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Actress Caroline Barry, star of 10 Days In a Madhouse, tells us how she came to embody journalist Nelly Bly in this true-life tale of a young woman’s descent into madness as she assumes the identity of a mental patient at Blackwell’s Island in order to investigate reports of abuse and murder inside the infamous asylum.

Q: How did you come to be a part of this film?

Caroline Barry: “I came across the audition for 10 Days in a Madhouse less than a month after I moved to L.A. to pursue my dreams of becoming an actor. I instantly fell in love with Nellie Bly and put myself on tape. About a month later, there were hundreds of other submissions online and it seemed like a real long shot. But then I got a call from the director, and he gave me the good news! I honestly didn’t believe it was real for a while. I thought I was trapped in a dream or an alternate universe.”

Q: What was the research process like?

Barry: “Luckily, we had the help of Brooke Kroeger, who wrote the best biography there is on Nellie Bly. Brooke served as our films historical consultant by working closely with the director, Timothy Hines, in order to portray the story as accurately as possible. Her book helped me to really dig deep into Nellie Bly’s past. I also did a lot of research on what we knew about mental illness at the time, versus what we know about mental illness today.”

Q: How aware of Nelly Bly were you before taking on the role?

Barry: “I had never heard of her! The minute I started reading about her, I couldn’t believe that I had never come across her in school. She made such an enormous impact on journalism and feminism.”

Q: Why is it her story has been largely unsung until now?

Barry: “I think it’s important to remember that Nellie Bly was incredibly ahead of her time. Women gained the right to vote nationally only two years before Nellie Bly’s death, and there was still enormous progress still to be made. I think her achievements have gone comparatively unnoticed partially because there was a backlash against the investigative reporting style of that time, but I also think much of her work was discounted for being so personal to its subjects. The style of up close portraits in journalism is something we’re accustomed to now, but back then it was much more controversial and even looked down upon. I’m so glad that this movie is having a part in reinstating Nellie Bly’s rightful legacy.”


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Q: Did you show up the first day on set completely confident in the role? Or did you gradually discover her essence as shooting progressed?

Barry: “Going in, I had a clear idea of how I wanted to portray Nellie Bly, but I also feel like you never really know until you’re there, and going through it with the cast, the costumes, and the set. A lot can change. Fortunately, the director and I had countless hours of discussing character and the direction of the movie before we ever stepped on set. However, I would say that as we filmed, I never stopped discovering new corners of Nellie Bly and who she was.”

Q: In watching the film, one finds a delicate balance between a character study and an ensemble piece. Though Nelly Bly is very much in the foreground throughout, the characters she meets are not mere catalysts but full-blooded men and women. Was that discussed out the outset? How did it help you in your performance?

Barry: “Absolutely, the director and I had a lot of conversations at the outset about the importance of all the people Nellie Bly meets along the way, and the danger of those characters becoming one dimensional. For me, I tried to be really open on set. I think it can be hard to walk into a new set day and feel safe enough to deliver a truly three dimensional performance, so I tried to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible. I also give a lot of credit to those actors that came on and put so much life and humanity into this movie.”

Q: If you can, describe what this film means to you and what you hope audiences will glean from it.

Barry: “To me, 10 Days in a Madhouse is about hope. I can’t imagine a much darker scenario for the women trapped and abused in these asylums, but as hard as it may be to watch or even just to accept that these things happened, Nellie Bly and this movie show that it only takes one person to change the lives of countless others.”

Q: What will your next project be?

Barry: “I’m actually working on a second picture with Timothy Hines, the director of 10 Days in a Madhouse. I feel so fortunate to have found a director who I really click with. So many times during filming, we weren’t even speaking in full sentences. It was more like, “the thing, with the thing, can you fix the – you know?” and I just knew whatever the “thing” was. We definitely speak the same language. So I’m really looking forward to the next one. More details to come very soon!”

Follow Caroline Barry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/CarolineB007 and follow 10 Days In A Madhouse on Facebook and Twitter