Intriguingly working to maintain power and mystery in both your personal and professional lives can be an equally challenging and rewarding process. Veteran television actress Claire Coffee is once again proving her effortless ability to maintain control and intrigue in her portrayal of her role of former Hexenbiest Adalind Schade on the popular police procedural fantasy series, ‘Grimm.’ The one-time antagonistic character’s distinct change in motivations, including her determination to now help those she once wronged, leaves the other characters questioning if she has truly improved, a puzzle the skilled performer has also upheld for viewers in recent episodes.
‘Grimm’ returned for its fifth season on NBC last Friday, October 30, with the premiere episode, ‘The Grimm Identity,’ which was directed by Eric Laneuville and written by the show’s co-creators and executive producers, David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf. The supernatural series will continue airing its current season on Friday nights at 9/8pm Central.
Season 5 of ‘Grimm’ is set in the wake of Portland homicide detective and titular protagonist Nick Burkhardt’s (David Giuntoli) mother’s beheading and the death of his girlfriend, Juliette Silverton (Bitsie Tulloch). Having lost so much, Nick must decide what type of person he wants to be, while also coming to grips with fathering a child, a son named Kelly, with his once sworn enemy, Adalind. His search for the truth leads him to FBI Agent Chavez (guest star Elizabeth Rodriguez), and puts him at odds with those close to him.
Coffee generously took the time recently to talk about reprising her role of the once villainous Adalind on the current season of ‘Grimm’ during a conference call. Among other things, the actress discussed how the reformed Adalind feels like her life is better without being a Hexenbiest, and fears that her powers can come back at any moment; how after the deaths of his mother and Juliette, Nick begins to finally bond with Adalind, who has no one else in her life who cares about her, over their son; and how she appreciates that Greenwalt and Kouf trust her abilities as an actress to carry out Adalind’s complex and drastic storylines.
Question: (Q): During the season’s first two episodes, it seems like, at least according to what she’s saying, that Adalind is changing for the better; she said that she doesn’t want to change back again. Is that change going to last, or is it just what she’s feeling right, because she still has baby hormones?
Claire Coffee (CC): Those baby hormones, as I now know firsthand (as the actress had her first child, a son, this past spring), are very persuasive at times. But she finally feels like her life is far better without being a Hexenbiest than it is being a Hexenbiest.
We’re shooting episode 11 now, but her fear in the beginning (of the season) is that this is a suppressant that they used to suppress her powers. But they could trickle back in at any moment. She is really scared of that happening, because she’s building her relationships with Nick and Kelly, and she really wants to do it right this time.
Q: It doesn’t seem as though Nick’s going to forgive Adalind any time soon, but they seem to be amiable right now. So how is her relationship with him going to change as time moves on?
CC: At the beginning of the season, they’re both at a bit of a crossroads. Nick has lost his mother and Juliette, the love of his life. Adalind has no one. So I think that they really do bond over this child, and the only feeling that matters to them at this point is keeping this child happy and healthy. I think it’s easy to let bygones be bygones when you have a baby who really does need you 24 hours a day. So it gets them pretty sidetracked, at least for a while.
Q: How has motherhood been for you personally?
CC: It’s been so many things, but it’s really been awesome; (her son) Cal is awesome. Luckily I’m able to bring him on set with me, so he hangs out in the trailer with my incredible nanny. I get to feed him or hang out with him on (my) breaks from set. So that’s been really good. He’s sort of like the set mascot.
I feel so much more informed this season playing the role of a mother, now that I am one myself. I feel very bad about…my birthing scene of Diana. I would have done it very differently had I know what it actually feels like.
Q: You mentioned the relationship between Nick and Adalind earlier. Have you reflected on their journey, and her change of heart?
CC: I think a rollercoaster ride defines (the change in Adalind) most accurately. I really do try to take it day-by-day. We get the scripts about a week in advance, so (that journey has) great. I never knew where she’s going, which helps, because you can take each insane thing at face value, and not really worry how (her actions are) going to affect things in the future.
But as an actress, you really want to be able to play extraordinary circumstances. I feel like I have gotten to play three different characters in the same show so far, so it’s been great fun for me.
Q: during Juliette’s demise, there were fans who were really talking about the possibility of a Nick and Adalind coupling. When you heard that, did you think it was a possibility?
CC: Nick and Adalind have had that very aggressive and contentious chemistry from the beginning (of their relationship), since she was the first wesen that he saw, and she’s been a thorn in his side. So I do think they’re an expression of that saying that there’s a thin line between love and hate.
They are inextricably linked, so it’s not so farfetched that they would get together. But there are so many things complicating the situation at this point, especially since this season we have a brand new villainess entity. There’s this vested uprising afoot, so there’s a lot going on.
Q: When the series started, you were a guest star, and you’re now a main component of the main storyline. To get to this point, what does that say about the creative team’s confidence in your talent, and the fans desire to see more of you?
CC: That’s a very flattering way to look at it, for sure. I always do mind getting killed off, so I’m so grateful that I had more than one episode. Before ‘Grimm,’ I’d done a fair amount of guest starring parts and recurring roles that if the series got picked up, I would become a regular. But then the series didn’t happen. So I really consider myself very lucky (with ‘Grimm’). I feel great that the fans have love to hate me this long.
Q: In the midst of Adalind’s journey and change, how are her relationships with Captain Sean Renard and Nick’s partner, Hank Griffin, going to be affected by the new relationship between Nick and her as the season progresses?
CC: Renard has a different storyline in Season 5. So with the baby, Adalind’s definitely popping up more with Nick and Hank, Monroe and Rosalee.
With Hank, I think nobody forgets how badly she screwed him over and tried to kill him. But it seems to be on the back burner, as people are giving Adalind the benefit of the doubt, thankfully for myself and her.
As for Adalind’s relationship with Rosalee, she’s really trying to get Rosalee to trust her. They’re forming a friendship that will grow throughout the season.
Q: When you signed up for the role, did you have any idea that it would be this complex, or did you think it was an evil character?
CC: When I signed up, it was just for one episode, with a potential to recur. The character was just henchman for Renard, and that’s all I knew. I tried not to wonder too much beyond that. So it’s been a very pleasant surprise how it’s gone.
Q: Since Adalind has the new baby, does she have fears that this one is going to get taken away too?
CC: There’s a fear that this one will get taken away. With the new stress that arrived on the scene in Portland, her fears are not assuaged in any way. So she’s relying on Nick for protection.
Q: In terms of some of the other things that are going on during this season’s storyline, is there any impression that you are suddenly Juliette’s replacement, both with Nick and on the show in general?
CC: I don’t think so. The best I can say is that you just have to wait and see; it’s a pretty twisty, turning season. Adalind and I are not replacing anything. I think this Adalind/Nick relationship is providing one more layer for the gang. I think for the rest of the team, they definitely aren’t so excited to have her in the fold at first. Nobody is trusting her completely, so it’s a very slow process.
Q: Actresses have cited that David Greenwalt as a consistent champion of complicated and multilayered female characters. Have you found that to be a factor with your character? In general, how have you found the experience of working with him as a collaborative partner?
CC: David’s fantastic. He and Jim balance each other out so perfectly. David is a champion of the show. I get calls from him every so often, and he tells me, “You’re doing such a great job. We’re so happy that you are with us. We’re just really proud all of the work.”
The feeling on set that the both of them have created is that we’re all a big family, and everyone really wants everybody else to succeed. That’s rare, and really wonderful.
I’m so lucky that they’ve put so much faith in me to carry out the insanity that is Adalind’s character. They approach everything the most grounded way possible. So nothing is crazy to them. So course she’s going to lose her powers and gain them again, and sleep with Nick and then have a baby. It’s a very longwinded way of saying yes, David Greenwalt is a fantastic champion of complicated female characters.
Q: Can you tease a bit about what Adalind might be up to, beyond the first two episodes of the season?
CC: Yes, Adalind’s main concern is keeping Kelly safe. She’s also really trying to figure out a way that she can be a “normal person.” She wants to try to figure out ways to be a good person and be a good mom. Her relationship with Nick is also something that is ever-changing for the first half of this season, and it gets complicated.
What I like about the new Adalind is that I get to shoot with the rest of the cast more frequently now, since she’s in Portland and hanging out with the gang. So that’s the most fun, as I didn’t get to do that as much as evil Adalind.
Q: We’ve all seen the evolution of Adalind throughout the fourth season. But it also seems that the definition of what a Hexenbiest is has also evolved. How has being a Hexenbiest changed over the years?
CC: I think it’s gotten more specific. At the start (of the series), I was the only Hexenbiest. Then we had the B episode where you learned a little bit more about Hexenbiest, which is the lethal witch creature that no one in the wesen community really liked. I think now it’s gotten more specific with the rules of Hexenbiest age and how you can become a Hexenbiest.
You know Juliette became a Hexenbiest. Since she wasn’t born a Hexenbiest, her powers are more deadly. Then we have the Zauberbiest, which is the captain. We learned about the male version of the Hexenbiest.
But it is evolving for my character, and she’s suppressing her powers. The questions of how and what does it take for those powers to come back and come through have come up. So has the question of how can you suppress them forever. These are things that we will continue to learn about in Season 5.
Q: Did you have input on how these definitions of Hexenbiest evolved, or did you learn it as you got the script? Did you guys workshop what a Hexenbiest is?
CC: No, it’s just all based on the script. In the pilot, it was experimenting with a vogue, because Silas (Weir Mitchell, who stars as a Wieder Blutbad, Monroe) and I were the first to do it. So that was probably the only thing I had a hand in (the Hexenbiet’s evolution), and the rest of it is all Jim and David’s ideas.
Q: Will Adalind get involved with any of Nick’s cases or with any of the action? What’s her experience working with the whole group going to be like?
CC: I think he probes her for some knowledge on the darker side of the wesen world. She proves to be helpful in a few ways, in terms of the folklore.
Q: The show’s about to celebrate its 100th episode. So what does being part of a show like this mean for you, personally, as it nears the milestone?
CC: It’s truly unbelievable. I keep saying ithat we’re all just so grateful and in disbelief, and so proud of the show and happy to be up in Portland. Reaching 100 episodes these days is such an enormous accomplishment. So we’re hugely indebted to the fans of the show.
Q: With so many TV shows and many ways to consume television today, why do you think that ‘Grimm’ is still so popular?
CC: Well, I think there’s a little bit of something for everyone with these characters. Their arches have been so complex. So I think it’s really been fun for the fans to see how things change from season to season, and even from episode to episode.
The monsters also translate into any language. Our visual effects artists have done an incredible job of creating these very intricately disgusting creatures. That’s reason to tune in alone, just to see what the next monster is going to look like.
Q: What was the most challenging thing to shoot this season so far?
CC: There was a scene during which I had to hold the baby, answer the phone and deal with a pot of boiling water with rice. So just from a choreography standpoint, that was pretty challenging.
Q: Will Adalind get a chance to meet her daughter, Diana, again? What kind of relationship do you think they could have?
CC: We’re up to Episode 11, and I still haven’t gotten her back yet. She is aging rapidly, so we’re all speculating as to how she will be when I finally see her again. At this point, whomever she’s with has spent a lot more time with her than Adalind has. So those mother ties are very, very strong, but the relationship would obviously be difficult at first.
Q: You’ve been playing Adalind as primarily evil for the last four years. Are you enjoying playing a kinder, gentler Adalind, or are you eager to get back to villainy?
CC: I’m enjoying (playing her kinder side). It’s fun to get to play something different. But I really love the day-to-day enjoyment of getting to work with the rest of the cast.
Q: Adalind has a lot of interaction with Juliette. What is it like working with Bitsie (Tulloch, who played Juliette), and what is your relationship with (Tulloch) like off screen?
CC: Well working with Bitsie from an actor’s standpoint is great. She is super professional. She always brings great stuff to work off of while we filmed together. Off screen, Bitsie, Bree (Turner, who plays Rosalee Calvert, Fuchsbau) and I are very close. We have girl dates frequently, and it’s awesome.
Q: What were your feelings when you first found out Adalind would be having a baby, and it would be Nick’s?
CC: I was shocked. They wrote another baby in because I had my baby in real life. But when I told them I was pregnant, I said, “Obviously, we’re not going to do another baby storyline. Don’t worry, we can use a body double; it will be all fine.”
Then halfway through the season, they said, “Actually, we are going to have (Adalind) become pregnant, and it’s going to be Nick’s.” I think my jaw hit the floor. But it ended up being an outrageously fun adventure. It still is, so I’m happy that they went that direction.
Q: When you get a script, what is your usual reaction when you see what they have in store for you, and the show in general?
CC: Well, they always email the script first. I stop whatever I’m doing, and I scroll through just to see what I’m doing. This season in particular, Jim and David keep very tight-lipped about what we’re all doing. I never ask (about what’s going to happen next,) because I don’t want to know; it would just affect my performance in a weird way. I am privileged to read the script as a fan.
Q: With the way things have played out with Adalind having the baby and you personally having your baby, what are the similarities and differences between your parenting and hers?
CC: I think the similarity is that being a mother makes your life very simple in one way, because the only thing you’re really concerned with at the end of the day is making sure your baby is happy and safe. The differences are that Claire as a mother is over-researched and much more paranoid than Adalind is as a mother. I think (Adalind’s) winging it a little bit more.
Written by: Karen Benardello