While many might think that men such as Rupert Murdoch rule the media world, in 1887, Nellie Bly changed journalism forever when she had herself committed to Blackwell's asylum in an effort to detail the horrific abuse and mistreatment of patients there. Having been screened at this years' Cannes Film Festival, the film adaptation of the book Bly turned her experiences into, titled "Ten Days In A Madhouse", will be released in theaters on November 11. Caroline Barry, who was chosen out of 8,000 hopefuls to play the starring role of Nellie Bly, kindly agreed to this EXCLUSIVE interview with our staff writer Rebecca.
PW: When did you first realize that you wanted to be an actress?
Caroline: I've loved acting for as long as I can remember. I did my first play when I was 5, but the first time I remember really thinking that I want to be an actor was when I saw Julia Roberts win the Academy Award for “Erin Brockovich”. It was the only movie nominated that year my parents let me see, and I was so inspired by the story and by her performance. That night, I stood in front of my mirror with my hairbrush and practiced my own acceptance speech where I thanked my parents and my cat. I think my thank you speech would be a little longer now, although my parents and my cat would still be at the top.
PW: Which actors and actresses influenced you growing up, and have those influences changed over the years? Whose career would you most like to emulate?
CB: There are so many actresses I’ve looked up to throughout my life. As you can guess from my hairbrush story, Julia Roberts was a big influence, along with Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchet, Laura Linney, Naomi Watts, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, I could go on and on. I’ve had so many influences, but I think the actresses I admire most are really transformative actors who can mold into any role and captivate your imagination.
PW: Were you at all nervous when you first made the move from Colorado to LA?
CB: I was really nervous but I was also really fortunate because I had a lot of amazing friends already living in LA, and such a supportive family in Colorado. The first few weeks were definitely a shock. I was driving around LA with my car filled with everything I owned, trying to find an apartment and trying to drive stick shift through LA rush hour! I still battle the traffic in my stick shift, but I quickly fell in love with the city. It’s beautiful, plus I get to do what I love!
PW: What was your first impression of Nellie Bly's book, that the film is based on, ‘Ten Days In A Madhouse’?
CB: When I first heard about the audition, I had never heard of Nellie Bly or her book ‘Ten Days In A Madhouse’. I immediately found it online and ended up reading the whole thing in one go! When I finished, I remember sitting at my kitchen table in shock. Nellie was a reporter who went undercover by pretending to be insane in order to be committed to Blackwell’s Insane Asylum, one of the most dangerous asylums in the world. She risked her career, her sanity, and her life to find out the truth about what these women were going through. I was equally stunned by was how quickly I fell in love with her. Nellie was kind, compassionate, generous, daring, funny, intelligent, and I knew I had to play her.
PW: What was it like to work alongside Christopher Lambert and Kelly Le Brock?
CB: Incredible. Kelly Le Brock just lights up every room she’s in! She makes you feel immediately comfortable, which was so vital for this movie and all of the tough scenes. Christopher Lambert is the kindest and most generous person I have ever worked with. He was so willing to sit down with me and talk through the characters and scenes. He was also truly passionate about telling the story of ‘Ten Days In A Madhouse’.
PW: Just how big of an impact do you think Nellie Bly has made on the world?
CB: Even a hundred years later, we’re still feeling the reverberations of all of Nellie Bly’s work. She made huge strides for the mentally ill, the poor, immigrants, factory workers, and she is even credited with inventing the 55 gallon oil drum, which is still in use today. But I think her biggest achievements were for women and gender equality. In 1887, women’s rights were extremely limited. Nellie was ahead of her time and broke through so many of those barriers. I don’t believe women’s rights would be where they are today if it wasn’t for her. She has made a huge impact on the world, far more than she gets credit for, and I hope this movie does something to change that.
PW: Do you have any favorite memories from set, despite the difficult subject matter?
CB: We shot the movie in Salem, Oregon in an abandoned insane asylum built in the 1800s. It was the middle of winter and there was no electricity. On average, it was about 10 degrees on set. Despite the cold, I think my favorite memories were being with all of the women who played the patients at Blackwell’s. All of us really bonded, not just over the cold, but also over telling this incredible story together. There were times on set where everyone from cast to crew was overcome with emotion from the intensity of the scenes, the subject matter, and just knowing that these women were real and that they truly lived and died in these moments. Those days on set were so hard, but they also made us a family. I imagine Nellie Bly must have felt the same, that those women were her sisters. She had no choice but to put everything on the line for them.
PW: How did you get into the character of Nellie Bly? Was it difficult?
CB: I felt a huge responsibility in playing Nellie Bly. Even before I knew I had landed the role, she had very quickly become my personal hero and to play her was intimidating. Luckily, Nellie was said to always have a smile on her face, and I pretty much have a perma-smile so I think her and I share a certain perspective and optimism about life. She taught me so much about fearlessness, compassion, kindness, and to never give up the fight for what is right. I owe her so much and I can’t wait for the world to know who she is.
PW: What are you up to in your spare time?
CB: My other passion, aside from acting, is working with kids. I have done a lot of work with kids in anti-bullying and self defense. From teaching theatre and martial arts, they have taught me to always keep my imagination alive. Coming from Colorado, I also really love being outdoors. I spend a lot of time hiking and trying not to get a sunburn.
PW: Looking back at how far you’ve come, have you ever have one of those ‘I must be dreaming’ moments?
CB: Absolutely! The first was when the director, Timothy Hines, called me to tell me I got the role! It took me a full day to realize he was being serious. Another huge moment was when I was flown out to the Cannes Film Festival. I had never been to Europe before and “10 Days in a Madhouse” was opening to a sold out world premiere at the most prestigious festival in the world! It was a dream come true moment I’ll never forget.
'10 Days In A Madhouse' opens on November 11.https://vimeo.com/118626005