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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: CARLACIA GRANT ON HER BREAKOUT ROLE IN NETFLIX’S “OUTER BANKS” FOR THE INNOVATE ISSUE

<em>Carlacia wears a vintage top by Yves Saint Laurent with earrings by Celeste Starre photographed by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine<em>

The Netflix hit drama Outer Banks really hit the ground running with its second season last year. The chemistry between its cast members on an off-screen — they are a notoriously tight-knit group — is to behold, and season two newcomer Carlacia Grant, aka Cleo on the show, seamlessly fit into that well-oiled machine. Cleo’s joining of the “Pogues,” the nickname given to the group of working-class teens in the titular Outer Banks area of North Carolina, was very well received by the fandom, with her character providing a fresh jolt into the group’s dynamic. Not a newbie to the acting scene, Grant has appeared in acclaimed series like OWN’s Greenleaf and History Channel’s reboot of miniseries Roots, and later this year will star in the feature film Bae Night: The Little Black Book. 

Grant made sure to fill us in on how those early acting experiences shaped her style, and just what she thinks about her character on Outer Banks for The Untitled Magazine‘s latest print edition, The “INNOVATE” Issue, out now. Read the full interview below.

<em>Carlacia wears a latex bodysuit by Yves Saint Laurent trousers by Burberry and earrings by Celeste Starre photographed by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine<em>

What made you decide to pursue acting? Why did you eventually pursue acting on screen rather than the stage?

The moment I started it, which happened to be in summer theater camp, I just fell in love with it. I knew it was what I wanted to do forever. I like the wider audience that film gives me but one day I would love to return to the stage.

How does your family background as a Haitian-Jamaican-American influence your work and set you apart? How does it inform your choices as an actress? 

Growing up with immigrant parents who moved to America when they were young, I was always told they made this move to give me opportunities that I shouldn’t take for granted. I was told that “this is America. You can be whoever you want to be here” and also “you can be born poor here and die rich if you’re willing to work for it.” It made me believe anything was possible as long as I worked for it. How it influences my work is I watched my maternal grandmother work a job for 40 years and never take a day off. It instilled in me a certain work ethic to never give up on what I want because she sacrificed so much to give me the opportunity to pursue my dream, and to hear my grandmother say “I’ve worked so hard to give you guys this opportunity…” it pushes me to want to make her proud. Being of Haitian and Jamaican descent influences my choices, more specifically with this role [in Outer Banks], representing the West Indies I definitely felt the pressure of making our people proud. 

You were very well-traveled growing up. Where did your upbringing take you to, and what places had the biggest impact on you? Did your travels influence your acting in any way? 

Yes, growing up I was very well-traveled. I lived in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, etc. I also stayed in Paris for a bit. Paris definitely had the biggest impact on me because I stayed there for a while, and I didn’t speak any French so I actually learned the language in order to communicate with the locals. It exposed me to a different culture. I came back to the States with new knowledge of what it’s like outside of the States. Yes, it did influence my acting. Acting is about experience and the more experience I have, the more I can draw from to put into my characters.

You recently joined the cast of Outer Banks for Season 2. Tell us about your role of Cleo and how she fits into the show? 

Cleo is our newest Pogue “Bad Gyal” that adds scotch bonnet pepper spice to the show! She fits into the show because she’s a fighter, independent, likes to have a good time, and most importantly believes in the power of friendship.

How did the role in Outer Banks come about for you? 

My agent sent me the audition, I sent in a self-tape from which I heard nothing. Then about a month later, my other agent informed my manager that they were still casting for the role and my manager suggested that we should resend the tape, and the rest is history.

We hear you had to develop an islander accent for the show. Tell us about that and how else you prepared for the role of Cleo.

Yes, I did have to develop an accent for the show. I used a dialect coach, lots of YouTube videos, music, and I consulted with some Bahamian friends of mine. Secondly, getting in physical shape for the physicality of the role. Mac Solomon, my personal trainer, got me in shape. We worked out six days a week. We also had an amazing stunt team who helped teach me most of the stunts for Cleo. 

<em>Carlacia wears a blazer dress sequin bralette and leggings by DSquared2 earrings by Dheygere and a ring by FRY POWERS photographed by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine<em>

Do you see any of yourself in Cleo?

Yes, I do. We both are island girls. We both are resilient, caring, and we both have a great sense of humor.

Was Cleo a more or less challenging role to take on than your previous ones? 

I would say it was more of a challenging role. This was definitely my most physically demanding role both stunt-wise and for different tricks. For instance, learning how to twirl a knife, drive stick shift, and knock out a guy with an oar!

With Season 2 of Outer Banks ending on such a cliffhanger, what can we expect from the show, and specifically from Cleo, going forward? 

I have absolutely no idea. No one told me anything as of yet. I do hope that for Season 3 we can get more into Cleo’s backstory. Also, more Cleo and Kiara scenes and of course more Pogue life. 

With the Outer Banks cast already a tight-knit group from working on Season 1 together, did you feel any pressure being a Pogue newcomer on Season 2? What was it like joining this cast?

I did wonder how the fanbase would receive me. Being that I am the international Pogue. But as far as working with the cast, they welcomed me with open arms. Joining the cast was like finding long lost family that you love.

What highlights can you share with us from the set of Outer Banks?

Us having the entire hotel to ourselves in Barbados with the rest of the cast and crew is a big highlight. Lots of late-night funny moments, karaoke, dance parties and swimming in the ocean with sea turtles.

You also appeared in the 2016 remake of the iconic miniseries Roots, alongside heavy-hitters like Laurence Fishburne and Forest Whitaker. Tell us about your role and the experience.

I played Irene in episode 4 of the remake of the series, and she was a loving wife to Tom, son of Chicken George, and mother of 3. Irene was an enslaved woman who, despite her circumstances, was very strong and I enjoyed playing her. On a personal level, I learned more about the strength and resilience of African-Americans during those times. 

Also in 2016 you appeared in the NBC crime drama Game of Silence. What was it like on the set of that series? Are there any particular highlights you can share?

It was great. I worked with some amazing actors who I have become very great friends with. The highlight is that it was my first network TV show booking ever. I felt very accomplished crossing that milestone.  

Tell us about your recent guest spot on FOX’s series The Resident. What was the episode and your role all about, and how did you enjoy working on a medical drama?

The episode is called “Moving on and Mother Hens.” That was my first time being on set during Covid, so I got to learn the protocols for being on set during a pandemic. My character in particular, Trinity, learned a valuable lesson in not taking people around you who care for you for granted, especially mothers.

<em>Carlacia wears a sequin top by Paco Rabanne and trousers by Area with a choker and necklace by Alessandra Rich photographed by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine<em>

Your screen credits are predominantly all for intensely dramatic TV series and films. How do you balance the intensity on set with life outside of work? How do you unwind at home?

I have learned not to be 100% method (living in the character 24/7), so now after work I tend to unwind with friends and family, read a great book, watch TV and eat a great meal!

What other actors or filmmakers inspire you right now? 

I would say my close friends I know personally in the industry who are also making waves inspire me. Filmmakers who also inspire me include Ava Duverney, Uzo Aduba, Zendaya, Kerry Washington, Reese Witherspoon, Rachel McAdams, Issa Rae, Lena Waithe, Mara Brock Akil, Quentin Tarantino, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Angela Bassett… I mean I can go on forever.

What challenges have you faced this past year working as an actress during the pandemic? 

The challenges I faced were the same challenges everyone faced. Not being able to see family and friends as much as I would like to, not being able to go to concerts. As an actor I was only able to stick around people within my bubble on set. I had that internal fear that if I caught Covid I’d risk shutting down production and affecting other people’s livelihood. It was a tough time but I’m glad to see things going back to normal slowly.

Do you have any words of wisdom you live by, either as an actress or for everyday life?

Yes, I love quotes. I am a quote connoisseur and live by this quote: “Champions are made from something they have deep inside them — a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” – Muhammad Ali

Since this is our “INNOVATE” issue, what drives you to keep innovating, and how do you continue to push yourself as an actress?

What drives me to keep innovating is when I think about the generation that is coming up behind me. I want to make it easier for them and give them something to aspire to be. I want to open doors, but also leave them open for others to enter into this space as well. I push myself as an actress to get better at what I do. To never become complacent and to continue to learn new skills. I want to always top my personal best with each character.

What are you working on at the moment? Any other projects can we look forward to from you in the near future?

I do have something I’m working on, but I can’t disclose the project just yet. But, I am very excited about what the future holds!

To read the full interview pick up a copy of The INNOVATE Issue – available now from our online boutique.

Carlacia Grant @carlaciagrant
Photography by Indira Cesarine @indiracesarine for @theuntitledmagazine
Stylist Danielle Dinten @danielledintenstyle
Hair by April Bautisa @aypruhl
Make-up by Archangela Chelsea @archangelachelsea using Chanel Beauty @chanel.beauty
Photographed at Sofitel Los Angeles @sofitellosangeles

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