Claire Holt Can Play Evil, But She’s Very, Very Nice
Australian actress Claire Holt is well-known for her role as Rebekah Mikaelson, one of the most compelling characters on Vampire Diaries and its spinoff, The Originals. After spending the past few years in Australia, Claire is back in Los Angeles, co-starring alongside David Duchovny in the ‘60s-era cop drama, Aquarius. The show depicts one of the most fascinating moments in American culture, when the Manson murders sent shockwaves through Los Angeles. The task of portraying this era would be daunting to some, but Claire couldn’t be more excited for her role, and all of the challenges it poses along the way.
Cloud Hunter Kimono, For Love & Lemons Dress, Pearl Collective Earrings, Ariel Gordon Necklace & Maya Brenner Necklace
Abeline Cohen: Do you think you’re naturally drawn to evil characters? Or narratives that involve a lot of danger?
Claire Holt: I didn’t even realize it, but I guess I do gravitate towards that! I’m also working on a film, ‘47 Meters Down’, with Mandy Moore, which is a thriller that takes place mostly underwater. So that’s pretty crazy as well, but I’m mostly interested in captivating storytelling.
AC: Was that what originally drew you to Aquarius?
CH: The script for Aquarius was truly original, and like nothing I’d ever read before. To be able to work with David Duchovny, who is just so experienced, and so talented, was also such major draw. I had to work really hard for that job, and to convince people I could play something other than a vampire. But it was really a dream, you know, to work with such great people.
AC: Does Los Angeles, as a city, influence the kind of work you do? I heard that you left The Originals because you wanted to be closer to home.
CH: Yes, for sure. But in this show, Los Angeles is also its own character. It’s weird, and cool, and it was fascinating to learn about it during the time Aquarius is set. Especially the LAPD at that time! You know, I play a young female cop, and in that era, women didn’t have any rights at all. If you were a female cop, you got coffee, or you got fired, basically.
“I absolutely admire talent, but I admire it even more when it’s coupled with humility… It’s so inspiring to me to see women who gain success and remain good people.”
AC: How did you do research for your role?
CH: We got a homework list, of course. I had to read Helter Skelter. I had known a little bit about Charles Manson, but I didn’t really know about the intricacies of his character, and how he created this force, and this family. In the show, we explore the fact that he must have really had some sort of undeniable magnetism. It really appears that he preached about love, and that was his theme, and it’s so interesting how he could use that to get people to commit murders.
AC: It’s also interesting that you guys are exploring the LAPD at that time, which was its own corrupt institution—
“The racial issues are definitely hard to film, by the way. We’re always having conversations on set about how to portray race and sexuality in a positive way.”
CH: Totally! David Duchovny plays this sort of flawed character, because he’s a good guy, but he’s working for a police force in a time where their goal is mainly to clear cases. War was ever-present, racial tensions were so high, social tensions in general were just so present, and it was fascinating to explore how the police force didn’t work for people at that time. The racial issues are definitely hard to film, by the way. We’re always having conversations on set about how to portray race and sexuality in a positive way.
AC: I’m wondering, how are you going to make these kinds of issues modern?
CH: It’s proving to be pretty straightforward, because all of these themes are already so relevant today. I mean, women’s rights and the equality of women are still such important topics, that are still in much need of discussion. And in terms of the police force? Just think about Ferguson, or Freddie Gray in Baltimore! Although we constantly talk about how our society has progressed, it doesn’t really seem to me that we have. If you look at the images put forth from the ‘60s, they’re really not much different than what you see in the news right now.
AC: It’s also interesting that you also gravitate towards roles in shows that deal with such socially relevant topics. Vampire Diaries came on in a time when people were so obsessed with vampires, and the show gave that topic such a humanistic spin. Now, with Aquarius, you’re working to portray the police force, which is definitely a “buzz-topic” right now—
CH: For sure. I think I’m kind of unconsciously drawn to these kinds of narratives, but I’ve been so fortunate to play such powerful women in all of these shows. My character in Aquarius, Charmain, is so strong, and is up against so many social barriers. She has flaws, but she’s powerful and driven. Rebekah [of Vampire Diaries] as well, she was such a badass bitch, but also a sympathetic, complex character, right?
AC: What are the kinds of qualities that you admire in icons?
CH: I absolutely admire talent, but I admire it even more when it’s coupled with humility. I think there are stories of people who get success and don’t behave appropriately, or treat people well. It’s so inspiring to me to see women who gain success and remain good people.
Aquarius airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.