Ruby Barker talks body positivity, Bridgerton and living in a castle

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  • Ruby Barker burst onto our screens in 2020 as Marina Thompson in Netflix’s cool millennial period drama, Bridgerton.

    She has since gone from strength to strength, starring in critically acclaimed projects from How to Stop a Recurring Dream to Running with Lions, and this year working with Müllerlight as the voice of their new campaign.

    MC Features Editor Jenny Proudfoot sat down with Ruby to find out more about the Müllerlight ambassadorship and to talk body confidence, Bridgerton and living in a real-life castle…

    Mullerlight

    Congratulations on the ambassadorship. What drew you to the collaboration?

    I did some voicework for Müller and I had so much fun. I’ve been eating Müllers all my life and I’m not joking but it is a dream come true to say “Müller-licious”. My dad is so proud of me – he is a big Müller Rice fan. And my friends can’t believe it either – like, I have some serious Müller fan friends. They don’t care about Bridgerton at all but they’re like “Müller? Where’s the yogurt? Give me the yogurt now”. I’ve got a lot of people after Müller merch. I like the limited edition ones best myself and the dessert flavours are absolutely genius. The Müllerlight Tiramisu is a gamechanger for sure.

    Did Müller’s body positive messaging resonate with you?

    Definitely, 100%. I was that girl growing up that would look in the mirror and would just compare myself and compare myself. Why am I like this? Why am I like that? Why don’t I look like her? And it’s not really my fault. I mean, look at the world that we’ve grown up in – and things are only just starting to change. We’re starting to have a much more healthy relationship with food and with size, and we are finally moving in the right direction. It’s important because at the end of the day, if I had a little girl and she was looking in the mirror and feeling the way that I felt, that would break my heart.

    What message do you want to promote?

    I just want people to feel good about themselves because you cannot make any sort of positive action when you’re in a negative headspace. That’s when it’s hard to get up and to be healthy – to go the gym, to go see your friends, to go for a walk, anything. I’ve been there – where you just want to hide from the world and cover yourself up, and I just don’t want people to feel that way. If being honest and open about the issues that I’ve had and where I’ve come from and my journey helps people – if that brings people comfort and makes them feel less alone and that I’m on that journey with them, so be it. That’s the best I can do.

    NICK BRIGGS/NETFLIX © 2020

    It must have been a surreal experience becoming famous overnight and during a lockdown…

    Yeah it was, but to be honest, I’m a little bit grateful that I was locked down for it. What if the world was open and the show came out and we were all getting accosted in the street? If we were unable to walk down the street or do anything normal, I think that would have been quite scary. But because of lockdown, the nature of that fame and that attention changed. The interactions were mostly online and you can always turn your phone off – you’re in control and I’m grateful for that.

    I suppose in a way lockdown eased you into fame nicely…

    Yeah, and even more than that, I think we also need to think about the environmental benefits that we’ve had from this lockdown. Usually we’re travelling back and forth to London, we’re driving all over the place, we’re spending a lot of money to get in a room with people when actually, why can’t we do more virtual meetings? You can’t film virtually, but there are castings you can do virtually, meetings you can do virtually and even award ceremonies that you can do virtually.

    You’ve spoken previously about your great support network – did that help keep you grounded in your transition to fame?

    I’ve got friends who keep me grounded and I keep myself grounded as well. I have a very good support network around me. The friends that I have, I’ve had for a very long time. They’ve known me since I was 14 and they all think it’s really bizarre because they know me. They know what I’m like and they’re just like, “What? Ruby from drama class has got all of this attention? Really?”

    LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX © 2020

    Did you have any idea how huge Bridgerton was going to be?

    I definitely didn’t know how huge Bridgerton would be, but I knew it was going to be popular because I had read the script. It was in front of me and I could see that this was going to be a hit, but I didn’t necessarily know just how popular. I didn’t know that people who had never even seen a period drama before were going to be tuning in. For a lot of people, this was their first experience of a period drama because something about the more traditional way of doing it didn’t necessarily appeal to them.

    How would you describe filming Bridgerton?

    Oh it was really fun and just mad. Do you know, I would describe it as a sort of bonkers family road trip of pretty much every single stately home in the UK. That’s what it was like. It was just lads on tour – let’s go.

    And speaking of living your best Bridgerton life, is it true that you live in castle?

    I do, yeah. It’s a proper 19th century castle – built in 1846 – and set in its own grounds. It’s not just me. The castle has been converted into apartments and a load of families live there. I live in one of the coach houses, so that’s where the horses and the carriages used to go. We all share the grounds – the lawn, the woodland, the vegetable patch and we all have access to the roof. We call it the Happy Commune.And the kids are so cute. There are all these little kids – they’re literally real-life princes and princesses and they just run around the castle all day. It was really nice over Covid time, because we all just isolated there together and no one even knows it’s there. Genuinely – when I get a taxi home, a lot of taxi drivers go, “I have worked in Leeds for twenty years and I never knew this was here”.

    It sounds idyllic…

    Oh yeah. We do gardening, we plant apple trees, we all play Badminton together. And you’re just surrounded by some really cool people. My favourite neighbour is like a walking BBC drama. She’s just this really strong cool lady – she’s a barrister and she’s a single mother and she’s just badass.

    The press night of “Running With Lions” at The Lyric Hammersmith. Dave Benett/ Getty Images

    You’ve previously spoken about not going to drama school…

    I didn’t go to drama school and you don’t need to go to drama school. I didn’t have the money to go and I was really inspired by actors who hadn’t either. There are so many talented actors at the top of the game who never went to drama school – we’re talking people like Jennifer Lawrence and Tom Cruise. There are loads of people who never went to drama school, especially in America, and I thought well they’re doing alright. They never had to go to some school to be broken down and then built back up again into their idea of what you should be. They’ve managed to get into this industry and perfect their craft and actually thrive. And I thought, if J-Law can do it, so can I. Why not?

    What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?

    My advice would be that there is no formulaic way to get into this industry. If you don’t get into drama school, fine. Adapt and think on your feet. If you don’t get into National Youth Theatre, fine. Neither did I. You’ve got to adapt, you’ve got to think on your feet and you’ve got to do your research. You’ve got to be prepared to write lots of emails and put yourself out there but be professional. And just know your worth and know your potential. Some of your friends are going to think you’ve really lost it – they’re going to think, “Billy’s got this right pipe dream – it’s embarrassing”. Every single actor or anybody who’s anybody that said they’re going to do something which is outside the norm has experienced that. You are not alone. But just please believe in yourself and do what you love – you’ve got one life. It’s as simple as that.

    Mullerlight

    What can people expect from your incredible play, Running with Lions?

    They can expect a hilariously beautiful, cathartic experience. It is so worth it. This play is what you need. It is going to feed your mind and it is going to feed your soul. That is the sort of stuff I live for creatively. It is so funny, the acting is incredible and one thing I want to point out as well is that this play talks about mental health. Now, I don’t think anybody hasn’t struggled with their mental health during this lockdown in particular. Mental health is right at the forefront of pretty much everybody’s consciousness right now. And I think that this play will be really educational, helpful and ultimately supportive. We’re having the conversations that we should be having within this piece of theatre.

    The theatre company is iconic…

    This theatre company – Talawa – are the best black theatre group pushing black narratives in British theatrical history. They’re number one. So, if you want to support my community and what we do, please please please come and see this show. It would mean the world to all of us and I really think it’s going to bring you joy as well.

    What themes does the play touch on?

    It touches upon mental health, grief, loss, love and ultimately hope. It explores mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, questioning ones faith, mental health within the community and how it affects a family dynamic. My character Imani wants to go and see the world – she lives with her grandparents because her mum Gloria has bipolar and has sadly been in and out of mental health hospitals for pretty much all of Imani’s life. The play opens with Gloria coming back home.

    Is there any dream role in theatre or on the screen that you would like to play one day?

    I would love to play Cleopatra – if they’d have me. And I’d love to do a season with the RSC [Royal Shakespeare Company]. I mean, that’s one of the reasons why I set out. When I was at school, our drama teacher – we used to call her Ducky – would take us to see Shakespeare plays. I saw the best Twelfth Night production at Hull Truck Theatre once – it was wild. Honestly, they were getting people down on stage to drink tequila, they had pizzas brought in and they gave us foam balls to throw at the actors. And instead of yellow stockings, Malvolio wore a golden shiny thong and ran around the auditorium like a mad man. What I loved so much about that production was the chaos – the madness and the lack of rules and stuffiness that you associate with the theatre. And that is what Shakespeare was all about.

    Ruby Barker is the new Müllerlight ambassador. Müllerlight Greek Style Lemon is fat free, no added sugar, and high in protein meaning you truly can have it all.

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