Bailey Bass Recalls How Booking 'Avatar' Meant Her Family Could Afford Basic Necessities

The actress and entrepreneur spoke to editor-in-chief Nikki Ogunnaike for 'Marie Claire' podcast "Nice Talk."

bailey bass nice talk podcast
(Image credit: Future)

Welcome to Nice Talk, hosted by Marie Claire Editor in Chief Nikki Ogunnaike. Each week, Nikki will sit down with fascinating women—entertainers, entrepreneurs, creators, athletes, and changemakers—to discuss money, power, and style. “Well-behaved” women have long been discouraged from speaking on these topics—style should be effortless, and conversations about money or power aren’t “proper,” “ladylike,” or “nice.” But Nikki's definition of a Nice Talk is one where all parties walk away feeling empowered. You can listen to Nice Talk with Nikki Ogunnaike on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Landing a role in Avatar: The Way of Water changed actress Bailey Bass' life in more ways than one.

Bass shares on the latest episode of the Marie Claire podcast "Nice Talk" that she and her family felt a sense of relief when she booked the blockbuster film directed by James Cameron at age 13, since they had been on welfare and food stamps up until that point.

"I remember I found out that I booked the role [in Avatar] and I bawled my eyes out. I was so excited," says Bass, who is now 21 and known for starring as Claudia on AMC's series adaptation of Interview with the Vampire.

"I had an understanding of money because I've been working since I was 2 years old," she says of when she was cast as Tsireya, a free diver and the daughter to Kate Winslet's Ronal and Cliff Curtis' Tonowari. "So I knew that it would help us so much and it did."

bailey bass at the premiere for avatar the way of water

Bailey Bass attends the 'Avatar: The Way of Water' U.S. Premiere at Dolby Theatre on December 12, 2022 in Hollywood, California.

(Image credit: Matt Winkelmeyer/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty Images)

Given the film's long production schedule ahead of its release in December 2022, Bass recalls on "Nice Talk" how it wasn't until she was 16 that she processed just how much her role in the franchise would affect her and her loved ones. She explains that it hit her once when she was driving home from the grocery store with her mother and she burst into tears.

"I looked at my mom and I was just like, 'Mama, when this movie comes out, I'll be able to buy you a Mercedes,' Bass remembers. "I didn't grow up with a lot financially. We were on food stamps and welfare and my mom was a single mom taking care of my grandparents and my two brothers and me, and we had a dog."

She adds, "I remember something very overwhelming was when I got my period. My mom cried—not in front of me, but she told me this later—she cried because she didn't know how she was going to afford pads."

With Avatar: The Way of Water, though, Bass was eventually able to make her "first big purchase" and get the Mercedes that she and her mom dreamed of. "It wasn't for me, it was for my mom, I was just like, 'I want to get you this car,' because I remember as a little girl that was the first car I ever remember being in," she says. "It felt like I made it."

Now that Bass is more excited about where she's at in her career—both acting and starting to produce other projects—she's wrestling with simply feeling proud of each achievement and staying present. "I'm so competitive and I'm so ambitious that I keep moving the finish line further and further away, which is something that I talk a lot about in therapy and I have to figure out—not being such a perfectionist and being so hard on myself," she reveals. "But I will say that [when I bought my mom a Mercedes], it felt like an I-made-it moment. But what I'm realizing is, throughout my career, I will have many I-made-it moments."

For more about Bass' journey towards financial stability, her jewelry brand BaiBai, efforts producing children's entertainment, and more, tune into her episode of "Nice Talk," which is available now wherever you listen to podcasts.

Sadie Bell
Senior Culture Editor

Sadie Bell is the Senior Culture Editor at Marie Claire, where she edits, writes, and helps to ideate stories across movies, TV, books, and music, from interviews with talent to pop culture features and trend stories. She has a passion for uplifting rising stars, and a special interest in cult-classic movies, emerging arts scenes, and music. She has over eight years of experience covering pop culture and her byline has appeared in Billboard, Interview Magazine, NYLON, PEOPLE, Rolling Stone, Thrillist and other outlets.