It was two years since I've last seen Claire Holt when she shot for our annual fall television portfolio. When the opportunity rolled around to work with Claire again, I did not hesitate to say yes when I remember nothing but kindness from her. This year, she welcomes a new addition to her resume - an NBC television series called "Aquarius." Claire is now Charmain Tully, a female cop who partakes in tracking the infamous Charles Manson in the 1960s.
We discuss family values, her educational upbringing, and women's progression from the 1960s onward.
With just a quick peek of your social media pages, I already get the sense that you’re heavily involved with friends/family life. So, let’s backtrack to earlier parts of your life in Australia. You seemed to have been really absorbed in extra curricular activities and you then jumped into acting during high school. Was that a decision provoked by family, or was that something you happened to either planned or stumbled upon yourself?
I actually started filming "H2O" during my last year of high school. It was the first acting job I auditioned for and I thought of it as something really enjoyable that would allow me to save for college. It was very important to me to complete my education and graduate, as I had always seen myself entering the professional sector and I had dreamed of becoming a doctor. I studied throughout filming and really stayed committed to getting the best grades I could, however I had to defer my studies to continue shooting the show. What I realized when when I was on set was that I truly loved acting and for the first time considered the possibility that perhaps it was my career path. So I guess you could say that I stumbled upon it but I'm am so thankful that I did!
You also attended Stuartholme School, a Catholic school for girls. We don’t know too much about its educational structure, but would assume (like many school systems) it encouraged a formal professional career route. Was that ever the case? Did you ever desire to pursue a field other than acting?
Stuartholme was a really wonderful school as it encouraged students to follow their passion. There was a great creative arts program that fostered music and drama. Whilst I really enjoyed Drama in high school, I also focused on the more academic curriculum as I had envisioned myself in an entirely different field. I'm really glad that I had the opportunity to explore many different subjects. I also had an amazing career counselor named Sandy Maynes who helped me to navigate my studies and my job outside of school. I think I ended up right where I am supposed to be.
Let’s chat a bit about your family. You grew up with 3 siblings. Are they here with you in Los Angeles, or do they reside in Australia? What are they all up to now?
I have 3 amazing siblings who I couldn't live without. My oldest sister Rachael lives in Washington DC. She juggles her demanding work in economic policy with her philanthropic efforts. She and my father created and run a home and school for orphaned boys in Uganda. She is a superwoman and my hero! My only brother David lives in Brisbane (where I was born) and is currently in medical school. He is bright, kind, funny, and loving; I adore him. My youngest sibling Madeline lives in Melbourne, Australia and is an amazing artist. She paints and sketches and I am in awe of her talent. She is a beautiful girl with a beautiful heart. I am immensely proud of all of them and I miss them dearly.
You’re really good friends with our buddy Nick Hounslow! I can see how you’re friends with him. Is he one of the many factors that keep you so grounded?
Nick is one of my best friends in the world. He's so witty and driven, but also beyond caring and fun. He's like a magnet. People love to be around him because he is real and down to earth. So yes, I think surrounding myself with people like Nick helps. He would also be the first to tell me if my ego ever got even slightly inflated! Along with many, many other people in my life.
On top of working out (seeing as you appear to play every sport possible…), what are the daily adventures you take on when not working? You seem to be such an outdoor free spirit.
I love the outdoors. There is nothing better than breathing fresh air and swimming in the ocean. Or taking a beautiful hike. I definitely recharge when I'm am surrounded by nature. I also really enjoy spending time with the people I love. Sharing a nice meal or a glass of wine. I think it's so important to put time into the relationships that mean the most to you.
You embody such a strong character, and that’s apparent with jobs you’ve taken on and your personality as well. There’s been remarks regarding Hollywood’s sexism with its female occupants (i.e. Tina Fey, Melissa McCarthy and beyond). Have you ever experienced any hint of sexism, whether that be on a professional level or personal level? Sometimes, we recognize how subtle these situations come, and also how large they exist on a daily basis.
I think sexism, or at least gender inequality, is present in almost every avenue of life. As women, whilst we have made tremendous progress, we still have a long way to go before we are equal to men. It's wonderful that women in a position of influence have been able to speak about it with such eloquence and dignity. I do believe in equal pay for equal work. We are, however, in a far better place than many women in other cultures around the world, so I feel lucky to live in a country that has made progress and where we can speak freely about these issues. I am also surrounded by kind yet strong men who are incredibly supportive of women and for that I am grateful.
With this topic comes the question of who are your personal role models. Are there also other issues that you’ve been campaigning for?
The person I look up to most is my sister Rachael. She has made so many sacrifices to do good for others and she's a truly selfless and loving person. Her work with those less fortunate, be it through teens in DC or her foundation in Uganda, is so admirable and inspiring. I hope to be able to work together for causes we care about for many years. Personally, I really feel strongly about the importance of education. There is an amazing organization that I support called City Year. They focus on keeping kids in school and believe that every child has the right to an education. The organization has incredible mentors that work with kids to keep them excited or feeling positive about attendance and learning. It's truly inspiring to see the difference they have made.
As your new show “Aquarius” airs tomorrow (May 28th), there would presumably be another conversation stirring that has less to deal with vampires and a lot to do with females’ progression in the 1960s and today. You portray a female cop during that era. How has the research and conversation affected your outtake on our generation today, whether that be about how the materials we consume on a daily basis, to how we treat each other (both men and women)?
When I was researching for the show, I learned just how much gender inequality occurred within the police force during the late 1960s. Women were seen as secretaries and did little more than file papers or make coffee. They also had to carry their gun in their purse which is mind blowing to me. What I love about the character I'm playing is that she is at the forefront of women's rights. She believes she can do more and is capable of more; she fights for that. It's clear to see we have made so much progress since this time, and I couldn't imagine what it might have been like to live in a world that was so clearly dominated by men. We still have a way to go, but as women, we are certainly in a far better position than we were all those decades ago.
There’s been changes and improvements in the last few years for women in TV. Are there other films and programs that you’re looking forward to in the coming season and year? What do you hope to see more or less of in terms of general character structures?
I really love "Scandal" and "Homeland." Both have dynamic women in leading roles and they give great performances. Whilst they are strong, smart and driven, they also have flaws and are complex, just like most of the incredible women I know. I really like that the television industry is embracing the fact that women can carry shows and attract huge viewership. There are also some terrific female show runners that are having great success. I've had the pleasure of working with one of them, Julie Plec (Executive Producer of "The Vampire Diaries," "The Originals," and the upcoming "Containment").
Lastly, as we just have to ask, where do you see yourself in the next 5 or 10 years? You’re obviously so driven and passionate about what you do and who you surround yourself with. I can’t imagine a better combination.
I would love to continue working on great film and television for as many years as I possibly can. I feel so fortunate to be able to wake up every day and do what I love. If I get to do that until I'm old and covered with wrinkles, I'll be the happiest person on earth! I also hope to have a family of my own some day in the future. Family is the most important thing to me and I would love to be able to expand mine.