The Tidbit had the opportunity to speak with the lovely and talented Clare O’Connor, who is currently portraying the role of young Madeline on FOX’s Proven Innocent, which is filmed in her home town of Chicago. We talk with Clare about the show, her role, and the amazing-ness of dogs.
The Tidbit: Tell us a bit about your background and how you got your start with acting.
Clare O’Connor: I actually started out dancing, not acting. I trained very seriously in ballet for many years. When I transitioned to acting, at first it was Improv and comedy that I was drawn to, and I completed Second City’s Conservatory program in Chicago. During that time I also got an agent and started going on auditions for film and TV roles, and found that I really loved those mediums, and that I loved doing dramatic acting—in addition to comedy!
TT: What was the process of getting your role on Proven Innocent? How has this role changed your life?
CO: It’s actually pretty wild. Just before pilot season, I decided on a whim late one night to dye my [naturally blonde] hair red. Proven Innocent was the first thing I auditioned for with red hair, and I was originally set to go in for a recurring guest star role. But then the morning of the audition, my agent told me that they’d just cast the lead of the show, Rachelle Lefevre (who’s a redhead), so now I’d be going in to audition for the young version of her character–a series regular role! I was thrilled and nervous, but the audition was a dream. Patricia Riggen, our pilot director, was in the room for that first audition, and she had me improvise a lot of scenes, which was a gift. The first scene we improvised was the scene from the pilot where we see the flashback of the verdict being read at Madeline and Levi’s trial. It’s a super emotional scene, and Patricia had me put down the sides and just… plead for my life. Horrifying in some ways, but also a huge gift as an actor. All my nerves went away because I became so present with the given circumstances for the character in that moment. That audition was taped, and after about a week of nervous waiting, I got word I was cast! I’ve been pinching myself every day since. This whole past year has been a real dream come true. Getting to shoot a whole season of TV alongside actors that I’ve grown up admiring has been incredible. Seeing the episodes airing on TV surrounded by family and friends has been one of the highlights of my life. I’ve also loved interacting with fans on social media during the live broadcasts, and especially getting to hear from people whose real lives have been touched by wrongful conviction. I feel really lucky to be a part of a show that’s using its platform to shed light on this issue–and the many issues that arise from our flawed criminal justice system.
TT: How has it been filming in Chicago?
CO: Well, it was very convenient for me since I was already living there! I was the only series regular who lived in Chicago, actually, and I felt very lucky to be able to live at home and commute by train to and from set. As an added bonus, I got to see all the LA actors shivering by the time we hit mid-October—and that was when the temps were still in the 30s! All joking aside: this winter was brutal. Too cold. I give this winter 1 star on Yelp.
TT: What other projects are you working on?
CO: Right now my biggest project is transitioning to Los Angeles, where it is not cold!
TT: So, you mentioned you enjoy dancing. Any other hobbies or interests?
Yes, I danced for a long time and will always love the feeling of moving to music. I also write, short stories and essays mostly, and I have a visual art practice—I draw/paint/create on a commission basis. One of my specialties is pet portraiture, which I’ve been doing professionally for several years. I do all kinds of things with art, really, from drawing chalk menu signage for restaurants to bedazzling shoes for toddlers. Actually, my main art focus of the past year has been taking old paintings and prints, and painting giant capybaras into them. If you’re unfamiliar with capybaras—get thee to Google! They are majestic creatures! Speaking of majestic creatures: dogs. I love dogs so much. I walk dogs as a side job, which I don’t think I’ll ever give up, no matter how far I go with acting or anything else. We do not deserve dogs, but I’m so glad they’re here.
TT: What have been the most rewarding and challenging aspects of acting?
CO: The rewards: getting to tell stories for a living, which is a privilege, and getting to watch finished projects with friends and family. The challenges: everything else about acting 🙂