The second season of Outer Banks is a rip-roaring roller coaster ride from beginning to end and Madison Bailey is at the center of it all. The 22-year-old star reprises her role in the show as Kiara Carrera and she promises fans will get lost in the intensity following the Kooks and the Pogues through the Outer Banks and beyond.
I caught up with the talented multi-hyphenate star over Zoom one sunny morning to get the scoop on putting together the second season of the show. I’m warning you now there might be some light spoilers ahead, so you might want to stream the second season on Netflix first — which dropped today — and come back to hear what Bailey has to say about some of the wildest moments of the season once you’re done.
Without further ado, join us on a trip to Poguelandia.
The second season of Outer Banks picks up where season one ended, with Kiara, JJ (Rudy Pankow), and Pope (Jonathan Daviss) mourning their friends John B (Chase Stokes) and Sarah (Madelyn Cline), who they think died. They soon find out that their friends are very much alive and laying low in the Bahamas. Once everyone is reunited, the show cranks the intensity up to an 11. Sarah’s dad, Ward (Charles Esten), is trying to protect his son, Rafe (Drew Starkey), from taking the fall for Sheriff Peterkin’s (Adina Porter) murder in the first season — which was pinned on John B. It’s a nonstop pursuit of searching for treasure, all while trying to clear John B’s name. In the midst of it all, Bailey found herself in one of the toughest scenes she’s ever had to film.
“It wasn’t glamorous,” she says with a laugh while recalling a scene that finds Kiara in a storm drain while Pope and JJ keep watch. Rafe clues in to her being in the drain and sends water rushing in. In a few short minutes, you feel Kiara’s stress level rise as she struggles to make it out alive. Bailey’s portrayal is so believable that I had to imagine she filmed it for real — and she did.
“They were throwing in dirt and actual leaves, and there were actual bugs in there,” she says of the storm drain they constructed on set. “At one point, I saw a big fucking spider and then I tried to get it, and then it swam away,” she adds while visibly cringing, also saying she’s claustrophobic, which made the whole scene even harder to do. Plus, she had reshoots and had to film it multiple times to get it right. “That was horrible, that part sucks. That was not my favorite scene,” she shares.
Kiara’s character, affectionately referred to as Kie by her fellow Pogues, is actually quite the interesting dichotomy. Though she could easily be a Kook — the upper crust of the Outer Banks — she chooses to be a Pogue. She comes from a set of parents who grew up with vastly different lives but settled into being Kooks. Identifying more with her dad’s Pogue upbringing, Kie instead went that way herself.
“Kiara is definitely a Pogue,” Bailey says, though agreeing that her character straddles the line. “I think her personality lines up with everything being a Pogue entails, but she does go to her parents when it benefits her. She’s like, ‘Wait, I have money.’ And, ‘Wait, I have a truck.’” On more than one occasion during season two of the show, Kiara does just that — turns to her wealthy parents to help her and to help her friends, not that they are excited about offering up that help. In this season, viewers actually get more of Kie’s home life, only to find that it’s not great. Kie’s parents are losing their patience with their daughter’s loyalty to her Pogues and try to send her to boarding school. In the end, they kick her out, and though Kie puts on a brave face over it, you can see that for this soft-hearted teen, it hurts more than she’ll let on.
Bailey used a bit of her own angsty teenage past to draw inspiration during some of these heart-wrenching scenes, but she admits she “couldn’t be closer” with her family, so that troubled dynamic was something she had to fake. However, she knows what it’s like to have friends her parents don’t approve of. “My mom didn’t approve of every friend I had and I stood up for myself in a similar way,” Bailey says. “I never got kicked out. I didn’t scream in my mom’s face, that would have been horrible. … I think it’s a cool moment in season two to see where the pressure of the Kook and Pogue thing is actually coming from. It’s not coming from all these people in the town; it’s coming from my parents.”
Even though Outer Banks gets steadily more intense as each episode moves on, though, the cast, according to Bailey, kept it light while filming, even under COVID-19 protocol. “With all of the protocols and all of everything, we managed to still make everything fun and everything still feel normal when things really weren’t,” she says, adding that they were able to take the whole production to Barbados this season after COVID had started to wane. Much like how the Outer Banks scenes aren’t actually filmed in the Outer Banks (which is in North Carolina), the Bahamas scenes weren’t filmed in the Bahamas but instead in Barbados.
“It’s unreal, and the people there are the kindest people that I’ve ever met,” Bailey says of making the trip to Barbados. And the best part was that she had her cast of friends by her side through it all, something that she’s deeply appreciative of. “You don’t get this on every set you work on,” she says, adding that it’s been just plain fun to share all these experiences with the rest of the young cast.
“Listen, we’re a good time, I’m not going to lie,” Bailey says with a laugh, getting animated while speaking of her castmates. “Anytime we go out or go to a party or an event, wherever we’re going, any carpet … I sometimes feel bad when we’re being loud and we’re being all of these things. I’m like, ‘Listen, you know what, we can’t apologize for having a better time than everybody else.’”
Growing more introspective, though, Bailey says, “It’s just so cool to be friends with the only people that understand the stress and understand the expectations. They understand exactly what we’re doing with work.”
Much like her character in Outer Banks, Bailey is also genuine and authentic. She’s open with her fans on social media, drawing them in like friends and sharing bits and pieces of her life with every post. Her Instagram is full of photos with her girlfriend, Mariah Linney, and perfectly posed shots of her life, providing a safe place for fans to come and connect with her. “Our fans go hard,” she says with a smile, adding how much she appreciates those who love Outer Banks and those who just love her. Because even though she shot to fame with the Netflix show, it was far from her first role. Thanks to this breakout hit, though, Bailey’s been able to branch out more, including a starring role in an episode of American Horror Stories. The companion show to FX’s American Horror Story, the episodic TV show is independent stories that fit into the AHS universe without tying into a central theme. Bailey’s episode aired July 22 and allowed her to dive into the horror genre — which she’s actually pretty terrified of.
“[AHS] is its own entity for real, and it was honestly such an honor,” she says. “I don’t really watch a lot of horror because I’m very scared of horror. I won’t sleep at night. But iconic is the only word I can say about American Horror Story. It was just such a change of pace also from doing Outer Banks, and that’s all what I’ve been focused on for two years and it was really exciting to get to play another character.”
Bailey’s American Horror Stories episode, which can be streamed on Hulu, centers on a cursed movie that drives people mad to the point of attacking and killing anyone in their path. Bailey plays the central character, but I won’t tell you whether or not she perishes in the end — you’ll have to watch the show for yourself.
It’s been an incredibly exhausting and rewarding year for Bailey, who Zoomed in while on location in Winnipeg, Canada, where she’s currently filming a movie. She went straight from filming Outer Banks to American Horror Stories and now to this film, and though she loves being busy, she’s ready for that break, which she already has planned: She and her girlfriend are doing a mini vacay to visit family on the East Coast so she can find her zen again. But not before she ushers season two of Outer Banks out into the world today and not before she shares her new collection with Pura Vida next week and also not before she shares her new collection with American Eagle. To say she’s been busy is an understatement.
“My mind functions best when I’m just going, going, going,” she says. But despite her packed schedule and rising star, she’s still incredibly down to Earth and friendly to a fault. Though our Zoom call was early in the morning, we both rocked our best casual clothes and messy hairdos — just like if I was having a Zoom breakfast chat with someone I’d known for years. That’s the kind of person Madison Bailey is. She makes you forget that she actually is someone who’s a part of one of Netflix’s biggest original series in recent memory, a show that rolled out to the world at a time when everyone needed a distraction and a group of friends to root for.
There may be no word on a season three of Outer Banks as of yet, but Bailey is both hopeful that it’ll happen and optimistic about other projects she feels ready to take on. “I love getting scripts and then it being nothing that I ever thought that I would do,” she says. “I love action. I think it would be really, really sick to do a Marvel film.” She follows this statement up by rattling off a list of people in Hollywood she’d love to work with — Viola Davis, Halle Berry, and more powerful Black women.
But in the meantime, she’s looking ahead to what could possibly be next for the Pogues in Outer Banks. Season two leaves off with all of them, plus the addition of their new friend Cleo (Carlacia Grant), stranded on a mysterious beach that they dub Poguelandia. So what could be next for these teens? Your guess is as good as ours. “I want to do a little time jump to season three, and then see us having built a whole entire village on this,” she says with wonder. She may be living the Outer Banks life, but Bailey is a fan of the show, too, and loves to read theories on what viewers see when they read between the lines.
She’s not sure what could be next for Kie specifically, but she knows Kie’s character will always be her best quality. “I like Kiara’s little spirit,” she says. “I like that Kiara is just like, ‘I don’t care if everything is horrible right now. We are going to fight this through.’” Because even with the twists and the turns and the absolute bombshells in the show, at its core, Outer Banks is a show about loyalty and friendship. “That’s part of the whole theme of the show, is having your friends’ backs and being there for people when they need you,” Bailey says. And she knows if season three does happen, that thread will continue to weave through the story no matter what characters come and go.
Speaking of coming and going, though, there’s a giant twist at the end of the season that Bailey and I are keeping from you — one that actually made Bailey say, “WAIT, WHAT?!” when she first read the script — and it sets the scene for a brilliant segue into a season three. It’s perhaps the biggest “WTF?” moment in a season full of “WTF?” moments and will have fans practically begging for a third season. Bailey will be right there with them hoping to see her Pogues take on a new adventure wherever the wind takes them.
“There’s no limit for it,” she says of where the show could go from here, a smile creeping up on her face. “We’ll just have to see.”
Hedy Phillips is the former Digital Director of EUPHORIA. You can also find her bylines at PEOPLE, POPSUGAR, Cosmo, InStyle, Refinery29, and more. She devotes 99% of her time to snuggling with her cats, and 100% of her money to following Harry Styles around on tour. She's always on the lookout for another slice of New York pizza, and she's never met a Starbucks drink she doesn't like.