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Louise Barnes: Life After Scandal!

15 April 2013

Award-winning actress Louise Barnes speaks to us about leaving the Scandalous life.

After being on Scandal! for three years as Donna Hardy, actress Louise Barnes is off to pursue other challenges. The actress talks to us about her current project, working with Bad Boys and Transformers director Michael Bay on a new TV series called Black Sails.   

Congratulations on winning the Best Actress in a TV Soap award at the SAFTAs. How do you feel about that?
It was great to be recognized. We all work so hard in this industry and it’s a largely thankless job. People in soaps work tremendously hard whether you’re a member of the crew or member of the cast you’re constantly just churning out stuff.

It’s this weird animal, the soap, because it’s expected to be a creative industry and yet there’s so much about it that doesn’t allow you the space to be creative. It’s very difficult for the writers – for everyone. Just from a production point of view you have to create an episode every single day, so to have the work that you do recognized is an incredible honour. I feel very honoured.

You say it’s difficult to create an episode every day, so how did you manage all these years?
I knuckled down and I did my work. I have very high standards for myself and for the people I work with. It’s a little irritating for some people. But that’s the only way I can be in a soap because the conditions are so strenuous, it’s very easy to get into a rut in a soap. It becomes a routine – something that you do every single day.

I always set goals in terms of what I want to achieve as an actress. I would focus on areas that I would perhaps find difficult in my own personal capacity as an actress. I would set challenges for myself and how to deal with certain blockages I might have. And the writers always gave me fabulous storylines. It was always challenging on that level.

It was never kind of mundane, which is great. I think it’s very hard if it’s a role that is not a lead and you’re constantly supporting other people’s storylines. I was very fortunate to be a lead in Scandal! which meant that I was always working on my own storylines. I had a very active role to play. So that was fantastic but it was hard. When I say hard I don’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. I was able to have stability but also the kind of the creative challenge I needed.

You’ve been in the industry for 20 years, what are the highlights of your career?
I’m living one right now. I’m doing an amazing television series with Michael Bay producing and directing. He directed The Transformer films. He is producing the TV series called Black Sail which is set in the 1700 in the Bahamas. We’re in the process of shooting it, we started in January and we finish in May. That has to be one of the highlights of my career – to be working on an international series. Being cast in Scandal! was a big highlight.

You know I’ve been on quite a lot of shows and the security of a soap is what a lot of us hope for and long for. But to get a character like Donna was wonderful. She’s just a fabulous character to play. I also did a horror film called Surviving Evil in 2006. That was great fun because I don’t watch horrors. I don’t understand why people would want to terrify themselves like that. So that was also a highlight.

How have you grown as an actor over the years?
I think that while I take my work seriously, I don’t take myself as seriously as I used to. I think your 20s are fraught with feelings of being insecure. I’m a lot more secure now in my 30s.

What I learnt is that what you do is not your whole life. You know when I was a young actress; I was like this is it. And now I know that you can’t expect your work to sustain you or to get everything you want from it. I’ve got an amazing husband, a daughter and a beautiful house. And those are things that kind of ground me.

How are you going to deal with the transition from having a permanent gig to working as a freelance actor?
I’m already dealing with it. I left Scandal! at the end of January. It means I’ve got lots of time with my daughter. I can pick her up at school and do all those things I wasn’t able to do. I’d love to do some theatre again. I studied drama at Wits for four years of my life. It was fabulous.

I love the ethos of the theatre, the fact that we’re very aware that it’s not just about the actor – something I’m very passionate about. I think that the celebrity world is always way too focused on the actors and it’s not just about the actors. They’re the face of it, but there are so many people in the background – behind the camera – who work very hard and are just as responsible for the final product.

Have you ever thought of pursuing a career behind the camera?
I have, I directed at university and I’m very aware of one’s longevity as an actress. I don’t want to be a 50-year-old actress on a soapie because I think soaps are very much about what you look like and I don’t want to be caught up in that feeling of wanting to keep up with the 20-year-olds. So I’ve thought about getting into directing. I’ve never directed film or TV though so it will be a huge challenge for me.

Read about our favourite female villain, Donna Hardy.

Louise Barnes’s last episode will be aired on 15 April. Tune into Scandal! Monday to Thursday at 7:30pm.