Cassie Clare is bringing an injection of life and flair to the fantasy genre.
It is rare to see black and brown women in leading roles in fantasy shows, but Cassie Clare is becoming a wonderfully familiar face in the genre. London-born and bred, she started out in the National Youth Theatre, acting, dancing and singing. You can currently see Clare in Netflix’s The Witcher as the bewitching Philippa. A powerful sorceress and spymaster, she steals every scene she is in. She also appears in Sandman as Mazikeen, Lucifer’s (Gwendoline Christie) assistant. But you may also recognise her from her vast West End roles. She is everywhere — playing mesmerising, intriguing women on screen and stage.
1883 Magazine speaks with Cassie Claire about being a triple threat, working on fantasy shows, her love for Eartha Kitt and more.
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Firstly, you are amazing in the wide range of science-fiction and fantasy shows we have seen you in. Is that a genre you have always gravitated to?
Getting to play fantasy characters has sparked my love for the genre. I have so much catching up to do on fantasy classics. I now have a much deeper appreciation for the genre and all that goes into making fantasy shows.
I can understand why you need to catch up – you do so much! Not only are you an actress but you dance, and sing. How does your mindset shift from those different roles? Sometimes you’re acting. Other times you are the one giving directions in a routine.
In my experience, the different jobs and roles feed into each other. I take all my skills to all my jobs. Lessons that I learn from acting jobs I take with me when I direct or choreograph. The skills I acquired in dance classes (like special awareness or physical theatre, for example) have helped me stay safe on action film sets or when learning stunt fights. My singing training comes in handy when creating a voice for a character.
I teach acting, dancing and singing to children, and those skills come in handy when I’m trying to clearly tell a story through my writing or developing different directing skills to meet the needs of the actor I’m working with at the time. I love learning new skills and applying them to life and work.
You have a range of skills in singing and acting in theatre, starting in the National Youth Theater and appearing in numerous West End productions- tell me more about your love of the stage.
I adore theatre and the connection between the audience and the performers. In theatre, you get live feedback from the audience without them having to say anything. I’ve performed in shows like CATS the musical, and you can feel in the air when they are enjoying the show or when they are not; it’s a vibration.
Sometimes, when I’m working on TV and film, I do miss that connection to the people we are making the art for. I have been working with some outstanding artists on my creative Instagram page, @cassieclarecreates. It’s becoming a beautiful community of artists. Sometimes, I believe, we need a safe space to develop our skills and hone our craft. Come over if you want an encouraging and loving space to feel inspired on the internet.
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You have to give us an empowerment playlist – top three songs that get you going before shooting a scene?
I do have a whole playlist for the character I was most recently filming for. It’s a tool I often use as music helps me to get into the mood or energy of a character really fast. At the moment, I’ve had two songs on repeat… Check out a song called “Show You Something” by SRUMA.
All of SRUMA’s songs are so uplifting and give me positive energy. The music video for the song was one of my first directing jobs. I had a beautiful and wholesome time on set with those amazing artists. Check SRUMA out! The second song is “The Shit” by T.A.S.H, another brilliant track and great artist; these are my go-to songs for motivation right now… if you need a lil’ pep talk pick me up, listen and have a dance to these!
Being a black actress in the fantasy genre is, unfortunately, sometimes difficult, given online reactions from some corners of the internet. How do you deal with it all?
Honestly, I’m unsure of how to deal with it; I think some training or support for all actors would be really beneficial. There are tools on socials to block certain messages, but unless you come off social media and the internet completely, things still get through the filters. I have been shocked and appalled to see some of the responses that have slipped through the cracks, directed at some of my colleagues and my friends.
Most of the responses are beautiful; it is so lovely to hear that people are enjoying the art everyone worked so hard to make. Of course, you can’t please everyone, and It’s OK not to like something, but personally, I think some of the responses are rather strange; I would never think to send an actor death threats because I didn’t think their skin colour matched how I imagined the character to be. You would be surprised how often performers are receiving such threats or graphic photos. Perhaps we should all put that kind of energy into useful things like… saving the planet?!
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Definitely! And being a black actress in such an industry, are there any actors you have looked up to or been inspired by in the industry?
There are so many, going back to the amazing artists that have paved the way for me. Sometimes I think about how there is still a long way to go when it comes to representation in the arts. If we are still fighting to have our black hair and make up looked after to the same level as our colleagues, I sometimes wonder, what was it like for the Josephine Bakers, and the Eartha Kitts (my number one inspiration)!?
Thank you to all who worked and sacrificed to make the journey smoother for the next ones. Hopefully, we too can do the same for the next generations. On my last job, my hair and make-up was looked after by Paige Cole, I cried with happiness a few times, as it’s one of the first times my hair and make-up were properly taken care of on a job.
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And after your stint in so many fantasy shows, are there any fantasy books or adaptations you would love to be in?
Oh, my goodness, so many! I have one that I am currently writing, which is set a long time ago historically. The themes make space for very real, heartfelt acting and then fantastical action! Fantasy allows us to explore so much without boundaries. Who doesn’t like a bit of action and magic and whatnot!? Hehe. Educate me on fantasy, people… What do YOU think I should be in next?
There are so many, I feel like – you are nailing the witch role, though! Do you have a dream musical role?
Yes, yes and YES! Should I list them in order of my favourite!? Ha! I would love to play, Velma Kelly in Chicago, Anita from West Side Story, Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Deloris in Sister Act, and Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, and there are one or two characters in the Musical I am writing that would be fun too!
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Interview Michaela Makusha
Photography Lily Craigen
Styling Morgan Hall
Make Up India Rawlings
Hair Khanya Henry
Styling Assistants Olivia Miller and Drew Smith