Bailee Madison gets it done. After booking her first job at just two weeks old (yes, that's weeks, not years), Madison's now been a working actor for more than two decades. Most recently, she starred in Netflix's new film, A Week Away, but a packed filming schedule doesn’t stop the creative powerhouse from taking on new projects. Along with her philanthropic work—she's a national spokesperson for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation—Madison has also written a full-length novel, hosted more than one podcast, produced films, and even directed music videos. What else would you expect from a girl who's been stealing scenes from costars like Natalie Portman, Selena Gomez, and Jennifer Aniston for almost as long as she's been alive?
We sat down with Madison for an intimate look at what life looks like right now, why she’s feeling optimistic about the rest of 2021, and, of course, how to get her complete list of beauty favorites.
How's your 2021 been so far? Significantly better than a much of last year, I'm hoping!
"I think we're all in a similar boat of constant waves of change that have been going on since this whole thing happened. When lockdown first started, for me at least, I didn't think it was going to last this long—I just really didn't! I remember at the start of it, I had directed a music video for the first time, and we literally got it filmed and edited about five days before everything went into lockdown. So it went from like, the most normal thing to then being in my house.
My boyfriend lives in the U.K., so he had to quickly go back, and then when he left, my sister got COVID like, instantly. She was down for the count, so I couldn't see my nieces; I couldn't see my brother-in-law. It was just me out here, even though they were five minutes away. Initially, when it started, it took a hot minute to adjust.
I think the big thing I've been learning is that my whole life, I've usually spent on the go or out of a suitcase or in a hotel room. That's weirdly how I find my peace: when I'm on-set or working. So I've been trying to not be afraid of the quiet time and finding those hidden, precious moments that I know once everything goes back to normal, I'll lose. Personally, I'm doing good! I let myself have moments, but overall, I'm thankful to be healthy and thankful my family is healthy, too."
That's such an optimistic approach, I love that. What was filming like in the pandemic, how vastly does it differ from a normal shooting process?
"Oh, it's completely different. We filmed in Canada. We were one of the first productions out there who got the green light to try it out, so we were kind of the guinea pig. There was a mandatory two-week quarantine once we got to Canada, which meant once they opened up my apartment door, it was shut. I could only open it to put the trash outside my door, and that was it.
Usually, you'd land and immediately go into fittings or rehearsals or a table read or things like that. There were a lot of different kind of rehearsals we were doing, and it was all Zoom-orchestrated, so it was trying to make the most space out of that little room. The moment quarantine ended, you go and get tested, and everything is social-distanced.
We did a socially-distanced table read, and every chair was six feet apart in this huge warehouse, but it was a way for us to feel something normal—like, ‘alright we're going to make this thing together!’ You get tested multiple times a week, you have multiple COVID nurses on-set who walk around, and if anyone's too close or doesn't have their mask on right, they're there to tell you to fix it. Kiss scenes are completely different. I will say—Kiss scenes are awkward no matter what, but now you're gargling hydrogen peroxide and spraying alcohol on your lips!"
So like the ultimate trust exercise, I love that. I know you have another new movie, A Week Away, out March 26. What can you tell me about your character and how you get into it? What's your process like?
"We filmed this back in Nashville at the end of 2019, and I was able to co-produce it, which was so fulfilling and wonderful for me to get to do. It's a musical, and I've always wanted to do music. It's the one thing I've really never been able to finally step into, but the one I've always said I wanted to do besides acting. So that was a process for me personally because it was four weeks of dance rehearsals, four weeks of recording the songs before we even started filming. So my process was, 'Please don't sound bad, please don't trip over your own feet, Bailee!' (LAUGHS)
There's a moment in [the movie] I love. There's such a need for perfection in this day and age. Girls and guys, you turn on your phone and you can't help but see what you're supposed to say or supposed to look like and what that definition of 'perfect' is to today's society. There's a really great moment in which Avery is like, 'I'm not even close to perfect. I’m so tired of being what everyone wants me to be.' I loved stepping into her shoes."
You're obviously a really creative person: music, dancing, your book, producing, and of course, acting. I'm curious, do you think all of that other art informs your acting?
"No one has ever asked me anything like that so that just brought me such joy, thank you! You know, I'd like to think they all in some way cross-translate. I started off acting and was fortunate enough to have grown up on sets with people that I became like a sponge to. I think I took in as much I could, but when I reached the age when I first produced, it was like I couldn't shut that off. I don't know what that was in my head, but I'd be in the middle of a scene and have 15 ideas about the scene itself which wasn't my place to go there.
So for me, I love being creative as a whole. I can't half it anymore. I either want to be fully a part of something and fully a part of the creative process, otherwise it's all these thoughts in my head that I have at night once I go home from set.
As for the book process, I had genuinely written this book when I was 15. I was talking to this writer, and I was like, 'I wish there was something like this I could be in, or something kids could have that's like Girl On The Train or Gone Girl.' I wrote it with the idea of adapting it into a screenplay or a mini series, and that's the way I've always looked at this book. I guess they do cross-translate in some way—it's all pieces of me. I just love what I do and I'm blessed to be able to do it, so I'm kind of obsessive over the whole thing. (LAUGHS)"
I can tell that passion comes out in all your work, too. Switching gears a little bit, what's your skincare routine looking like? It looks great, even over Zoom.
"Oh my gosh, y'all, it's a work in progress! I'm 21 years old and I've never actually had a second to be like, 'How do I take care of my skin? How do I take care of my body?' and not feel selfish about asking that. That's been something I've been trying to work through, realizing that self-care isn't actually a bad thing, it's not a selfish thing. It's just about taking care of your body from the inside out and loving the body that you're in.
I have a dear friend named Sora, and she's been helping me with my skincare! She has me on the Eminence Moisturizer ($59), and then Joanna Vargas—she works for Joanna—and they have a daily serum ($85), so I've been using that. My friend, Nurse Jamie, and I geek out over her. I’m also on her gentle cleanser ($32). She's been helping teach me about light therapy and other things that maybe aren't covering your face with creams but just trying to take care of it in a preventative way. I didn't know I should start preventing at 21, but apparently, it's a thing!
I am a big believer in no makeup as much as I can. Set makeup is the worst because you're caked in as much powder as possible. My hair is the longest it's ever been because it's usually so damaged, but it hasn't had that much heat on it these days, and I do hair masks. And for my skin, I try to give it skin breathers. I'm old school like that from my mom. It's not that fancy, y'all! But I do love a good jade roller, though."
Ugh, yes, that face drainage feels so good.
"There's a FasciaBlaster, have you ever heard of that?"
No, but my mom has one and she raves about it!
"Oh, I rave as well! Your mom is right! It's a FasciaBlaster and you can do it on your body. It hurts so... badly good, you know? Like you want to break up what's in your body. You're like, "Ooh, God, this is painful, but do your thing!" And they have one for your face. Apparently, I hold a lot of tension in my cheeks so I've been trying to work on the FasciaBlasting (LAUGHS)."
On the subject of self-care, when you do get some down time, how do you typically like to relax and unwind?
"My sister and my nieces are in my bubble—they live five minutes away. Genuinely, if I have a day off, I just want to see them and play with my two little nieces and sit down with my sister and see how she is. I adopted a dog in quarantine when it started, so Buzz has been really good for my mental health. Somedays, when I do have an off day because I'm not working, my mind can respond not great to that. Having him is really helpful because he makes me get out of bed, he makes me take him for a walk or on a hike. I've never been a TV show or movie watcher unless I'm on an airplane, but I'm currently binging Scandal and letting myself do it! It's everything I could have ever hoped for! (LAUGHS) Absolutely brilliant. So I've been binging Scandal and making nightly baths a thing.
And then working out, to be honest. In the past three weeks, I've kind of made a conscious decision to start taking care of my body in a way that doesn't feel like I'm prepping to go film, or prepping to go a shoot—it's strictly for me. Mentally, I can walk in there so cloudy. My friend—she's in my bubble—she has a studio for hot pilates and she cranks that heat up. It's like therapy for me in a sense because I can cry in there, I can just kind of sit there and sweat."
I know your career started so early in your life. If you could look back and give some of your modern 21-year-old wisdom to very young Bailee, what might you say to her?
"I'm grateful to say that looking back, I did enjoy every second. I did have the time of my life, and there was never a moment where I wasn't happy with what I was doing or thought that if I wanted to quit, I couldn't go home. My mom genuinely probably would have loved if I was a tennis player or something and not an actress! (LAUGHS)
I think I'd really make it a point to say embrace it as much as you can. Let yourself feel the heartache of something not going your way or this happening, but know that everything happens for a reason. When I was younger, there'd be times when I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I wanted this so badly,’ but a month later, I'd be on to something else that would be the most perfect thing for my life and my career. So I wish I had saved the worrying for when I got older! (LAUGHS)"