After talking with actress Caroline Barry, it’s no surprise that she was a perfect fit for the role of iconic journalist Nellie Bly in the film 10 Days In A Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story. Barry’s enthusiasm about acting and the role she plays could only be rivaled by her ability to take a great story on the surface and make it exceptional by imparting her passion for telling it. But much like Bly, there is more than meets the eye with Barry – like her passion for martial arts and her love of working with children.
The Daily Quirk had the opportunity to sit down with Barry and discuss her upcoming film, some of her hobbies and what advice she would give to budding journalists after living the life of Nellie Bly. Read the full interview below.
The Daily Quirk: I noticed you have done a lot of theater performances. Is that what it was that made you decide to start acting, or were you always in tune with acting as a career choice?
Caroline Barry: I started acting when I was really, really young. I started performing in my parents’ living room when I started talking [laughs]. My first play was when I was five and I was just in love with it. I was just a shy kid and I didn’t really like talking very much, especially not to adults, and so plays were a great way for me to have a script and to get to talk and express myself. I loved it and I kept doing it and thought, well I might be kind of good at this, and I had done it for so long that it was never a question if I wanted to do it when I grew up, I just assumed [laughs]. I never really had many other things I wanted to do. I maybe wanted to be an architect at one point but then I was like, why would I want to be an architect when I could be an actor? [laughs] So yeah, I’ve always loved it and it always came naturally and I wanted it to be come a career.
TDQ: I know you’ve been working on a film called 10 Days In A Madhouse, which is the story of journalist Nellie Bly, so can you tell us a little bit about the film?
CB: Yeah, of course! So 10 Days In A Madhouse is the story of Nellie Bly, who was the first undercover reporter and she went undercover into an insane asylum in 1887 on Blackwell’s Island, which is in New York. That was one of her first assignments for Joseph Pulitzer, who we all know for the Pulitzer Prize, so she went in to him and said “I want to write for you, I’ll do anything.” And he said “Okay, go into this asylum.” [laughs] And she’s fearless. She went in and didn’t even hesitate and risked everything. She went in to find out what was happening to these women in Blackwell’s.
TDQ: And you actually play Nellie Bly, so can you tell us a little more about that character and the journey you took with her?
CB: Well, when I first got the audition I had never heard of Nellie Bly. I had done a lot of history classes and writing classes but I had never heard of her. So once I started researching her I was stunned that she wasn’t a household name. She was incredibly approachful [sic] in not only in journalism, but the strides that she made for all the things that she reported on. From mental illness to poverty to women’s rights, she was extremely influential in all of those. She even invented the 55-gallon oil drum, which is still used today in the oil industry, which is incredible. So what I really loved about her is that she is an absolute optimist, she was always smiling – she smiled through everything; that was her armor and I really loved that about her. She really saw the best in people, and was very compassionate, and always wrote about people that didn’t have a voice. So I really, really connected with that and was beyond thrilled that when I got the role that I got to portray that. She really became my hero.
TDQ: What was it about this movie and this character that stood out to you and made you want to take part in the project?
CB: Well first I think Nellie Bly being such an interesting, complex and fearless character who was such a role model for everyone is something that I think stood out to me. Also, 10 Days In A Madhouse, the women that went through this… Reading Nellie Bly’s book 10 Days In A Madhouse was a really difficult book. Once I talked to the director, Timothy Hines, he was really passionate about making this movie; about honoring the women in Blackwell’s as well as Nellie Bly, and really telling it through their eyes. So once I talked to him about that I was dedicated and committed to the movie and I was so excited. Nellie Bly, the director and the approach to her story is what made me want to do this.
TDQ: Were there any moments on set that stood out to you as being particularly fun or exciting or even grueling to film?
CB: Oh, yeah, which one? [laughs] There were so many! We shot in Salem, Oregon in an abandoned insane asylum, and there was no electricity so we had to use generators; it was freezing cold and it was 10 degrees on average. There were shots where you couldn’t see us but you’d just see the breath, so that was exciting and grueling but it really brought everyone together at the same time. It was kind of like being in a weird summer camp except it was freezing and you were in an abandoned insane asylum [laughs]. But it was really cool. In between takes you got to go exploring around all of it because they cleaned out part of the building, but the rest of it was still totally abandoned and [had] stuff hanging from the ceiling. Everything was broken and it was really haunting so that was a cool behind the scenes thing.
TDQ: This film is based on true events that actually happened, and now that you’ve played this role and lived that life, what kind of advice would you give to budding journalists about doing what Nellie Bly did?
CB: I think what really makes Nellie Bly standout, especially in journalism, is that she was absolutely passionate about every story that she told. She really got to know the people in her stories and her articles. She really, really made a personal connection with them and I think that’s not something you generally see because journalists try to keep it objective. Nellie Bly cared about the objective but also knew that there was an emotional side that if she connected with the person emotionally she could get to another level with those people and really find out the core truth of what was going on. So I think that’s the advice she would give.
TDQ: If you had to give three words to describe this movie to make people want to come to see it – as if the story itself wasn’t already enough – what words would you choose?
CB: Oh, oh words! [laughs] Oh I need a thesaurus… I would say… Gosh, I’m being really picky about my words because I think the movie is just… It’s enthralling, it’s inspiring and it’s moving. I think that’s the main word I would use. It’s moving.
TDQ: You are also working on a film called Battleborn, which is currently in post-production. Can you tell us a little more about the film and your character Eva Streed as well?
CB: Oh, yeah! So, that film is about a girl who is…she’s struggling with, well, her brother is a politician and she finds out that she is pregnant. So she and her brother have to go through his public life and her private life and that clash[es]. It’s a really great drama and I’m really excited about it.
TDQ: Other than 10 Days and Battleborn, do you have any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?
CB: Yeah! Timothy Hine is the director of 10 Days In A Madhouse and he and I are actually collaborating on a second movie that I’m really excited about. I don’t have too many details I can share right now, but I’m really, really excited to work with him again.
TDQ: What other hobbies do you have and what do you like to do in your spare time?
CB: When I’m not acting I love the outdoors. I’m from Colorado so I love being outside and hiking. I also love working with kids and I’ve done a lot of anti-bullying workshops with kids, and right now in my free time I teach kids martial arts. So I teach kids karate when I can. I think kids are so inspiring and refreshing and yeah, I just really love it.
TDQ: Well this actually is a perfect segue for our last question because here at The Daily Quirk we like to always end with something quirky, so what are three things people would never know about you just by looking at you? For example, that you teach karate to kids?
CB: That I have a black belt, a lot of people don’t expect that [laughs]. And I’m a pretty good skier. Growing up in Colorado my dad always told me that was a requirement [laughs].
The Daily Quirk would like to thank Caroline Barry for taking the time to talk with us. 10 Days In A Madhouse premieres first New York on November 11 and then nationwide on November 20. For more information on the movie and to buy tickets, you can visit the 10 Days In A Madhouse website.