MINI V: So talk to me—how has your Pride month been so far?
Madison Bailey: Pride month has been very work heavy. *laughs* I’m in Charleston and we’ve just started filming for season four of Outer Banks so I’ve been busy.
MV: Oh my God. I actually just saw a teaser for season four on TikTok a few days ago so it’s really exciting. How has it been now doing this for four cycles now?
MB: We started filming this show in 2019 and now to be on season four in 2023 is so surreal. As a joke, we say we’re seniors. That it’s our senior year and we have all the energy that comes with being a senior.
MV: That is so sweet. How old were you in 2019 when you first started filming?
MB: I was 20!
MV: Oh my God, you were so young.
MB: I know, I’m 24 now. I’m approaching my mid-twenties *laughs*
MV: Oh, trust me–it’s downhill from here, honey.
MB: *laughs* That’s something to look forward to.
MV: Looking back now at age 20 when you started filming, this was one of the first big shows that you’ve ever done, right?
MB: It’s the first show that I would ever be working on for this period of time. I’ve popped in for like a week or so on [other shows], but this is my first time having more of a family environment with my cast and crew. We’ve added another lead character in season three, and [Carlacia Grant] joined as a season regular and our little family’s been growing, you know? We have a crew that has been with us since the beginning and for this season, there’s definitely a ton of familiar faces and it’s nice to come back and see the same people.
MV: Now that it’s year four, what do you think has been the biggest blessing in terms of growth that you’ve undertaken within age and within this role? After four years, I’m sure you get to know yourself and your craft a lot more.
MB: Totally! I’ve had an invaluable experience [on Outer Banks], in terms of learning and acting, not only just learning more about myself through trial and error and what it takes to get me in a certain head space. I’ve just learned so much about from my cast as well and watching them, seeing their process. I’m so grateful, I’ve gone from 20 to 24 years old while being here. I’ve definitely grown just as a person, and having people around you that will grow with you is a beautiful thing.
MV: How old were you when you first started acting?
MB: I started acting when I was 15. I was a sophomore in high school, so it’s been nine years, which is so wild!
MV: Nine years go by in the blink of an eye. What did those earlier audition phases in your 15-year-old life look like? Or is acting something you just always wanted to do and it all came easy?
MB: At the time, I definitely felt like ‘Okay, this is coming so naturally to me, this is what I’m meant to do’ because I just had a level of comfortability. Looking back at my old audition [tapes] is comedic, I was so sure that this was it for me. [In acting], you hear so many no’s before you hear a yes, and I think at 15 years old, that’s something I just needed to experience in general. Just fighting for what you love doing and not always being told yes, and just continuing to work hard. I really fell in love with acting though because it was a place to express yourself. I don’t know how I would have turned out if not for acting.
MV: So having the acting and audition room become a sort of safe haven for you, was it all something that came through school or did your parents want you to get into? I’m curious to when it became a thought and how it all came to be.
MB: Initially, I had signed with an agency because I wanted to model and then my agents wanted to sign me in the film department and I had never really done film. They thought I would be good at it and I was willing to give it a shot. My parents are both super far from this industry, not really knowing much [about acting]. My parents are my biggest supporters. My dad would say he is a ‘get behind and push’ kind of person. I’m one of seven kids, and we’ve all been blessed to have somebody that just got behind us and pushed. Having parents that took me to my acting classes twice a week, 30 minutes away and they’d sit there the whole time…I look back on that time and I know how much it has shaped me.
MV: When you win your first Oscar, I hope you mention that in your speech. Especially in those formative years, those memories of support are the ones that stick out the most, and so many individuals like myself can identify with that. Let’s talk a little bit about how growing up and being a sibling of seven, which is so wild to me I can’t imagine how crazy that household was, what was your experience like in coming to terms with who you are as a person and finding purpose in acting, and how gender and sexual identity kind of weaved itself into those early formative years.
MB: I came out when I was 18, which is interesting because I realized it myself when I was 18 and also I came out at 18 as well. I think there’s a part of me that always knew that I was attracted to girls. And it’s not that I didn’t really have a safe space to explore that, I was just living in a town with no one to explore that with. I learned a lot about myself in my acting and it did make me feel a sense of comfort with who I am or whoever I could be. But also at the time, I didn’t really know that I was. When the time did come, it actualized itself into me dating one of my friends and opening up myself to this whole other possibility of what my future could look like with what my future partner would look like.
MV: It all just kind of opens itself up from there on, everything sort of blossoms after it’s all out in the open.
MB: I told my family and everybody was supportive, no backlash, nothing.
MV: Love that. During the month of Pride and beyond, we hear a lot of the backlash within coming out stories, it’s almost refreshing to hear that times are changing and there’s a lot more room for acceptance for our generation. After coming out, where do you think you found a true sense of community, especially the queer community?
MB: Honestly, I don’t know if I really felt that until I left North Carolina. When I came out, I felt like I didn’t have the space to explore the community, which [after coming out] is a huge reward when being on the other side with a community of people that would go to bat for you every day of the week. I think the safest spaces [for me] have been film sets, and a lot of queer people end up in film. *laughs* And [you find] a lot of people exploring their art because when you’re already exploring who you are, you then deconstruct everything. When you explore one avenue, you deconstruct all of the other expectations on you in the world, you know?
MV: I think it’s an interesting point because I think what’s so interesting with the art of acting is the process of character study and the act of deconstructing characters down to their raw emotions, behavioral patterns, their interests, and your idea of what you think this person could be in real life. I feel like before anyone even thinks of coming out, I feel like we always envision who we would be like in the future if we were actually out and living our best life. I think a lot of queer people get into acting and into a sort of role-play career because it helps them discover parts of themselves and also create lineage with the character themselves. Coming out at age 18, and then diving into a slew of roles, how did you find that whole community of acting professionals to be?
MB: Truly, the people I’ve met on set I’d say are the communities that I’ve built. When I came out to LA, I was in a relationship that then introduced me to an incredible friend [group]. I feel like I fell into a beautiful scene, and I’ve always been a very, very independent person. I’ve never been scared to say what I want. So once I arrived, I’ve found comfortability in seeing other people be so fearless in who they are–it’s easy to then build the courage within yourself to just run equally as free.
MV: Totally. While you may have found your sexuality while you were growing up and coming into your own as an actress and as a being, I think it’s nice to hear that the process of finding yourself is continuously happening, especially because we’re young and it’s not like we know everything.
MB: You are never finished defining yourself, I truly believe that. In a moment, you can be inspired by anything.
MV: What are you inspired by now four years after being on Outer Banks? What’s keeping you going?
MB: Just the spirit of joy, just having so much fun in what I’m doing. I’m inspired by the fact that I’m having such a good time. There’s no other motivation besides making my family proud. You know, I have nine nieces and nephews..
MV: Dear god.
MB: *laughs* and being I’m an auntie that they can look up to and can see me living my truth, going after what I’m passionate about and knowing that I’m not only inspiring strangers on a regular basis, which is more than rewarding.
MV: What has been their reaction been to seeing you on a show and seeing their actress auntie?
MB: Oh gosh, all of them have had very different responses. Some of them understand, some of them aren’t allowed to watch the show yet. One of my nephews was like ‘Are you gonna have to kiss a boy again?’ because they know my girlfriend and they’re like ‘We saw what you did on TV!’ They tease me a little. *laugh* My oldest niece has tried to negotiate to trade my Louis Vuitton purse for a bag of Skittles. A lot of my nephews are like ‘Ugh, all my friends at school talk about you’. They’re like fully embarrassed of me.
MV: You know what, embarrassed or not, you’re making an impact on them whether they kind of acknowledge it or not at the end of the day. What has been the fan reaction to seeing you sort of on-screen doing your thing and getting to know you off-screen on social media?
MB: It’s definitely been mixed reviews. It’s a fact that there is zero [queer] representation on the show I’m on, and knowing that the show I’m on doesn’t attract that audience, as a result of that, there’s not always overlap between people who love the show and people who love what I’m doing. I’m the type of person to ignore the hate and accept all of the love, all day. I know that I lose followers every time I post my girlfriend. I know that I receive bad DMs when I advocate for causes on my story. In return, I don’t want anybody that doesn’t support me and my life. I’m not posting for them, I’m not looking to gain their respect. I’m not looking to gain their validation. It’s [a lot of] weeding out the bad and only leaving room for more good. You know,
MV: It’s kind of crazy to hear that because I feel like, especially now in 2023, it’s interesting to hear that in these more modern and evolved times that actors are still going through this.
MB: I could speak for both of us that we have very progressive circles around us for sure, and that we are surrounding ourselves with [certain] people and we see so much good that you think like the world has truly changed. My ‘For You’ page is so positive, so loving, and then you see that one comment that says ‘You need to find a real man’ and I forget that these people exist, that hate still exists and permeates beneath the surface of our current world.
MV: For all those who view what you do, follow you online, and are keeping up with your life, and for some who may or may not even know what pride is, what does Pride signify for you?
MB: Pride to me is, is living your authentic life joyfully and not quietly. *laughs* Having pride in who you are is to be satisfied with who you are. Pride is about community, about a celebration of the beauty that has derived from queer people and celebrating that, remembering and celebrating the joy of it all.
Photography Richard Burbridge
Fashion Anna Trevelyan
Creative Direction Stephen Gan
Editor-in-Chief Mathias Rosenzweig
Makeup Raisa Flowers
Hair Shingo Shibata
Manicure Naomi Yasuda
Interview Kevin Ponce
Fashion Editor Emma Oleck
Casting Greg Krelenstein (GK-ID Projects)