Interview: Erin Richards

From the interview archives.

Welsh actress Erin Richards is known for series like Breaking In and Misfits, but she’s perhaps best known for her role of Barbara Kean in Gotham. VULKAN caught up with Erin to discuss the series, her charitable endeavours and her upcoming projects. 

Having played Barbara Kean now for a few years, what is one thing that surprises you about her character and keeps you intrigued? 

Her constant development as a person. She’s gone from Jim Gordon’s waspy fiance in season one to running the criminal underworld in season four. To be able to play such a range in one show is incredibly rewarding and keeps the work fresh for me.

How do you think you would handle the stresses and pressures of life that Barbara has gone through as yourself? 

Parts of it (like her murdering her parents) I would obviously not cope with but, her recent rise as a business woman in Gotham appeals to me. I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of an entrepreneur. I had a lollipop business in school when I was 11 where I’d buy packets of 20 lollies for £2 and then sell them at £0.50 each, making me £8 per bag. The business did well but ultimately I was brought down by the green lollies. Nobody liked the green lollies. Damn those green lollies.

What’s one thing Barbara would do that you would never dream of doing? 

Kill someone.

What has been the most challenging part about being Barbara Kean?

The most challenging part is not knowing fully where her story is going. On a film, you get to craft the journey your character takes because you have the whole picture, but with TV the story is always developing and being written so you can’t play a beginning middle and end in the same way. Over time that’s something I’ve gotten better at accepting and enjoying. Now rather than trying to control her journey I relax and play who she is in the moment.

Is there any particular type of training you hope that you will have a chance to work on going forward?

There’s been an interesting development this season where Barbara has acquired Aikido fighting skills so I’m currently doing lots of training for that. Though Aikido is a martial art it’s all about using someone’s strength against them which I find really satisfying. It means as a smaller fighter I can still beat larger, stronger people. It also help me ground, breathe and centre myself which is a lifelong discipline for me.

What kind of career do you think Barbara would be driven to if she decided to make a change in her life and become “good” again?

I reckon she’d make a cracking CEO. She’s got just the right amount of psychopath in her.

Do you think she would ever be able to heal from the actions she has done?

Babs is a pragmatist so though deep down she may not have ‘healed,’ she doesn’t see the point in wallowing in regret. That would only keep her from achieving her goals. 

What is one thing you learned about yourself this year?

My lesson this year has been that I am enough. I can be pretty harsh on myself both in my personal and work life.  I think a lot of people have a negative voice inside, that’s often dangerously subtle, telling them that they’re not good enough.  I’ve been working on changing that voice to be my inner cheerleader. I’ve been doing the Artist’s Way (which is a great book for anyone wanting to be more creative) to further my writing and meditating and yoga-ing to connect to my inner playful joy. 

How did your Sex Ed & Self Love course come about and what encouraged you to teach one? 

I’ve always believed that sexual education is one of the most important things we can teach young people because it affects every part of our adult life.  Combined with self love it can make the difference between us feeling alone and unworthy to feeling whole and unstoppable. If you teach a 12 year old girl that she’s completely in control of her body, that that body is perfectly formed and that she’s unconditionally loved (by herself) then there’s no limit to what she will achieve. In a time when porn is the go to place for young people to learn about sex and the President of the United States is ‘grabbing women by the pu**y’ and getting away with it, sex ed for young women, and more importantly young men, has never been more needed.  Chris Chalk (fellow Gotham cast member) and I wrote the 12-week syllabus.  He teaches the young men while I teach the young women and we hope to offer it to schools next year.

If you could give one piece of advice out to people today, what would you tell them?

Get off your phones. I’ve been researching a lot lately about how awful our phones are for us, paying particular attention to social media. We check our phones 150 times a day on average and spend at least 11 hours a week on social media sites. The reason for this is that they’re using the same addictive model as slot machines to keep us hooked. It’s called ‘Intermittent Variable Rewards’ which means when we sign into facebook or instagram sometimes we’ll have a message (we win) and sometimes we won’t (we lose.) Trystan Harris is a good person to look up to learn more about this but basically don’t let your phone control you, use it to expand your world instead. 

What is one place you’d like to ring in the New Year at least once in your lifetime?

I’ve been lucky enough to spend New Year in Iceland which was incredible (they REALLY love fireworks) and Japan (not so keen on fireworks)  but this year I’m excited to be spending it in my homeland, Wales, at a friends wedding.

Do you have any other projects upcoming that you can share with us so we can keep an eye for its release?

I’m working on a lot of my own things at the moment. I wrote and directed my first short this year so that will be coming out and I hope to do more writing and directing next year. I also have a film coming out with the much missed John Hurt called ‘That Good Night.’

Do you have any charities or organizations that you’d like to shed some light on today? 

Next year I’m launching a clothing company called Onesies for Oneness – they’re very soft jumpsuits made from Bamboo and stitched in Austin, and proceeds from them go to this incredible charity in Malawi called Tiwale. The collective, set up by Ellen Chilemba, supports women who come together to build sustainable ventures and become entrepreneurs. 

What is one thing you hope to improve upon or accomplish in 2018?

I’ve decided not to drink alcohol at all in 2018. It’s a little experiment I’m doing with myself because I’m perfectly happy without alcohol and I wonder how I’ll feel after a year of not drinking. I’ll let you know how that goes….

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