If you’re in Canada, you’re lucky enough to be able to watch the new season of Anne with an E on the CBC, but us American fans are anticipating it coming to Netflix. Thankfully Helen Johns, the actress who plays Mrs. Eliza Barry on the series gave us the inside scoop in a recent interview.
Helen is a true talent whose credits include the Murdoch Series and Deep Space. Her voice can also be heard on many videogames and audiobooks.
Read on to find out about season 3 of Anne with an E as well as some exciting new roles Helen will be taking on!
Hi Helen! I’m a big fan of Anne with an E so I’m delighted to have you in StarShine Magazine! What can you tell us about season 3?
Well, I’m so glad to hear that. I’m happy to talk to you! So, in season 3, our youngsters are growing up. Anne is turning 16 and the issues facing her and her friends are a little different than they were two years ago. They are starting to think about university, careers, their love lives. They are trying to find their feet, both within their family units and within the wider world. We also see the introduction of a First Nations community to the show, which I think gives our story a wider Canadian context.
How are things for your character and the rest of the Barry family?
Like Anne, Diana is in her mid-teens now and is trying to figure things out. It’s a tricky time for everyone. Plus there is quite a lot going on in the community in general … Stay tuned!
I live in the U.S. so I’m excited to get my hands on season 3 when it comes to Netflix. Do you know when it will be made available on their streaming service?
Yes! It’s released on Netflix on January 3rd, 2020. Hooray!
Are you anything like your character?
I definitely look like her – ha! Well actually, I’m not sure I do. People often don’t recognize me out of costume, without my hairdo and my hats! I’m British, though not as “well to do” as the character, so we sound a little different too. In terms of personality, she’s much more conservative than me. And more judgmental. But she’s a creature of her time, so I try not to think of her in those terms. Ultimately she is trying to protect the social status of her family, and particularly her children, which is not something I have to think about in my day to day life. So I think she’s more high maintenance than I am. But maybe my husband would say not so much 😉
What are some acting techniques you use to prepare for a role?
In terms of prepping for a role in general, I like to do a lot of research – with this show that involved researching the author, the time period and particularly the role of women in society in this era. I love getting into my costumes, especially in this show, because a corset dictates so much of how you sit/stand/present yourself to the world. Even when it’s not a period piece, a costume helps you feel you are someone other than yourself. In terms of acting techniques specifically, I spend some time imagining what the character has been doing before the scene and will do after the scene. Then I think about what they are trying to achieve in the scene and how the scene changes their day. When I’m running lines, I often test saying a line in the completely opposite way than seems obvious to me at first. Sometimes doing the opposite of what is written gives new meaning. And I suppose the rest is instinct.
You also have a new FX series coming up called Miss America. Can you tell us about that role?
The show stars Cate Blanchett and Rose Byrne as women with very opposite views about the Equal Rights Amendment. It’s set in the 70s, so it was quite a different time period than Anne with an E. I can’t say anything about the role I’m afraid. Do tune in – I think it’s going to be a great series.
Do you ever get intimidated or starstruck while working with any of your co-stars?
Meeting Geraldine James (who plays Marilla Cuthbert on Anne with an E) for the first time was such a treat. She’s absolutely brilliant and I love it when I get to do scenes with her. It was a little intimidating at first, because she has done so much wonderful work and is very well known, particularly in the UK. But she’s very down to earth, always very kind to everyone, and really fun off-camera.
You have a starring role in the sci-fi feature Chalice. When does that release and what can you tell us about it?
It’s in post-production and there are some complicated technical elements so I don’t know when it will be released. But it’s really fun. Coincidentally, I star opposite Andrew Shaver, who joined Anne with an E in season 3 as a new character Mr. Baynard. I can’t stay much more than that, but stay tuned.
You’re also a voice actress for books, videogames, and the upcoming animated film Charlotte. How do you prepare for a voice project?
It depends what kind of voice project. Audiobooks take me the longest time to prep. I read the novel, highlighting all the different character voices in different colors and testing out how they sound. Often there are accents I’ve never worked on before. For instance, one book – Elephant Moon – was set in Burma during the Second World War, and had Indian, Malay, Burmese and Japanese characters. Tricky! Plus I have to play characters of all ages, from babies to the very elderly. I love doing books, but they stretch me as an actor, that’s for sure. Animation jobs are more similar to the rest of the on-camera work I do. You bring your ideas, but you can’t be too attached to them, because your character has to fit within the projects as a whole. You have to work with the director on the day and be willing to change what you rehearsed at home. With video games, I tend to prepare the characters and lines in a lot of different ways. Because what often happens in the voiceover booth is they record things many times and then decide for sure what they want to use when they combine the voices with the animation.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? Any projects we haven’t discussed or ways they can keep up with you and your career?
You can follow me on Instagram at @helenjohns00 where you can learn more about what I’m up to and projects I’m a part of!