In the two weeks since “Outer Banks” premiered on Netflix, Madison Bailey — a Kernersville native who is one the stars of the show — says she has “gotten a message from every person I can think of.”
“I’ve gotten so much love from the 336 and so many people,” she said by phone from Charleston, where she is now sheltering in place while waiting for the COVID-19 pandemic to end.
“Outer Banks” follows a group of teenagers growing up in a fictional version of the Outer Banks. The series’ first season was filmed last summer near Charleston, S.C., and plays fast and loose with the geography of the coastal area.
Bailey, 21, plays Kiara, the lone female member of a quartet of friends, most of whom are from the “wrong side of the tracks.” Kiara is from a wealthy family, but doesn’t like hanging out with the rich kids and prefers hanging out with three boys she grew up with. Kiara is feisty and environmentally conscious.
“I love my character,” she said. “I love playing this super-tomboy, caring person. She’s so fun and so cool.... I connect with her a lot. It was pretty easy to get into character. The only difference is I’m very girly and Kiara is not.”
Bailey is part of a large contingent of local folks both in front of and behind the cameras on “Outer Banks.” The show was co-created by Jonas and Josh Pate, who were born in Winston-Salem and grew up in Raeford. The supporting cast includes such local actors as Cullen Moss from Winston-Salem, Drew Starkey from Hickory and Nicholas Cirillo from North Wilkesboro, among others. Behind the scenes, Brad Smith, a Greensboro native and UNCG alum, is the cinematographer.
And Bailey’s older sister, Katie Bailey, is her stunt double, taking over when her character has to hop fences, climb, and so on.
“She’s in gymnastics,” Madison said. “My sister had never done stunt (work), but I talked with the stunt coordinator and it was such a chill show.... It’s amazing they gave us that opportunity and experience together.”
Growing up, Bailey — who is the youngest of seven siblings — watched the movie “Legally Blonde” “an obscene amount of times,” but she didn’t think about acting until she was a freshman at East Forsyth High School and was pushed into it.
“My friends forced me to do a musical with them, I didn’t want to, I thought it would be so awkward.”
But she went ahead with it, and got a small part in “The Pajama Game.”
“From then on I never wanted to do anything else,” she said. “I don’t know what it was, but it was just fun and I was like ‘this could be a career I could have, absolutely, I’m going to do that.’ It was a super small role.”
She started helping out at in-STUDIO, a Greensboro acting studio run by Drew Matthews, where she would help record other peoples’ audition tapes and record her own, then traveling to Atlanta for auditions, “not really knowing what I was doing, just going with the flow,” she said.
Eventually she decided to leave public school and focus full-time on her acting career, while pursuing her diploma at home.
She has made guest appearances on such shows as “Constantine,” “Mr. Mercedes” and “Murder Chose Me.” On the superhero series “Black Lightning,” she played a girl with superpowers. A more recent role was in an episode of “Creepshow,” which originally aired on the Shudder streaming service and will be repeated next month on AMC. She also has a multi-episode role in “Council of Dads,” a feel-good NBC family drama filmed in Wilmington.
Three months after she moved to Los Angeles, she got the call for “Outer Banks,” which brought her back to the Carolinas. “I knew it would be a show all my hometown friends and everyone I know would want to see,” she said.
The Pate brothers said that when they were casting the show, they weren’t trying to necessarily find people from North Carolina, but they did want “outdoorsy” types. “We wanted them to be physically convincing,” said Josh Pate. “We wanted people who have camped before and been surfing before.” As a result, most of the main roles ended up going to people from Southern states — or in one case, Alaska.
And Bailey certainly fit the bill.
“Growing up and you have that many siblings, I can’t remember a time inside,” she said. “We were always outside, playing no-rules baseball, building forts in the woods... and going to the creek to catch salamanders and frogs.” One of her best friends had a home on Belews Lake, and she recalls spending much of the summer visiting and hanging out there.
Since the show premiered, Bailey has gotten used to breathless online articles that proclaim her “your new girl crush,” list trivia about her, and declare themselves “obsessed” with her.
“Honestly, it’s crazy,” she said. “I’ve been sending them to my dad.”
One memorable headline declared “It’s Madison Bailey’s world.”
“My dad was like ‘tell me about it, I could give them a testimonial on that’,” Bailey said with a laugh. “My family has a really funny way of keeping me grounded, and I love them for that.”
Netflix has not yet announced if “Outer Banks” will return for a second season, but the show is one of the streaming service’s top programs, and it seems likely — the Pates are already working on scripts for a new season, which might have started taping in July if not for the pandemic. In the meantime, Bailey said she is “reading a lot of scripts, I’ve got four scripts for films” and waiting to get back to work.
“With every role you book you learn something new,” she said, “something that’s going to help you with the next one.”