Actress Kathrine Barnes discusses BET+’s Average Joe

Kathrine Barnes Headshot. Photo Credit: TJ Baker
Kathrine Barnes Headshot. Photo Credit: TJ Baker /

Kathrine Barnes is one to watch as she becomes apart of Hollywood’s up and coming television and film stars! Barnes has already appeared on-screen in projects such as Hulu’s biopic crime-drama Candy, Peacock’s revival of Queer as Folk, and Netflix’s romantic-comedy film Moonshot. Now, the Rhode-Island native, who currently lives in Atlanta, where she worked on the latest comedic-thriller series from BET+, Average Joe, is here to speak to us about the show. Comedian and actor Deon Cole leads the series as Joe Washington, a plumber. The show is set in “The Hill” district of Philadelphia and inspired by the life of creator Robb Cullen. It follows Washington after a bloody and violent confrontation that triggers a chain of events and forces him and his close-knit circle of family and friends out of their very average and mundane lives into a life-or-death race against time to find the truth and millions of dollars.

Barnes portrays an important role as a former KGB assassin tied to the main crime family in the show. In the interview, she speaks candidly about her experience of growing up in the theater, working alongside Cole, and what’s to come in her burgeoning career. Read on to learn more about her and what to expect from BET+’s Average Joe.

Culturess: Tell me a little bit about yourself. I want to know what drew you to want to be an actress; Start from the very beginning.

Kathrine Barnes: I don’t have a great answer for this because it kind of just coalesced over time, but we didn’t watch TV in my household, really when I was young, but my parents loved movies, and so I was watching all kinds of movies from the time I was very little, like, some of them far too young. I’ve seen My Cousin Vinny from 1992, like, I don’t know, 400 times. That started probably around 1992 and like, Grumpy Old Men and stuff in that era. It always was just omnipresent. My mom loves theater and dance. We’d go to the ballet all the time. She put me in dance lessons when I was young, so she always encouraged creativity. We don’t come from, me and my brother are both actors, and we don’t come from a showbiz family, but it was definitely encouraged, like, instruments and dance alongside of sports and all that jazz. It just was something that I took to. Then by the time I was a teenager, I was just, like, obsessed with movies. I would watch the same movie over and over and over to fall asleep every night, like, on my 2004 Dell laptop. I had been doing theater in school and touring in children’s theater. There wasn’t an exact moment I decided I was going to be an actor. It just always kind of felt right.

Culturess: That’s a great answer. I don’t know what you’re talking about [laughs]. That’s so good. Looking at your previous work and obviously hearing about your story with doing theater, you’re no stranger to drama. So with Average Joe, it’s more of a dark comedy. When you got the role, did you feel a sense of comfort to step into a character like this?

Kathrine Barnes: Stepping into a darkly comedic ensemble, like, is the dream for me because I’m pretty sarcastic, I’m a little snarky. I love comedy. All those drives to and from Connecticut, eight and a half hours. I was constantly listening to, like, Sirius XM comedy stations. Like you said, I have been doing a lot of drama for most of my career, and so it just felt very natural and also so titillating to just know that comedy is always around the corner on this show, and I think it makes the darkness more prominent. I get that.

Culturess: So even when it comes to the character itself, when you first receive the role, like, judging from the breakdown, did it feel like someone you could relate to or take me into that?

Kathrine Barnes: This is getting into a little bit of spoiler territory, so I guess of course, yeah, for sure. The breakdown for the character basically said she was a former KGB assassin and then she got recruited into Nikolai’s crime family and acted basically as his right hand man and enforcer and was known for being able to use her physicality and her voice and her language skills to gain access to highly secure areas. They called her ‘The Chameleon’ because she could just kind of morph into anything to get what she needed done. It also had, like, another two paragraphs in the breakdown about how she left the traumatic circumstances under which she left the crime family.

Kathrine Barnes (CONT’D): I can’t relate to any of that, obviously, on the surface, but that is without a doubt the kind of role that I have always been drawn to. It’s the kind of role that people around me have always been like, “When are you going to play a Russian assassin?” so it felt so right reading it, and it also felt right, in that, when I started working on the script, it didn’t really feel like work; Kind of felt like she burst out of me.

Culturess: I like that answer and it feels like, even though it is a character that is kind of separate from you, you still have this feeling of authenticity to perform her life and her story. I really like that a lot. What was your experience like on set? I know, Deon Cole is the lead; Huge comedian. He has this big presence in the comedy world. What was it like just working alongside him?

Kathrine Barnes: Insane. I was a Deon fan before I got there, and his stand up special, Charlene’s Boy, had come out like, three days before I started work. I had watched it and it took my breath away. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve seen that special, but I scream laughed throughout the whole thing and then was sobbing at the end. It had been a really long time since I’d experienced stand up or performance like that in general so when I met him, I had to take this man aside and just be like, “Deon, we have to talk about your stand up for, like, the next hour.” He’s like, “We’re working. Okay, babe.” It was just a dream. He’s so funny and he’s impulsive in the best way. You put really skilled comedians on set, like, all of the series regulars are, really, and they’re going to start improvising around you. That was just like such a gift to just even if I didn’t say anything back, to just get hit with some surprise and be able to react to it masterclass from all of them.

Culturess: I love to hear that he is also so open, especially with the success he’s found. And it’s awesome that you were also able to take from that for this specific role. I think it’s going to be a really great show. Judging from the premise, it’s like a thriller, almost like a domestic thriller in a way.

Kathrine Barnes: Absolutely.

Culturess: When you were also on set, I’m assuming outside of your scenes, did it really feel like you were there? It’s set in the Hill section of Philadelphia so did you feel like, “Oh, this is like a whole different world?”

Kathrine Barnes: That’s such a great question. Yeah, I have kind of an answer to this. So half of the time we were on stages, half of the time we were on location. When we were on location, a lot of the time, it’s like being in theater, honestly, it’s completely different in the rehearsal process, at least for me, when I finally get into costume, makeup, wig, if I have it. Suddenly it’s just something aesthetic that snaps you into the world and adds that little extra magic sauce. That’s exactly what the locations in the set did for this experience as well. I mean, we shot, I think it was the house in Fairburn where they filmed the spoiler alert, I guess, Tony Stark’s funeral in [Avenger’s] Endgame.

Culturess: Totally different program.

Kathrine Barnes: Completely different. I just remember a bunch of us were lined up outside taking in this environment that already had real cinematic significance. It just does something to you. It’s really activating, at least for me. Then on top of that, that cabin in particular, the incredible people who built the sets onto our stage, like recreated that exactly. I remember walking into the stages after they had, like, built an entire house and made an exact match of this cabin that was like 30 miles away and it just took my breath away. It was so helpful in feeling like I was being immersed in the world. I don’t know what Pittsburgh is like. I’ve only been there one or two times, but I think their attention to the authenticity of everything was spot on.

Culturess: I think with shows like this, where it’s because he’s based off of I know the creator, so really wanting to know if it felt like, oh, I felt like I was kind of there living in the world that he is trying to create for audiences. So that’s really your experience about that when you were shooting. So I know it’s such an interesting time for television, but I’m sure that you also are kind of seeing what the landscape is like for you. After this show, what’s next? Where do you see yourself going? What type of roles are you interested in?

Kathrine Barnes: Honestly, what’s next is I see myself picketing, my sister’s getting married, and I’m going to Australia. Work-wise, I just love working. There’s not a lot that I’m not interested in. I am interested in longevity with a project either film or TV, because this is the longest I’d ever worked on anything and it was such a game changer. The gift it was to have this amount of time to live with this character, it changed my acting completely. I love big ensemble action comedies. I love European art house. Yeah. I would be hard pressed to find something where I was like, “No, I don’t want to do that.”

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Average Joe premieres exclusively on streaming service BET+ on Monday, June 26. The first two episodes will drop on the premiere date with new episodes airing weekly. Keep up to date with Culturess for more interviews!