“Supernatural” fans know Gillian Barber for her season 12 role as the evil Dr. Hess of the British Men of Letters. Sci-Fi lovers have seen her in so many of the favorite shows such as “Man in the High Castle,” “X-Files,” “Stargate: SG1,” “Smallville,” and so many more film and TV roles. Raised in British Columbia and studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, this well-known actress has been in film and television since back in the early 80s. Lately, Barber has film projects in the works while still making time to direct a musical. She even has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do which sure came in handy on the set of “Supernatural.”
Colleen Bement: Let’s start out “Supernatural.” This past season you played a character that fans loved to hate, Doctor Hess. You also played Mrs. Rourke from the season one episode “Faith.” My readers would just love to hear any stories you have to tell from the set.
Gillian Barber: I think the one thing that is always present on the “Supernatural” set is how pleasant and respectful and full of manners the set is. Jensen and Jared are just the two most polite Texan boys I’ve ever met in my life. They set the tone. Because they’re so nice and so polite, they pull out a chair for you and say, ma’am, you want to sit down, and I say yeah; sure. From the top down, the whole set is really positive and just amazing. I loved working on the set both then and now. After 12 years they haven’t changed. They’re still fun-loving, really nice guys. I’m amazed at that.
Recently the thrill of my life was to be able to use my Tae Kwon Do on the set of “Supernatural” this time in the last episode. So being able to kick and break someone’s neck and throw them over the top of a railing was just the thrill of my life.
CB: You were badass. You were smart, and brutal when you needed to be, and pretty darn scary.
GB: I sure did love Dr. Hess. That was one hell of a character to play; I just loved her. David Haydn-Jones and I also hit it off famously. We’ve been sharing Twitter notes back and forth with the fans. It’s just been so delightful. He’s such a lovely guy, too. He’s so much fun to work with. Every time before we’d shoot we’d crack a couple of jokes just to relax each other. It was great.
CB: Let’s talk another favorite of mine “Man in the High Castle.” That show is one of the most brilliant shows on TV. What was that experience like?
GB: I’m not sure, but I may be back in season two, I’d be really lucky if that happens. Again, a very, very professional set. One of the things about it is Amazon is spending as much money as needed. They put lots of money into each episode so you just feel completely supported. For an example the funeral scene: The set deck that day was both amazing and chilling at the same time with all those Nazi flags hanging there in the church. They don’t skimp on any details. I was fitted for proper late 50s early 60s underwear and I had to wear that damn stuff all the time. The costumes were all vintage, and the costume designer fits everything to you perfectly. After I just felt so supported by all the people there. They’re not afraid to hire Canadians either, so there’s a half and half of Canadians, and a wealth of international people too. It was an amazing experience.
Oh, I’ve gotta tell you that Rufus Sewell is the funniest guy on two legs. He is hysterical. It’s so nice because he plays this awful, chilling, nasty officer, and then they yell cut and he’s joking about his underwear. He’s a really great guy.
CB: Do you have any projects in the works that you’re allowed to chat about?
GB: I can’t talk about the film projects, but I can talk about that right now I’m directing a musical called “The Drowsy Chaperone.” It was on Broadway around 2006, and I’m directing it at a local theater company called “Theatre Under the Stars.” Opens on July 12th and it will run every even day in July, and every odd day in August. It’s at the Malkin Bowl and it’s in Stanley Park, outdoors in Vancouver. It’s a really great script. It’s a smart script and the music is wonderful. It was all Canadian written so I was really proud to direct it.
CB: I read that you were a choreographer. Did you get your start in showbiz as a dancer: How did you become an actress?
GB: My mother, like a lot of mothers, put me in ballet and jazz and tap and singing and piano when I was four. She was a bit of a closet actress herself and she would drag me along to rehearsals because, at the time, she couldn’t afford a babysitter. There I would be backstage dancing along with all of the dancers, and one day the choreographer came backstage and said oh; you dance. I said yes. She said great. You’re in the show! So I was four and I was in my first show. It went hand in hand with my mother’s career in the beginning, and by the time I was 16 I started to do films, and then I went to drama school in London and the rest is history.
CB: I came across a picture of your cat. Do you have a cat named Sammy?
GB: I sure do. He’s sitting at my feet right now. He’s beautiful. He’s a Birman which is a Tibetan cat. Apparently, the legend is that a monk fell into a pool and the cat reached in and saved him. So all Birmans have just white front paws, because of the pool, dip. He’s got a little bit of Siamese in him so he talks and he’s got crossed blue eyes. He’s awesome. I love him.