Actor Fanta Barrie tells Giverny Masso about playing Lindsay Salmon in The Lovely Bones, self-help book recommendations and how to cope with telling emotional stories as an actor
Who do you play in The Lovely Bones?
The Lovely Bones is about a 14-year-old girl called Susie Salmon. I play Susie’s sister, Lindsey Salmon. Susie gets brutally murdered and raped, and while she’s in heaven with her heaven guidance councillor, she looks down upon her family and the grief they deal with after her disappearance. It’s also a coming-of-age story for some of the characters, and it very much is for Lindsey, because she grows up throughout the show and deals with the grief, but also with her first love and what it is to be a teenager.
How did you approach the role?
When it came to process, it was about playing around with age and how we wanted to portray Lindsey. You see Lindsey at the age of 13 when Susie has been killed, then she goes up to 22. Lindsey is very insular in the sense she doesn’t show her grief to her family, it’s all behind closed doors, and her form of release from her pain is through Samuel Heckler who is her cool senior boyfriend, who brings the light and laughter out of her in her darker moments.
How do you look after yourself emotionally when dealing with such difficult subject matter?
You’re doing a show about murder, rape and grief and to put it in the most brutal terms: you’re on stage hearing every day, every night that your sister’s been murdered, she’s been raped, and then you have to go through that track of grief. As much as you’re acting, you’re feeling it in order to convey that emotion to the audience and sometimes your body doesn’t know the difference. The first weeks in Birmingham, where we started, were hard, but the cast is really amazing and we get on so well, so it just means we debrief, have a drink after the show, so we can all talk and say: ‘This isn’t happening now, this isn’t happening to us, we’re lucky to be telling a story that people do go through’.
How did you get into theatre?
At school I had two really incredible drama teachers who said: ‘If you calm down a bit, you’re actually quite good, so you should probably take that chip off [your shoulder] and take it seriously.’ I started doing the school shows and stuff, but I was a young carer, looking after my dad at the time, so I didn’t go to stage school. Then I was very fortunate that when it got to A levels, my school teachers said: ‘You can’t not go to drama school because you’ll lose your head’, so the school essentially gave me a scholarship so I could travel up to London to do the auditions.
What is your advice to actors who are just starting out?
Grit. There’s a really good self-help book by Angela Duckworth [which talks about] the difference between loving something and actually persevering and having grit. I think if you’re passionate and you want it enough, you’ll still achieve it whether or not it takes a long time.
Agent: Olivia Bell Management
Training: BA acting at Rose Bruford (2016-2018)
First professional role: Stevie in Songlines with HighTide at Pleasance Courtyard in Edinburgh (2018)
The Lovely Bones is touring the UK until November 30, 2019