For Madelyn Cline, fame came with a White Claw.
The Outer Banks star was sitting in a Los Angeles park with a friend back in 2020, when she was recognized by a fan for the first time. “I saw this car drive by once, twice and then a third time,” Cline tells Tudum at the London Hotel in West Hollywood. Feeling creeped out, the actor asked her friend if they could leave. “We start grabbing our stuff and walking to our car and these boys come out of their car and walk towards us. They hand me a White Claw and they’re like, ‘Can we have a picture? You’re from that show!’ And then it hit me. That was the first time that had ever happened. I took the White Claw and I took the picture.”
Now, a little more than two years (and countless photos with fans) later, Cline is fast becoming one of the most in-demand young actors in Hollywood. The 25-year-old, who left her South Carolina home at 18 to pursue an acting career, has two seasons of Netflix’s teen adventure drama Outer Banks under her wing (with a third arriving Feb. 23) and is quickly racking up rising young star experiences — like employing her own glam team, traveling the world and booking fashion brand partnerships — much of which she shares with her 13.7 million enthusiastic Instagram followers.
Sitting across from her in full glam/working professional mode, Cline is every bit a Series Star, but also the epitome of chill vibes: Every now and then she’ll let a yawn slip out or make a casual quip about her shapewear being too tight. “I’m still learning how to live on my own and be an adult,” she admits. “But now it’s filled with things like [press days and photo shoots] that I had always dreamed about doing.”
The actor, known as Maddie to friends and loved ones, has a natural charm that effervesces on-screen and off, which is part of why fans are obsessed with her Kook-turned-Pogue character Sarah Cameron on Outer Banks. “These kids, they really go through it,” Cline says of the upcoming third season, which continues to follow the Pogues’ quest for gold and Sarah’s turbulent relationship with her family. “Sarah’s been through a lot.”
Cline’s own upbringing was definitely less perilous, though it certainly had its share of adventure. Born and raised just outside of Charleston in Goose Creek, South Carolina, her interest in pop culture and entertainment was piqued from an early age, and her mom, Pam, an estate agent and her father Mark, an engineer, encouraged their only child’s creative pursuits.
“It wasn’t an exact moment I can pinpoint, more a growing fascination and then kind of [an] obsession,” she says about her motivation to try her hand at acting. “I had little characters I would dress up and play, and I would put on little skits with friends.”
Cline’s first professional paychecks came from modeling gigs and TV commercials for brands including T-Mobile. She was six weeks into her freshman year at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina, when she decided to move across the country to pursue acting full-time in Los Angeles.
“I definitely like to think that everything happens for a reason, but at the same time, I’m too self-doubtful to fully believe that,” she admits. Her first year in Los Angeles wasn’t without its challenges — sleeping in her car, living in crappy apartments and working minimum wage jobs — but unlike the majority of people who move to Hollywood with stars in their eyes and nothing to show for it, Cline soon became a fully fledged working actor with guest roles in Vice Principals, The Originals and, in 2017, a two-episode stint in Season 2 of Stranger Things.
“I was so excited to be on that show and really nervous to meet everyone,” says Cline. “It was the biggest set I’d ever been on, which was really intimidating. It was an overnight shoot and a costume party–type scene where Nancy [Natalia Dyer] and Steve [Joe Keery] break up. I had the greatest time.”
In 2018 Cline booked Outer Banks. The series, about treasure-hunting teens from opposite social sectors growing up in the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, became an instant hit and made its stars almost overnight celebrities when it premiered in April 2020. “Because we’ve come up together, we’ve all gone through the same things,” says Cline of the cast’s tight-knit bond. “That’s really helpful and lovely.” She adds that she’s so grateful for everything the show’s given her — the opportunity to embody a character she loves for 30 episodes, so far, and exposure that helped her land a role in last year’s starry ensemble whodunit Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.