When she’s not playing a witchy Hexenbiest on NBC’s “Grimm,” new mom Claire Coffee stays busy chasing an active toddler, spending time with her husband, “A Prairie Home Companion” host and musician Chris Thile, and has just added “designer” to her resume, collaborating with “upcycling” apparel and accessory company Looptworks on a utility backpack for multitasking parents. (Check out the Kickstarter campaign here.)
Make It Better talked to the Northwestern University grad about the long-running TV show, her life at home and what she misses most about Chicago.
Make It Better: You play Adalind Schade on NBC’s “Grimm.” What do you love most about the role?
Claire Coffee: Adalind’s character has shifted so wildly over the last five seasons that it feels like I’ve been given three different roles to play, in a number of outrageous circumstances. It’s been great acting exercise for me.
What’s the best part of being on the “Grimm” set?
The cast and crew. I got so lucky on this job — everyone is so grateful for the work and it creates an overwhelmingly supportive environment.
How does it feel to be part of a show that has reached 100 episodes? Do you think “Grimm” will be picked up for a sixth season?
I still can’t quite believe we’ve hit the 100 mark. It’s an absolute dream come true. We are very hopeful for that sixth season, but you just never can tell.
Tell us about The Calvin and how you got involved with Looptworks, Girls Inc. and The Power of the Purse.
I was approached to be a “Purse-O-Nality” for this year’s “Power of the Purse” event benefitting Girls, Inc. of the Pacific Northwest, and was paired up with Looptworks to design our purse for the auction. I had only been vaguely aware of Looptworks before, and was thrilled to get the opportunity to learn more about what they do, which is really unique. They rescue materials otherwise headed for the incinerator and transform them into great-looking bags and personal accessories. They save literal tons of water and carbon emissions every year by working this way.
What do you love most about “The Calvin,” the bag you co-designed with Looptworks?
First and foremost, I think The Calvin is a great design. I love the way it fits on the back, with a clean, modern profile. We made sure it had just enough pockets to be useful, but not so many as to waste space or provide too many nooks and crannies where cracker crumbs could get lost for months.
Do you plan on doing more designing in the future?
I love home design. I am currently in the middle of a massive renovation of the 100-year-old house we just bought in Portland. I can definitely see that obsession translating into another project, if only to justify the hobby. I don’t know what I’ll do once the house is finished!
Are there any other philanthropic organizations you are involved with or support?
I am closely involved with The Oregon Symphony here in Portland. They have such valuable outreach programs that bring music and musicians to schools and organizations that have lost funding for the arts over the years. I think it’s so important to inspire and foster creativity at a young age. It meant everything to me, and I want to make sure to pay it forward when I can.
Your son Calvin is almost a year old. What’s it like juggling motherhood and your busy schedule?
He is a magnificent, but insanely active child who hates to sleep, so it’s definitely exhausting. I work very erratic, often long hours on set, so I try to make the most of my time at home with him, including him in whatever I have to do around the house and setting aside hours of one-on-one play time. It helps to get all of my email and phone call work done while on set so that I can focus more on Cal when I’m home. Also, I have to be very conservative when it comes to scheduling and social planning. If I try to do too much, I end up over-stressed and unable to do anything, so we keep it to about one or two planned activities a weekend and stay flexible during the week. It helps to have other parent friends who totally understand the high flake-out potential of having a toddler!
When you’re a working mom, it’s hard to find time for yourself! How have you adapted your fashion/fitness/beauty routine to keep looking as fabulous as ever?
Cal is so active and already almost 25 pounds, so in terms of fitness, he’s a workout in himself! I can manage a pilates class or cycling about once a week, which is a far cry from my everyday fitness routine pre-baby. I am constantly fighting sleep deprivation, so I make sure I’m eating a balanced diet — lots of protein and greens — and I try my best to avoid sugar. If I’m eating crap, my immune system and skin really suffer. In terms of fashion, I love Lyon + Post. It’s a new company that brings the fitting room to your front door — you “queue” different items you’d like to try on, and they send them to you four at a time. Free shipping and returns. It’s so easy. I’ve also been having fun scouring my closet for old things I can put together in new ways, since hitting the shops is a near impossibility these days.
You went to Northwestern, what do you miss about the Chicago area? Are there any Chicago or Evanston restaurants or foods you can’t miss when you’re in town?
One of my only regrets in life is that I didn’t spend at least a year living in Chicago post-graduation. After “Grimm,” I would love to get on a show in town so that we can move the family to Chicago for a spell! I still don’t think I’ve had a better burger than my memory of the one at Pete Miller’s. I want to take Cal to Walker Bros. on our next visit to see him dive into a Dutch Baby, and then of course the pizza … My favorite was Pizzeria Uno. And Clarke’s for tomato soup! So many of my college memories were food-related. My husband, Chris, is often in Chicago playing shows, so he’s found great stuff in the city. Avec is a new favorite, and Intelligentsia for coffee.
Speaking of your husband [Chris Thile], is there a song that you love to hear him play or perform?
Well, “Julep” is about us, so I always love hearing that one. He has another song that hasn’t been recorded but that he plays at solo shows a lot called “Songs on a Mandolin”. It’s a really silly and wonderful song. These days, the best is watching him sing or play anything for Cal.
Will you make an appearance on “A Prairie Home Companion”?
We’ve talked about my appearing with the radio acting company on APHC. It would be very, very fun for me to participate in that way.
What do you and your husband and son most enjoy doing in your down time? What does a perfect day off look like for the three of you?
We are a little bit food and wine obsessed and going out to dinner is our favorite shared hobby. We’ve been bringing Cal to restaurants since he was a few days old, with varying degrees of success. Hiking, walking and spending as much time as possible outdoors is a goal. Our neighborhood in Portland has access to miles and miles of hiking trails. I think a perfect day off would involve a great night of sleep, our morning coffee routine (one of Chris’ hobbies is espresso), a trip to the zoo with Cal, an afternoon nap while I browse Chairish or One Kings Lane for furniture and Chris goes to play ping pong, then dinner together at Lincoln, one of our favorite restaurants in town. The food is incredible, the wine list is full of really interesting wine, and they are very patient with Cal.