Madelyn Cline Says She Drew Inspiration From Her Personal Life for 'Outer Banks' Season 3

The star tells InStyle that she was "choking" when she first read this season's script.

Madelyn Cline
Madelyn Cline. Photo:

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix

It was only a few years ago when the world didn't know who Madelyn Cline was. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic (a time when binge-watching was at its peak) the success of her Netflix hit drama Outer Banks turned her and her cast mates into overnight sensations.

Now, in 2023, Cline finds herself at prestigious awards shows for her Oscar-nominated film Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery and as the centerfold of glossy magazines. The young star has also quickly become fashion’s newest It Girl, sitting front row at buzzy runway shows like Ferragamo and Lanvin, fronting big brand partnerships for American Eagle and Maje, and sporting couture on the red carpet, elevating her personal style in the process. When it comes to her character, however, Cline says Sarah Cameron's fashion sense has gotten rougher around the edges as the seasons go on — a natural evolution considering some of the mayhem her character has been through.

“I think Sarah’s style has gone from more aesthetic to still cute but [more] functional," she tells InStyle. "Now her life is something completely different than what it used to be, and over the past three seasons, there’s been this slow subtle transition from Kook, if you will, to more Pogue: a little looser but still some Sarah flair, for sure."

Madelyn Cline
Madelyn Cline.

 Jackson Lee Davis/Netflix

Cline says that the show's costume director, Emmie Holmes, has perfectly curated every aspect of Sarah's wardrobe to reflect the teenager's transformation from Figure 8-dwelling Kook to Pogue life on a deserted island (nicknamed Poguelandia) where the crew finds themselves as castaways at the end of season 2.

"In the first season, Sarah did not wear ripped shorts, they were always cuffed," Cline offers as an example of Holmes's attention to detail. "Now, they’re starting to be a little frayed at the bottom. Really subtle things that Emmie has done such a good job on, and she’s really honed in on every single character so well."

In addition to the her changing style on-screen, Cline’s character has also displayed a lot of growth over the course of the show’s three seasons, which have seen Sarah handle some pretty mature and difficult subject matters, including (but not limited to) murder, an emotionally abusive and manipulative father, infidelity, and a marriage to John B (played by Chase Stokes) — all at the ripe age of 17.

But no matter how outlandishly dramatic the teen’s struggles may seem (along the lines of the kids at Euphoria High), Cline is able to pull from her own human experience of being a young, 20-something woman trying to navigate new fame and relationships in the public eye (she famously dated her co-star Stokes for a year before the two called it quits).

“There’s a lot going on with Sarah for sure,” she says. “Ultimately — even though these kids are on a really crazy large-scale adventure — all of the emotions we’re going through, whether it be complications in relationships, friendships, family — that’s all human. Yeah there is some pull from my life and past experiences where I can relate an emotion.”

Sarah's return to the OBX from Poguelandia comes with an identity crisis after going from “Kook princess” to Pogue wife all within a short year filled with many trials and tribulations. Sarah even finds herself hanging with her old friends (and ex-boyfriend, Topper) again. “I remember reading the script and choking a little bit because in the past season she’s gone through a really crazy physical adventure, and then this year has kind of been a big emotional ride,” she explains. “Obviously, she’s got daddy issues, relationship issues, and family issues, so [I] just try to make them as real and relatable as possible and approach it with as much empathy as I possibly could.”

The show has already been renewed for a fourth season, which the streaming giant announced prior to the third season's premiere. The season finale (spoiler) sets up the teens for another treasure-fueled escapade, one that will likely see them taking on the high seas to solve the mystery of Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard). And if the show's previous influence on Gen Z is any indicator, we're predicting a resurrection of nautical fashion in our future.

Outer Banks season 3 is streaming now on Netflix.

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