Chantelle Barry: Ninjas and Long Nights

November 15, 2017
With a central role in Valiant Comics’ first ever live action series Ninjak vs The Valiant Universe and a supporting part in the Aussie indie feature A Long Night, you’re about to see a lot more of performer Chantelle Barry.

Can you tell us more about this comic book/series that you’re involved with, when you came on board, what it involves, etc?

It’s called Ninjak vs The Valiant Universe and it’s Valiant Comics’ first ever live action series. I play the series antagonist Roku. Originally, I did not book the role. I’d met with the directors from the Bat In The Sun team, Aaron and Sean Schoenke a few months prior through my friend Kevin Porter (who plays Armstrong in the series). Aaron reached out asking if I could put myself on tape for a part they were casting, so I did. Within days they got back to me saying they loved my audition but that I didn’t look ‘Asian’ enough for the role (as Roku is half Japanese). I am half Asian, so it upset me, but I let it go for the time. Then my boyfriend told me I really needed to fight for the part and suggested he film a make-up test, which we did, and then the same night I submitted the test I got the call asking if I could be on set the next day for rehearsal.

Cut to now, it took us a year to shoot the first season and I just got back from doing a super fun panel at New York Comic Con promoting the show. As far as I know it’ll be released digitally early 2018… I’ve seen bits but I’m pretty excited to see the whole thing. Especially since I’m almost unrecognisable in long red, radio-active hair.

Are you especially into sci-fi/genre films/properties, or do you prefer other genres?

I actually love action/sci-fi. I’ve always wanted to be a Bond girl and shoot combat scenes and do stunts, so I feel right in my element as Roku. That being said, I’ve always been drawn to supernatural, fantasy, and I do love a good drama.

What sort of challenges has this comic book/series thrown your way as a performer?

I think the biggest challenge for me was bringing the evil to this character. Roku is extremely ruthless and an expert weapons/martial artist so on top of being the baddest bitch ever I also had to do combat training, which kicked my butt. Also, Valiant Comics have such a huge existing fan base that there was definitely some pressure in regard to being the first actors to bring these characters to life on the screen. There’s a part of me that felt freedom to do what felt right as this character, but also a part of me that didn’t want to let the fans down in how they see her. I love a challenge though, so I relished this one.

You first came into the public’s consciousness through the reality TV show Popstars, but can you tell us about your dreams growing up, where and how you happened on acting/performing? Was that something you always dreamt of doing?

Yes, definitely. My dad was a musician so singing for my sisters and I was normal and by the age of 7, I was already performing on stage. When I was in primary school I had an awesome music teacher from America who believed in me so much that he wrote a musical and had me star in it. We performed a local theatre and once I got a taste of acting I knew I’d found my (other) calling. From that point on I dedicated every bit of spare time to pursuing my goals. I’d look through the paper every Saturday with my mum and audition for every touring production that I could, even though I was too young for most of them. I just loved the experience.

What sort of training did you/are you doing with regards to acting?

My high school was amazing – I attended Joh Curtin College of The Arts on a 5-year performing arts scholarship. I learned everything I needed to there in terms of acting techniques and discipline… I’m always training in LA too, but honestly, I think the most valuable lessons I’ve learned are from being in the audition room and on set.

You’ve done some voice work in gaming as well, how was that experience and is it something you’d like to do more of?

VO is something I got into through my boyfriend Scott. He introduced me to his voice over agents about 7 or 8 years ago and they took me on because they didn’t have any other Aussie voice actors. But the first job audition they sent me on was with an American accent for an Invisalign campaign and I booked it… so shortly after they signed me for video game and animation too. Voice work is really fun because unlike on-camera it doesn’t matter what you look like, and I LOVE that! It’s very liberating to stand behind a microphone and create a character. I’ve been so lucky to work on not only some of the best productions with incredibly talented actors, but also awesome directors whom I’ve become really good friends with. Mad Max was my first video game experience where I got to actually use my own accent, but I recently did a game where I play a French woman, so I get to play a lot and explore lots of different dialects in theVO world, and I think that being a musician puts me at an advantage because it’s easy for me to listen to a tone or accent and emulate it.

You’ve come back to Australia now, is it for work? If so, can you tell us some more, especially if it’s film/TV related?

Yes! I’ve been saying for the longest time that I wanna go home and work so when this film opportunity came up I jumped at the chance. I’ve been chatting with Alex Lykos [writer of Alex & Eve] who wrote, produced, directed and starred in this gorgeously quirky little rom-com. I read the script for A Long Night and loved it. We just wrapped, and I had such an amazing time working with some truly terrific Aussie actors and crew. I grew up watching Rachael Beck on Hey Dad, so working with her was really humbling. Not only is she beyond talented but she’s a really cool girl that I’d absolutely hang with off-set. Marcus Graham was another actor I’ve also admired since I can remember, and he was dramaturg on the film… another awesome person whom I learned so much from.

Photo by Gabe Sachs

In the US you have appeared on 90210 and had guest and supporting roles in a number of TV series and films; what has been your experience of living and working in the US?

It’s definitely helped me build my work ethic. For me, being in LA is really about showing up. In my experience the more you put in the more you get out. As an ethnically diverse actor there’s also the challenge of how people (agents/casting/networks) see you and breaking through those barriers – but it’s opening up a lot more now so I’m hopeful that any day now the perfect role for a half Italian, half Burmese 30-something female character will be written.

Living in LA has been really character building. I’ve spent my entire adult life there and I really love that it’s a place where if you have a goal, with enough persistence and determination you really can achieve it.

How did you make the break happen over there?

The break? Hmmm, honestly, I don’t know that I’ll ever be at a point in my career where I can say “yes! I’ve made it!!”, because as an artist I’m constantly striving for the next thing. Forever, I just wanted to record and release an album because it was a big goal of mine for so long, but now, 8 years later, I just finished writing and producing my 3rd album and have a whole new set of goals to achieve. But, I do recognise that I’ve been in LA for almost two decades now and have managed to survive, pay my bills and thrive as a person through doing what I love, so that in itself is success to me.

Can I be topical and ask if you’ve ever had any instances of the kind revealed in the Harvey Weinstein saga?

Ya know, I’ve been getting this question a lot lately… I think it’s something that comes with the business to be honest. I’ve never been raped or sexually assaulted, so I almost feel like me updating my Facebook status to #metoo would somehow take away from those instances, but as a woman in the entertainment industry there are always men in power and often they take advantage of their position and cross the line. It’s not acceptable, and I’m not sure that this ‘scandal’ will necessarily change how those people act, but I do think that bringing it to the forefront raises awareness, and that’s always a positive.

For more on Chantelle’s music, head to her YouTube page

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