Memories From the Set: Grimm's Claire Coffee Recalls Gigs on West Wing, Psych, NCIS and More
The West Wing
Coffee had quite the audition partner when trying out for the NBC political drama: the series creator himself. “Aaron Sorkin was the one reading the other part,” she says. “All of that quippy and quick Sorkin dialogue – when you’re reading it with Aaron Sorkin, you can only imagine. It keeps you on your toes.” The show boss must’ve liked what he heard: Coffee landed the role of White House intern Cassie Tatum and appeared in three episodes.
Anyone who thinks clothes don’t make the man weren’t on hand for Coffee’s audition to play Bones’ Special Agent Tricia Finn. “I had just gotten a new suit, a proper suit for auditioning for lawyers and such,” she recalls. “I got to the set, and everybody’s like, ‘You were so great. I think that suit you were wearing was so good.'” She went on to play the G-woman/aspiring screenwriter in the Fox hit’s first season – and, for the record, “I still have that suit. That suit will never be retired.”
Coffee played Nikki Crawshaw in an episode of the CBS procedural that also featured Supernatural’s Misha Collins and Castle’s Seamus Dever – not that she got to hang out with the guys. “I didn’t get to see any of them, because we were just in the opening, in this car. We were driving around in Santa Clarita all day.”
Coffee’s experience in the first season of the USA fan favorite (she played a Civil War re-enactor) was a hairy affair. “They were worried that I looked too much like Maggie [Lawson], so they had me dye my hair,” she says. Then, later, there wasn’t time for a wash-n-style before another set-up. “So that’s why, in the last scene, it looks like I’ve put my finger in a light socket.” But the frizz is workin’ for her – “I get more people talking about [my spots on] Psych and The League than probably any other shows.”
“Way before any shoot day, there’s going to be a pimple that pops up somewhere, inevitably,” Coffee muses. “Sure enough, the morning of the shoot, huge pimple right on my chin.” To make matters worse, “The entire teaser of that episode” – in which she plays a woman flirting with a retired football star – “is an extreme close-up of my mouth and chin on the phone. There was just no way that I was going to get out of that unscathed.”
“My first week at General Hospital was during a Nurses Ball,” a traditionally huge production requiring long days of shooting. “It was like being in a slumber party on set all week, which is a great way to get to know everybody. Those hours were nuts.” Still, playing a nurse who at one point was drugged and tied to the bottom of an elevator shaft was a childhood dream come true. “My sister and I would watch with my grandmother during the summers,” she says. “Then, I was on it.”
The FX improv comedy brought Coffee in for a Season 1 episode, in which she played a spa concierge who likes Pete. “A couple of days before, you get an outline of what the scene is, you get these really funny scenarios, and then you just go,” the actress says, praising the cast’s comedic chops. “The show captures, I would say, about a quarter of what they’re bringing to the table.”
Franklin & Bash
The part of Peter’s honey Janie “was a regular role when I auditioned for it, and then they cut it back,” Coffee recalls. “During the pilot, they treated me like a member of the family from Day 1.” Her fond, if random, memories from her time on the TNT legal dramedy include: “I rented a car and got rear-ended in Atlanta” – where the pilot was shot – and “I got really into cheese grits while we were there.”
What’s been your favorite Coffee role? Sound off in the comments!