"I really fought for the role and it's something I felt that I desperately wanted"

By Jodi Guglielmi and Sarah Michaud
Updated July 01, 2015 10:30 AM
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Credit: Christopher Polk/NBC/Getty

Claire Holt has traded in her fangs for a police badge.

The Originals actress now stars in NBC’s new series, Aquarius, playing Officer Charmain Tully. Holt’s character teams up with an undercover cop (David Duchovny) as they try to track down the infamous serial killer Charles Manson and his followers.

PEOPLE chatted with Holt, 27, to talk about why playing a female cop in the 1960s was no easy task.

Plus, watch the video above for an exclusive clip from this week’s episode.

What drew you to Aquarius?
It was like nothing I’d ever read before. The script was so original and I was immediately drawn to it. And then of course David Duchovny is such a phenomenal actor and to be given the opportunity to work with him was a dream for me. I really fought for the role and it’s something I felt that I desperately wanted and I’m truly grateful to have gotten.

How familiar were you with the story of Charles Manson? Did you have to do a lot of research once you got the role?
I definitely did. I knew of Charles Manson, but in Australia we have our own serial killers. I wasn’t intricately familiar with him so I definitely did a lot of research, spent a lot of time on Google, then had to make a rule that I wasn’t allowed to research at nighttime because I scared myself. It’s really fascinating, this story. His message was so strange to me because it began as love and family and it ended in this horrible place.

What was it like being on a period set, and wearing all these ’60s clothes and the look?
It was so much fun. I obviously wasn’t born in the ’60s so I never had the opportunity to dress up like that before and it was amazing. We really felt like we were a part of that era, from the hair and the makeup to the costumes to the set design. It just felt so real and so organic and I loved it. Some of those costumes I got to wear as a hippie were awesome.

RELATED VIDEO: Have You Met the Stars of The Originals? They’re Pretty Cute!

Did you get any training for your role, as far as being an officer? How did you research that?
One of the interesting things about being a female police office in the ’60s is they really didn’t have opportunities to do any serious police work – they filed and they made coffee and they were treated like secretaries. So the great thing about my character is she was one of the first to be able to do any sort of police work and go undercover. There wasn’t too much technical police training I had to do, but for one of the episodes I had to learn how to hold a gun – that took some teaching!

You’re Australian – how are you able to nail down the accent for this role?
Well I’ve been living in the States for almost seven years now, so I think it’s one of those things that you have so much practice and you’re immersed in it and hear it every day and you grow up listening to American television shows and films and hearing the accent. My boyfriend – Matt Kaplan – is American so any time I’m unsure of how to say something, I say, “Hey how do you say this?” and he yells it out. I think it’s always going to sound funny to him and not quite right but hopefully the public who watch it won’t be able to catch on!

Why should people tune in for Aquarius?
The thing about Aquarius is it’s incredibly original and it’s really different than anything on network television. The story is so compelling and it’s something people are fascinated by. The show, despite the fact that it’s set in the late ’60s, is really topical today. The issues that you see in the show – sexism, racism, war – they’re still social and political issues today and they’re still important. We’re still talking about it. It’s uncanny to see how many parallels there are when watching the show and watching the news. And the characters are compelling!

Aquarius airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET.