like that before, and it was so exciting.
HC: How has the “Grimm” speak been for you?
CC: I had to speak some German, and it’s always hard when you have to speak and you have no idea what you’re saying. I also had to speak some French, but I do know a little, so that was easier. I get off pretty easy when it comes to having to pronounce Wesen names.
HC: Adalind is on a roller coaster, from her evil beginnings to hurting a main character, having a baby, seeking redemption, returning to evil, and even imprisonment.
CC: Yeah! They did a really good job with the bait and switch there. Oh, she’s a mother, she’s empathetic and can have real feelings … but no. Guess it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. We find her at the beginning of Season 4 basically paying the price for all of that wrath she’s caused, and she’s in a dungeon while trying to get back her baby. But of course, Victor doesn’t have the baby — which she doesn’t find out until she takes an enormous transatlantic journey. So, she’s caught out in Vienna, and there’s hell to pay. The writers do a really good job of surprising us and keeping everything under wraps until we get those scripts. I had no idea of the wild goose chase I’d be going on. It’s been treacherous to say the least, meeting all sorts of strange characters in this dungeon, and still on a quest for her baby.
HC: When that storyline for her having a baby, then having it taken away was introduced, how’d you react?
CC: I thought it was an interesting diversion — not knowing where they would go with it. Initially she was going to sell her baby, so [it was about] trying to get in the head space of a sociopath who would sell her baby. Luckily, she opted not to and opened up a whole other range of emotions to be wrestling with, which was really fun for me.
Playing evil is always a joy. Just things that you would never ever get to explore in real life, hopefully, unless you’re a sociopath. So you can explore the depths of those emotions safely. The arc of last season was such that I got to really go to such extremes in the emotional landscape. As an actor, that’s just a dream.
HC: For this season, it’s hard to either like or hate Adalind, so far. What’s the arc like for you?
CC: The main driving force for Adalind has been getting her baby back. After last season, she has no allies, she has no friends, no family … she has this baby, and that’s it. She’s desperate to get the baby back, and she has many reasons to do so, but the most important is that it gives her a tie to this world. A purpose. For all the Adalind haters out there, you’ll be definitely pleased with what this season brings. Maybe you’ll feel a little sorry for her towards Episode 5 or 6, but then not again in Episode 8. Our fans are, for the most part, supportive. What I get a lot is, “Hey I love you, but I hate you!”
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