Outer Banks stars discuss J.J. and Kiara's connection and hopes for season 2
Pogues don't mack on Pogues. But that cardinal rule hasn't stopped Outer Banks fans from shipping Kiara (Madison Bailey) and J.J. (Rudy Pankow) on Netflix's breakout hit.
The best friends have magnetic chemistry on screen, so much so that even though J.J. is the only guy in Kiara's friend group she didn't kiss in season 1 — John B. (Chase Stokes) kissed her earlier in the season only to get shot down, and she smooched Pope (Jonathan Daviss) in the finale after he confessed his feelings for her — it's J.J. who fans want to see Kiara with in season 2 (or beyond).
But what do the actors who play J.J. and Kiara think of the campaign to see them get together? Below, EW dives deep with Bailey and Pankow about their characters' connection, their hopes for season 2, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Outer Banks came out almost a month ago now, but interest in the show keeps climbing. What has it been like finally getting to share the show with the world and seeing that kind of response?
RUDY PANKOW: It’s blown me away.
MADISON BAILEY: I'm so excited with the response. When we were filming, we knew we were making something special. It's like if we were hanging out and somebody was filming it, and then having a ton of other people watching it and being able to feel the comfortability and feel the whole vibe, it's really exciting.
PANKOW: We really were so passionate on set about it, but we weren't entirely sure, you know? You can't just be like, "Oh yeah, this is going to blow up," when everybody's saying it's going to blow up. To see it actually do very well, it's really fulfilling.
BAILEY: It definitely could have gone one of two ways: It could have either been like, this is fun, we feel like we're a part of this. Or you feel like an outsider because it feels like an inside joke almost. And for the reaction to be that everybody feels like they're in on this little special group is really cool.
What do you think of all the memes and videos fans are posting on social media?
PANKOW: I love it. It's so creative. I'm like, hell yeah! It's so fun to see fans doing that. I was so happy to see that because it's like every character is getting some sort of love.
BAILEY: They're definitely pulling pictures and videos that even I've never seen before and I'm like [laughs], where you guys getting this stuff?
The thing that's getting the most love on social media is J.J. and Kiara – fans really want to see them together. Why do you think fans are focusing so much on that relationship, considering they're just friends?
BAILEY: I think people want what they don't have, in a way. If it was me and J.J., then people would be like, "Well, what about Pope?" It's just the one connection that we didn't even realize we were creating at all, and J.J. is the only other Pogue that Kiara doesn't have any romantic interaction with, so I think that's why they want it.
PANKOW: I agree. When we were filming, we had no idea that that was going to be something the audience, but also the editors, were going to put in there. I don't know if the editors meant to do that, but there are some scenes there that the fans were like, "What about this?" I was like, "Yeah, I never saw that." I never thought that that was something that everybody would latch on to. But I guess! Sure, yeah.
Do you want to see J.J. and Kiara become more than friends on the show?
PANKOW: I think we leave it up to the writers. Whatever the writers write, I'm like, always down for. J.J. and Ki, that deserves attention later on, but like, I don't know if it's season 2. It'd just be a little fast turnaround with all the characters. I don't know, Bailey, what do you feel about that?
BAILEY: Yeah, I mean I obviously trust the writers to make the best story possible. But I mean, if it happens, that's cool, and if it didn't happen, I like telling the story of Kiara keeping guy friends. They have a really nice connection, but it's a friend connection and that's real, and I would like to keep that.
After the first season dropped, showrunner Jonas Pate told me that the fan response to J.J. and Kiara actually has them seriously thinking about that relationship for season 2. What do you think about how that could potentially influence where the characters go?
PANKOW: I think it's totally fair. I think everybody should be listened to, and if that's what the fans want, who knows? We don't even know what the writers want to do. I haven't even seen writing yet. Bailey, have you seen like maybe a little bit of season 2 writing?
BAILEY: I talked about it a little bit with Jonas, but they're keeping everything very top-secret right now. [Laughs]
PANKOW: Yeah, very top-secret.
BAILEY: I wish I would have known, as a fan, I could have that big of an impact. I probably would have spent more time emailing and making fan pages for Gossip Girl when I was a kid.
What’s your friendship like in real life? Has it helped you find that bond on screen?
PANKOW: We all had super-good chemistry right from the get go. I met Bailey on the plane literally to the chemistry read. Immediately, immediately when she got on the plane, I was like, "Oh, that's Kiara." Then we started acting in the room, and boom, it was like instantaneous. "She's going to be Kiara. The chemistry is so clear in the room right now." To be completely honest with you, I think we found the chemistry before we really got to know each other as friends. That was so special, and helped the friendship from there. We have such good chemistry as actors, let's like, figure out all our likes and interests and stuff like that from there.
John B. kissed her earlier in the season, and then Kiara kissed Pope in the finale. Where is her headspace at when it comes to all her guy friends?
BAILEY: I wish I could tell you. [Laughs] I know Kiara loves Pope. But I think it's kind of the same thing that happened with John B. Kiara was really hesitant to ever cross that line. She was the one who was most adamant about "Pogues don't mack on Pogues." She really wanted to keep that friendship. The Pogues are the only people that Kiara has ever found that she really, really connects with. It's either like, have the boys as her friends or have no one, you know?
Watching J.J. deal with his abusive father throughout the first season was so heartbreaking. How did you approach playing such a heavy story line like that?
PANKOW: It was heavy. Heavy story lines, heavy time trying to get in that headspace. I talked to different people about being abused by your father, and I'm going to keep those people private for obvious reasons. But that was really scary for me because I'm lucky enough to have a father that never really did abuse me aggressively. Like, every child is disciplined, but I'm very lucky to have a father that doesn't abuse me the way that J.J.'s dad did. It was really hard and challenging to like, hear those stories and then really go in deep with that character development and portray it as organically and true to it as you can.
What do you want to see in season 2 for your characters?
BAILEY: I just want to see more of the same. I love Kiara, I love her spirit, I love that she's always down to save the day and she's tough. But I'm really excited to get back to where season 1 started and have the four Pogues plus Sarah [Madelyn Cline] involved in that now, and just seeing everybody be able to take a breather at some point. Towards the end of season 1 it was so fast-paced, just one thing after another, and we never really hung out again. We lost a lot of our happy moments. So I just want more happiness in season 2.
PANKOW: I think we're not going to have as much happiness at the start, but then the happiness when we find out that John B.'s alive, it's going to be so pivotal. I want to see that too. I want to see the Pogues go from really broken to really happy again.
Did you learn anything from the first season that you’re going to apply to the second season, if you get renewed?
BAILEY: Seeing all the moments that worked in season 1, so much of those were like improv or scenes that we got together off set and teed up to figure out ways to make it better. So I think getting a little looser with the script at times is when I notice that we're working the best together.
Outer Banks season 1 is now streaming on Netflix.