Carlacia Grant Discusses ‘Outer Banks’ and Cleo’s Relationship with Pope

Carlacia Grant stars as Cleo in Netflix’s Outer Banks. Season three is currently streaming and it has already been announced that the show will return for a fourth season.

After losing the gold and fleeing the Outer Banks, Season 3 finds the Pogues washed ashore on a desert island that, for a brief moment, seems like an idyllic home. Officially deemed “Poguelandia,” the island’s newest residents spend their days fishing, swimming, and reveling in the carefree lifestyle of their temporary dwelling. But things quickly go south for John B, Sarah, Kiara, Pope, JJ, and Cleo when they find themselves once again caught up in a race for the treasure, quite literally running for their lives. They’re broke and far from home, they can’t trust anyone, Ward and Rafe are hungry for revenge, and there’s a ruthless Caribbean Don who will stop at nothing to find the bounty. Was the treasure ever within their reach? Or was it all a trap to stop them once and for all? Either way, it’s the Pogues against the world – and the only way out is together.

We had a lovely conversation about Cleo showing her vulnerable side, what the actress would like to see in season four, all things Pope and Cleo, improvised moments that made it into the show, meeting Outer Banks fans, and much more. Keep reading for everything she shared with me!

Photo Credit: Amy Harrity/Netflix

Congratulations on this new season and being renewed for another. One thing I really loved about season three was we got to see and learn a little more about Cleo. I’m curious, what was your favorite piece of information that you got to play with?
Carlacia Grant: My favorite is probably the information that we got, I think it was episode three, where Cleo told Pope that she’s had her heart broken before. I feel like for girls like Cleo, who’s just very tough and doesn’t show any vulnerability, I felt like that cute little moment just really shows that she’s a human being.

What is something that you want to learn in season four?
I want to know who this guy is. I want Cleo to find him and beat him up!

I know we spoke a little bit about this during the junket but basically, we have that 18-month time jump at the end. I would really love to see some flashbacks of that missing time period. Is there anything you want to see in possible flashbacks?
I want to see Cleo’s relationship with her grandmother, even if we have to find a younger girl to play a younger Cleo. But I think that she talks about it so much, like how important that relationship is to her, so I would love to see soft moments with her and her grandmother or maybe find her long-lost dad. But a little bit into her history. That would be so great.

Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix

We need more good parents on this show. You got lucky with the Heywards.
Right? Cleo has good in-laws, you know, fingers crossed, so far.

You also told me something that shocked me so I have to ask you a follow-up now. You told me that Pope and Cleo’s kiss was not planned. How did that happen? I need all the details.
Well, I was kind of talking to Shannon and Josh, our writers, and I was like, “Well, what’s gonna happen with us? I think we’re probably getting a little intimate right now.” They were like, “Yeah, we don’t know. We just might push it to next season,” or “We just don’t feel like it’s the right time, we can’t find a place in the episode.” We’re like, “No, but we really should do it,” and they’re like, “No, we just don’t think so.” So it was supposed to be just like a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and then whatever. But me and JD were like, we don’t really care. We’re like, “We feel like our characters are ready to do it, so let’s just do it.” So we planned that we were just gonna start kissing and they already have it, the editors are gonna see and it’s gonna be so amazing, it’s like improv, so they’re gonna keep it. But like two seconds before we were all ready to go and we were just gonna go for it, Jonas was like, “Hey, script change: you guys are really kissing now.” And it was funny. It was so funny because we were like, “oh, okay, cool, great, amazing,” but we were gonna do that anyway.

What is one thing you hope people take away from Cleo? I’m such a firm believer that characters can really resonate with viewers and provide some really amazing representation. Cleo is a really strong character, but I love seeing her vulnerable side. She’s complex.
That, exactly. I think that Cleo shows that you can take risks because she risked leaving an island that she always lived on, or I guess she’s lived on other islands, but to come back to a new country in which she’s never seen and risked taking on new friendship, also risked love. So I think I want people to take away embracing their vulnerability side and take the risk.

Sara Khalid/Netflix

I have to go off the improv a little bit because you tweeted that Cleo’s line during the game of truth or dare was improvised. Can you give me a few more moments or gems from the season, whether it was you or your classmates, that fans can enjoy knowing it were improvised?
The trailer line where I walk out and I think JD and Rudy are like, “well, we did good,” or whatever the heck they’re saying, and I’m like, “ain’t no time for celebrating!” That line was improv. The dance, the No Love Club dance was improvised. Yeah, that was not scripted. Me and JD were like, “Okay, when we go in, let’s just do a dance.” So that was improv.

So I should be really worried about what you’re going to add in now that you and JD are gonna play an official couple in season four.
We work really, really well together. We have such a great friendship and he’s a very valuable person to me. So I love working with him, it’s a breeze.

What do you personally think their relationship was like in those 18 months? I mean, that was their first everything? What do you think it was like getting to develop that early relationship?
I think they’re really starting to find out like, “Okay, this is what you can do,” because, I have said this and I pitched this, I was like, I think Cleo is gonna be wanting to be a little bit more independent. So I feel like they’re gonna have to go with that, like learning how to be a couple — actually both of them kind of like to have their own way. So I think there’s gonna be a lot of, in those 18 months, give and take in relationships and learning how to do that, and they bicker all the time. So I’m hoping that they learn, in those 18 months, how to bicker less.

Now that you mentioned the bickering, the grocery run scene is stuck in my head, when Pope’s impersonating Cleo. How did you get through that without laughing?
It was absolutely hilarious because before that, JD’s like, “Hey, can you help me with this accent?” And I’m like, “What do you need an accent for?” He’s like, “Have you read the script?” I was like, oh my gosh, and he’s telling me and he’s like, “is it that bad?” I’m like, “It’s terrible!” But then he did it some more and I was like, “Okay, you’re getting good.” It was so hard because honestly, it was so funny. It was absolutely so funny.

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix

I love Cleo’s relationships with the rest of the Pogues as well. I mean, we saw some funny moments with JJ and Cleo. What friendship would you like to really explore more going forward?
I think JJ and Cleo have a lot in common because we both don’t have families, we both are essentially orphans. So I feel like we both come from the point of view of nothing to lose and this is all we got. I think we’re both badasses, we both know how to do a lot of random things. He has his gun, I have my knife. I think that our characters are very similar and truthfully, you know, the original pitch or how we were first creating it, they were like, “Well, this is a female JJ.”

Really? That’s so interesting. The two of them are just chaos, which I live for. I have to tell you how jealous I was watching all the Poguelandia fun. I need someone to convince Netflix to bring it to New York. But what was the highlight for you?
Oh my gosh, it was amazing. I was like, “Can we do this again? Can we make this a two-day fest next year? Can we just travel around the country and do it?” It was so much fun and I said this to my friends, I was like, “Honestly, I’m not even being biased right now, even though it was our festival that we were hosting, I would want to come to this and I would still have a great time.” The food was great, the music, the fans. I mean I’m sure people have seen a lot of videos of me like, I was having the time of my life with Lil Baby, Khalid, and just chillin’ with friends. It was great and all the little themes, I love how detailed it was. It was like Cleo’s coconuts, JJ’s flags, Kiara’s bracelets, and when you had a moment to sneak away and walk around, the menu at The Wreck was very themed. So it was amazing. I honestly have said, “Can we please make it a two-day fest or a weekend fest next time?”

I need you to push for New York.
I feel like we should do international. I’ve been saying we gotta do international. Brazil’s been holding us down, they have a bunch of great countries, so we should like make it a thing, like Rolling Loud. We should make it a thing.

Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix

You also had the red carpet and the premiere. How did that feel? You looked gorgeous.
Thank you. Oh man, it was really an out-of-body experience. There was one second, like one quick second, where I got to pinch myself because it’s happening so fast. As soon as you get out of the car, you know, you get there, you’re getting ready, you get out of the car, and there’s fans there. There were like fans wrapped around the block. That turnout was insane. It’s like the Nicki Minaj song, you know? You just want to have those moments for life, seriously. I was like, I get what she means when she says that, because it’s just taking it in and we actually got to watch it with fans and family, so now, you’re getting the real reaction to everything and see what works. It just was a great celebration, it felt like graduation, it felt like prom, it felt like best weekend of my life all put together.

I feel like Cleo immediately became a fan favorite. What was it like to actually be in person with the fans at these events and meet them?
It’s amazing. You get to put a face to all these people, and it’s amazing. They have posters, they have merch, and they have all these beautiful things that they made. It was like, wow. My parents were here, my parents actually came to premiere with me and they were floored. It was their first time ever seeing any of it and they’re like, “Those kids say your name better than we do.” It was crazy, it was insane. It was like a love fest and it was so good.

Going back to season 2, fans were starting to ship Pope and Cleo from the very limited interactions they had in the finale. Did you feel that way as the actress before getting to season three and seeing the direction they were gonna go?
You know, originally, when I first started auditioning, Cleo was supposed to be with JJ. My chemistry read was with JJ, that scene was originally with JJ. So they were testing me and Rudy together but once the reaction of JJ and Kiara [happened], they switched it. They’re like, “The fans want JJ and Kiara, let’s give them JJ and Kiara.” But it was so cool to now get this opportunity to do it with Pope because just the representation of it, you know? We get to show Black love on a platform like this. So me and JD are both like, “Let’s do it, this is great.” It’s amazing.

Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Netflix

After all of the life-or-death situations and danger, I’m hoping the Pogues get a break at some point in season four, just a break. Now, we have these three couples so what is your dream triple date for them?
I feel like each couple is into different things. I don’t even think we can even agree on where we’re gonna eat, but I think we’re gonna have to do something fun. So I would say if we’re going to the Outer Banks, I think that we would go to an amusement park.

That is pretty genius. That has something for every couple!
Everybody and every couple. We could like split up, we could get together, there’ll be bumper cars, huge rollercoasters, there’ll be food. The Pogues like to get in trouble, so I feel like we’re not gonna want to sit around and do anything, I feel like going to an amusement park would be fun. I think we’d [the girls] be the ones winning them [the boys] stuffed animals.

Lastly, what is your favorite filming memory from season three?
There’s so many of them. I feel like all the plane stuff was so fun, the plane was amazing. The exteriors, we actually put a plane in the water, so we filmed that in the ocean, in Barbados. Then the interiors, we filmed in Charleston, we took the plane and we put it in like this giant pool, and then we had it in hydraulics. So it literally was like one of those rides at Universal and then we’d like dip into the pool, so that was really funny. We were literally hanging on to straps inside, literally, so it was crazy. I have some videos about that that I’ll post, but it was really fun doing that.

I have to say, when I was watching that scene, I couldn’t stop laughing at Pope’s “Please fly the plane, please fly the plane!”
That was an improv line! JD improved that line.

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