Helen Johns is returning as Mrs. Eliza Barry for the third season of Anne with an E on Netflix and I had the chance to chat about her character and some of her favorite on set moments. We also delved into some of the other projects she is involved with that are coming out very soon. Thank you to Helen Johns for answering all of my questions.
Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
Sure! I’m a British born actress, now living in California. I work a lot in Canada too. I’m passionate about the arts in general. You’ll mostly find me at the theatre, an art gallery or reading a book in my free time. But I’m a new mum, so there’s definitely less of that than there used to be.
You are a series regular on the popular drama, Anne with an E, could you describe the show in your own words?
It’s brilliant – ha, of course I’d say that! The show is about a young orphan, Anne, who somewhat unexpectedly finds herself in the community of Avonlea, in Prince Edward Island, Canada. It’s based on the 1908 novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I think the show is really respectful of the period in which it is set, and the novels were about characters and issues that were marvelously ahead of their time. We are dealing with a young woman in the late 1800s who wants to have a voice, despite her gender and her background. She wants to talk about fairness, equality and justice. She wants to learn, she wants to teach. She’s very courageous and it’s easy to fall in love with her – hence our large fan base. Amybeth who plays her in the show has captured her perfectly. And Moira Walley-Beckett (our show’s creator) has done an incredible job of making a period story that was already somehow contemporary, completely relevant.
You will be returning as Mrs. Eliza Barry for season three, could you discuss how your character has grown?
I think in season one, she was extremely nervous about Anne’s arrival in the community, and the potential negative effects that Anne might have her daughter, Diana. Then in season two, things got tricky for Eliza and her husband financially, which caused a marital crisis and so she was nervous about a lot of things. But the resolution of that was pretty satisfying for me. I was able to play a woman who was loving, emotionally mature, wise and whose desire to feel heard mirrored Anne’s. I can’t talk about season three plot lines yet, you’ll have to tune in!
What have been some of your favorite on set experiences?
After three years of working together, the on set bond between the actors and crew is really tight now. I especially love my on screen husband – Jonathan Holmes – and my daughters Dalila Bela and Ryan Kiera Armstrong. Jonathan and I are both native Brits, and we have the same silly sense of humour. Any of the scenes where we shoot us as a family, with Minnie May sticking her tongue out, or kicking people or licking cakes, are a total riot. I also have an incredibly fun time with our costume designer, Alex Reda, who searches the world to find me the most extravagant, crazy hats.
You have a number of upcoming projects, could you briefly discuss Mrs. America?
I think it’s going to be fabulous. It’s a true story about the struggle to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. Cate Blanchett plays Phyllis Schlafly, who campaigned against it. I admire her work so much. It’s another period piece – set in the 1970s – that speaks to our time. So many great roles for women in the show. And a female creator – Dahvi Waller from Mad Men. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to work with Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who directed Captain Marvel. They bring loads of ideas to the table and allow you to test them all out, which really suits my style of working.
You also have a key role in the new sci-fi series Chalice, would you be able to briefly describe that as well?
I am excited for this project which I can’t talk too much about right now so you’ll just have to wait and see!
You are also set for an animated project, could you discuss Charlotte?
Another true story, about Charlotte Salomon, a Jewish painter. It takes place in Germany and France before and during the Second World War. It’s extremely moving. It will be fascinating to see the animation and voices come together.
Where can our readers keep up with you online?
I’m on Instagram at @helenjohns00