InterviewsPodcastTelevision & Film

CLAIRE COFFEE Isn't "Grimm" About Her New Role

On Friday, October 28, NBC launches the new fairy tale procedural “Grimm”. Using the source material from the Brothers Grimm – who were profilers, according to this show – the new drama stars David Giuntoli as Detective Nick Burckhardt, who finds out he’s a direct descendant of the brothers, and has inherited the ability to see fairy tale creatures as they really are, instead of how they appear to the rest of the world.

Claire Coffee co-stars as the recurring character Adalind Schade, a lawyer in the “real world” and witch/assassin in the world only Burckhardt can see. I got to talk with her about the part, the expectations for the show, and what we might see this season.

[main image: NBC]


[follow Claire Coffee on Twitter]

[Transcript follows]

JPH: We’re talking on the phone today, with Claire Coffee, who’s going to be starring in a recurring part in the new NBC series “Grimm” that’s going to be running Friday night at ten o’clock. Claire, thanks very much for joining us.

Claire Coffee: Thanks! It’s on Friday nights at nine, actually.

JPH: At nine. OK. All right. Your character, Schlauraffen – which appears to be named after one of the very short pieces from Grimm’s Fairy Tales – you’re going to have a recurring part …

CC: Yes.

JPH: … as both a lawyer and an assassin/witch type of character. How are you going to differentiate between those two personalities?

CC: I would think, pretty easily. I think there’s, you know, a commonality between being an assassin and being a lawyer, in that there’s an ambitiousness, and I guess a ruthlessness to both. But the witch aspect of the personality will be …  I think there’s just less humanity involved in that. And being in human form, I have to remember that I am indeed a human with thoughts and feelings. And compassion, maybe.

JPH: Now, you’ve been picked up for a series. The story takes place in Portland, and you’re actually shooting on location. How different is that for you after so much LA work?

CC: You know, I’ve actually been working so much out of town in the last couple of years, so it’s sort of par for the course at this point. We shot the pilot up in Portland, which is a great city. And it’s really easy to get around, and the downtown area has pretty much anything and everything you would need.And I think while shooting on location, you want to make sure there’s a grocery store nearby and a coffee shop. And other than that, you can make do.

JPH: And I did see on your blog, that you did find the Starbucks, so you were good there.

CC: Sure.

JPH: You’ve done a lot of police procedurals – “NCIS”, “The Good Guys”, “CSI: Miami” – not too many genre pieces.

CC: No. That’s the kind of stuff that I like to watch, so I’m excited to be finally getting work in that world.

JPH: Is this something you lobbied for, or did they approach you? Or did you finally go into your agent and say “Hey, find me something that’s Sci-Fi” or .. how did that work out?

CC: It was just an audition during pilot season, which is always crazy. You’re reading so many scripts every day, and so you hope that you get the ones that you like, but you know, you’re happy to have a job at the end of the day. I really lucked out with this one.

JPH: What kind of research are you doing for this part? Because there’s really not a whole lot of places you can go to research being an assassin or being a witch. Where are you getting your background for your character?

CC: I read the short story, which doesn’t give you anything to go on. I think, when getting a role like this, I just go to the material, first and foremost.  So, for the pilot, there wasn’t as much material, but I talked to David Greenwalt – the writer/executive producer – kind of about where they were going with the character. Which I can’t reveal… but that kind helped me, knowing the motives and what’s driving this character and knowing what arc she needs to be getting to this season.

JPH: “Grimm” is about Detective Nick Burckhardt, who apparently finds out he’s a descendent of the original Grimm brothers, Jakob and Wilhelm. And in the description I read, it says that the Grimm brothers were profilers as opposed to writers. And he has the ability to see these fairy tale creatures for what they really are. How much interaction are you going to have with him? Are you his nemesis at this point, or are you working for his nemesis?

CC: Both. At the end of the pilot, I’m definitely his nemesis. Or one of them. It’s overwhelming – he’s seeing this world for the first time. And so, in the pilot, all of my scenes are with Nick. And I think because he’s the newest Grimm, that’s inherited these powers, and so that will be the first line of attack for me and the people I’m working for.

JPH: Are you going to do a lot in terms of make-up effects as your assassin/witch side, or are we just going see you as you?

CC: it’s digital, and it’s amazing. You can see it in the trailer, actually, the way I morph into witch form.

JPH: Is there a lot of green screen work in this one?

CC: No. This was all… I had tiny little white dots put onto my face, kind of like a motion capture sensor field. Which is probably exactly the wrong terminology, as that’s outside my area of expertise. But yeah, they’re magicians in that lab.

JPH: Now, you mention the promo. I seem to recall seeing what looks to be a modern day version of Red Riding Hood getting grabbed by a really dark character. Are we going to see a number of the Grimm Fairy Tale characters show up? Like Snow White and Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin and that group. Are there going to be recognizable fairy tale characters appear in this thing?

CC: Yes. I believe that’s the plan.

JPH: How much of that is in the pilot, and are we going to have to wait for the rest of them?

CC: You’ll have to wait. In the pilot, it’s Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf character.

JPH: Now, the special effects for the magic – have you seen any of that yet after the post-production? Or are you still waiting to see what you’re actually able to do?

CC: No, I’ve seen the pilot, and I’ve seen the morphing that they do from human to monster, and part of it you’ll see in the trailer for the pilot. And it’s great.

JPH: Besides the morphing, do you have anything like Jedi lightning or something shooting out of your fingers? Or you’re using a wand? How does your magic work in this reality?

CC: No. Nothing like that. Yet.

JPH: So, what other projects are you working on now? You’re working on “Franklin and Bash”. How different is that, because that’s…

CC: About as different as it gets.

JPH: Yeah, because you’re going from a really dark fairy tale police procedural to this comedy lawyer show. How did that work out?

CC: We actually wrapped the whole season in December, for “Franklin and Bash”. It’s just taken forever to finally air. It’s a dramedy. And it’s lawyers, and I play an assistant district attorney who is Peter Bash’s ex-girlfriend from law school that he isn’t quite over.

JPH: So you’re playing a lawyer in both shows.

CC: Exactly. Yep. One’s just a little more ruthless than the other.

JPH: Is there an option for Schlauraffen to become a regular or is it just going to be a recurring character, as far as you know?

CC: I don’t know the answer to that yet.

JPH: One thing that I noticed on your IMDb listing: there is a short film that you directed.

CC: Yes, we’re actually – it’s a web series. And we just finished the first draft of the feature. So we’re getting that together to shoot. And I’m also developing a big science fiction movie with a production house. I did the “story by” on that, and that’ll go out to writers starting today and tomorrow.

JPH: Is that something you want to start doing more of, getting behind the camera – directing, producing and writing?

CC: Not directing, per se, but I do like writing, and I do like creating. And I think – I’ve been in the business for so long now. You have these periods, these off periods, and I like to stay busy. And I like to stay active in my imagination, so to have an outlet for that is fantastic.

JPH: “Chelsey and Kelsey” is the web series. [“Chelsey and Kelsey Are Really Good Roommates”]

CC: Yes.

JPH: Is that something that you’ve noticed? I’ve talked to other actors and writers about the fact that we’re seeing so much crossing over between TV and film and web. Is there a particular trend that you’ve noticed just out of the different shows and the productions that you’ve done? Are we going to be seeing more in the web side of things?

CC: I think it’s a great testing ground for what’s going to catch with the viewers. My sister is in advertising, and she always talks about “eyeballs” and I think that’s really what it comes down to. If you can get people interested, on every medium. And these days, you’re on your phone far more than you’re on your couch watching television. So if you can cross all of the mediums – media – you stand to really gain some traction with the viewership. And I think, at the end of the day, that’s what matters to people who are financing all of these projects. So it’s important to keep that in mind.

[follow Claire Coffee on Twitter]   [Official Show Site on NBC]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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