Outer Banks star Drew Starkey unpacks Rafe's dark season 2 journey
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the season 2 finale of Outer Banks.
The terms "daddy issues" and "sibling rivalry" take on a whole new meaning with Rafe Cameron.
After committing his first murder in season 1 of Outer Banks, Rafe (Drew Starkey) went off the rails in season 2 (now streaming on Netflix) in his desperate quest to make his father, Ward (Charles Esten), proud. He even went as far as shooting (and briefly killing!) his own sister, Sarah (Madelyn Cline), and then attacking her again when she survived. In Rafe's twisted mind, hurting his family somehow meant saving his family. (Yeah, we don't get it either.)
But in an even more shocking turn of events, Rafe chose not to shoot at Sarah and the rest of the Pogues as they escaped the ship he was on in the season 2 finale, even after John B (Chase Stokes) injured Ward so badly that Rafe will be stepping up as the leader of the on-the-run criminal Cameron family. Has Rafe suddenly grown a conscience? Or is he actually the psychopath he seems to be?
Below, Starkey unpacks Rafe's dark season 2 journey and what that finale ending means for him in a potential third season. Plus, does Starkey think of Rafe as an actual villain? Read on to find out.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you first learn how dark Rafe's arc was going to get this season?
DREW STARKEY: From the beginning of conversations with the showrunners, Josh [Pate] and Jonas [Pate] and Shannon [Burke], about the arc of the character, even before season 2 started. So when they were writing the scripts really is when I had some ideas about how dark it would get. It's funny because at the end of last season when Rafe takes this turn, I had started season 1 without knowing that this is where the character was going, so it's been a process of finding it along the way. There was never really like a definite moment where I was like, "Oh, all right, here we go. It's going to get really dark here."
What was your reaction when you learned everything Rafe does in season 2?
My reaction was, I guess, being nervous about the responsibility that it was going to take. But only because I hoped to explain some of the motivations for why the character has gotten into this headspace. It wasn't really about how dark can we make it or how paranoid or manic can we make this guy; most of my attention was about the motivations, about why this guy was doing the things that he was doing. That's where the pressure came.
When it was time to portray those motivations, what was the biggest driving force for you as an actor?
He's starting this season with his life completely flipped on its head. Rafe is really trying to come to terms with his identity. He has a really hard time this season understanding who he is, and he's in a place of this paranoid self-reflection. He's got to stop the guise of his lifestyle and his upbringing just due to the circumstances that he's put himself in, and he's also at a fork in the road this season. That's really what we focused on: He can either take responsibility for his past or he can listen to the lies that he's been telling himself. That was his biggest motivating factor, and the subtext of this season for sure.
In season 1 Rafe killed the sheriff, and in season 2 he tries to kill Kiara [Madison Bailey] in the sewer, he shoots at John B, he shoots Sarah, he tries to shoot at all the Pogues when they're in a tree, he tries to drown Sarah, he threatens Rose [Caroline Arapoglou] with a knife, he kidnaps Sarah, he steals the Cross of Santo Domingo, he tries to shoot Pope [Jonathan Daviss] — that's a lot! Do you think there's a line he won't cross?
I hope so, but I don't know. It's hard to tell, but I think this season you're seeing Rafe constantly struggle with that line and him crossing the line and understanding that he really wasn't the person that was capable of doing so. He's consistently kind of pushing that line further and further. But everyone has a breaking point, and everyone has a line they won't cross.
What do you think Rafe's breaking point was?
His relationship with his father is the obvious answer; this need for acceptance from him has snowballed into who he is as a person, that's formed who he is as a person. That's the cornerstone for everything. But the trauma in season 1, the shooting on the tarmac, that was such a 180. His life is fully changed now due to a split-second decision that he made, the wrong decision that he made. There was obviously a lot of buildup with his relationship and his family growing up, but this one instance on the tarmac and the murder of Sheriff Peterkin [Adina Porter] was the turning point in Rafe's journey.
By the end of season 2, does Rafe regret anything he's done? Choosing not to shoot Sarah in the finale feels like a new direction for him.
At this point, I don't know. That's one thing that is definitely up for interpretation. Especially this season, you get into some gray areas with his motivations, so I'd like to leave that one up to the audience for now.
Do you consider Rafe to be a villain?
I've had these conversations with Jonas and Josh and Shannon a lot. I tried not to look at him as a villain. Obviously he's playing this antagonist role in the story. But I just did my best to keep trying to understand who this guy is and hopefully try to explain why he's doing the things that he's doing. If I were to approach it as that, as I'm playing a villain, it would come across as flat. [Laughs] And hopefully I did not do that! I like that it's up to the audience to interpret that. You can have empathy for this character, you're free to do so because the writers have done a good job of planting the backstory and his relationship with the other characters, but he's still making really terrible choices as a person. This is not a good person overall. I think the only maybe empathetic part about him is that he's trying — he's truly and honestly trying — to be good. He just doesn't know how. There's no part of him that understands the mechanics in order to do that, he's never had to be a good person. So if I was watching this guy on screen I would be like, "Oh my God, this guy is terrible." [Laughs] He's still a s----y guy, but he's definitely trying his best not to be.
What's going through his mind in that moment where he decides to not shoot at the Pogues as they escape the ship?
This was kind of a longer conversation we had before we shot that, because in that moment you don't really understand why he hasn't done it. I think what it boils down to is he's looking at his little sister. [Sighs] This is another gray area that I may want to leave a little more open, but yes, in short, he's actually seeing his little sister, and I think that's a much harder choice than he thought he could make.
It's interesting seeing him going from shooting and literally killing Sarah at the beginning of the season and trying to drown her later in the season to now choosing not to shoot at her in the finale. It's like you don't actually know if that's a moment of growth for him.
Exactly, it's like there is something underneath the surface, maybe. You never know what he's doing to play to his advantage in these situations and hopefully control things for the betterment of himself. It could be growth, it could just be change in a lateral kind of way, but it's definitely juxtaposed to the scene where he's got a hold of Sarah in the water, that's for sure.
Heading into a third season, does Rafe actually believe that he can somehow get Sarah to come back to the family after everything he's done to her?
That is a good question. I have no clue. [Laughs] At the end of shooting season 2, we all had ideas about the story and hopefully where you'd like it to go. But it's so open-ended, so I have no idea.
What do you want to see for Rafe if Outer Banks is renewed for season 3?
The only thing I could hope for him, and there's a part of me that does really care because I spend a lot of time with this person, I hope that that he starts to develop his relationships in an actual meaningful way. A lot of his life is based off of superficial relationships and connections. The more he dives into this space of self-awareness and trying to understand his identity, I hope he actually can develop some meaningful relationships in his life. So we'll see.