Q&A: Claire Coffee, Northwestern alum and ‘Grimm’ actress


Source: Claire Coffee

Claire Coffee stars on NBC’s “Grimm,” which airs its season finale on Friday. Coffee graduated from the School of Communication in 2002.

Rachel Davison, Assistant A&E Editor


Claire Coffee (Communication ‘02) started at Northwestern as a journalism student before switching to theater and hasn’t looked back since. After appearing in a wide array of television shows, including “The West Wing,” “Bones” and “Cold Case,” Coffee now stars as Adalind Schade on NBC’s “Grimm,” which airs its season four finale Friday. The Daily spoke to Coffee about “Grimm,” her time at NU and how her role corresponds to real life.

What has been the most exciting part of filming season four?

The most exciting piece of it is the episodes that have been airing recently toward the finale. Adalind’s character is changing so much toward the end of the season, and they’re really imbuing her with so much more humor, which I love playing, so it’s been great.

How has it been to transition from a recurring character (in season one) to a regular, and now central lead character this season?

It’s the best experience you could hope for. All you want when you get into the television acting world is you want a show. To get a steady gig where your character is always changing is such a privilege as an actor and to keep things fresh and being able to explore constantly. In the business you assume nothing’s ever getting picked up, you assume you’re getting fired every moment … I was just grateful every week that I still have a job, the fact that it’s a great job that provides me with huge creative arcs and working with awesome people is sort of a dream.

What do you like most about filming in Portland?

I lived in LA for 10 years and then I lived in New York, and I was just kind of starting to get into the scene in New York when I was promoted on the show and Portland is such a hub of activity these days … I love the rain and I love cold foggy days, so weather-wise it’s perfect. It’s incredibly beautiful, so lush and green, and for the show to be able to film where the show takes place, and to get to use forest parks, to get to use Cathedral Park, to get to use all these incredible bridges and locations is such a gift. My husband and I have decided to relocate here more or less permanently. I mean nothing’s permanent, but for the foreseeable future … It’s definitely been such a privilege to get to be here shooting.

A major event of season four has been your pregnancy. What has the experience been like to have the story similar to your own situation with your own pregnancy?

When I got pregnant in real life I told the writers and I told our creators before I even told my mom that I was pregnant because I know that I’d be pregnant for the entire season of the show. They were so supportive, but nowhere in my head did I think they would incorporate the pregnancy into the show. But they did, and they figured out a way to make it organic, and to make it cause great conflict for the characters and for my character. The character finds she’s pregnant when I was about six months pregnant… Especially in these later months, it really helped that Adalind was pregnant so I didn’t have to continue chasing around in high heels. She’s in bed and couches for the last couple episodes.

An exciting part of “Grimm” is the morphing of characters. Is this special effects or costume and makeup design?

That’s the number one question I get is … ‘Is it (computer-generated imagery) or makeup, or how do you morph?’ — and it’s CGI. They put tracking dots on your face and you kind of ride your upper body into what feels like a “wog” and you morph into this creature and the makeup comes in for stunts and certain creatures wear makeup. Our special effects engineers are incredible.

Were you always interested in TV acting? How did you transition from theater to television?

Going to Northwestern, the theater program there, the greatest thing is that you have this acting class when you get to be working and workshopping with the same people for sophomore through senior year, and I was in Bud (Beyer)’s class. You get such an incredible breadth of information and preparation and also learning how to work with people and learning how to work on your own … The theater program at Northwestern expects so much of you and that has been so helpful out in the business … I had an agent in Chicago while I was at school and they introduced me to an agent in LA so I moved to LA because I went out there for a pilot Winter Quarter. I’d finished my credits early and it was right after September 11 when I went back for my senior year, so it was a very strange time emotionally for everybody. I didn’t have a cushion financially after college and I thought, well if I’m working out there already I’m going to give this thing a go … The business of it is obviously so different, but I think it’s about the ability to prepare and the ability to stay focused and the ability to work hard. It wasn’t like TV was what I was targeting, I just wanted to continue to work and if I could pay my bills doing so, then all the better. That was the first thing out in LA and I kept riding that.

At this point in your career what did you take away the most from your time and education at Northwestern?

The competitiveness is a really positive form of competition … You’re competitive with yourself and you want to work as hard as the next person and when the next person is working really hard it’s incredibly motivating. If you have an idea, (NU) has a place where you can foster that idea. In the movie and television business, that’s how this business operates, especially now the business is very hungry for ideas … Ambition is crucial out here and also just confidence and knowing that there’s a place for you somewhere.

As of now, what’s next?

For season five, we start shooting in a little over a month. At least for the next year I know what I’m doing and then beyond that, we always wait for the pickup, but we heard pretty early this year, which is really nice. We luckily have a really consistent, loyal fan base so hopefully we’ll be sticking around for at least a couple more years.

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