We interview the star of three hit Netflix shows.
Netflix binge-watchers have gotten to know Charlie Barnett quite well this year.
Tales of the City just debuted, marking Barnett's third show on the streaming service. He also surprised fans of Russian Doll when he appeared as a second time looper with Natasha Lyonne, and he'll appear in the upcoming season of You.
Popdust spoke with Barnett by phone before the premiere of Tales of the City. The drama explores the lives of characters in San Francisco, including Ben (Barnett) and his partner Michael (Murray Bartlett). Netflix also just announced that Russian Doll will return for a second season, news that Barnett was waiting for at the time of our talk. Stream all three series on Netflix now.
What has this year been like for you with You, Russian Doll, and now Tales of the City all coming out?
Charlie Barnett: I mean, it's incredible first and foremost. I'm incredibly thankful and honored and feel like I'm getting an opportunity to play different and diverse characters, which is a dream for any actor. I've seen the community support me now, and I'm excited to see where it all goes and start maybe creating my own stuff. It seems like it's a new world out there of celebration of the artist. So I'm really happy to see a lot of people's arts surging.
What kind of community support?
CB: So many communities. My own intimate family and my friends. My loved ones from Juilliard, from classmates to teachers and professors. Then it expands on even to the world of theater in New York and the world of film and television in Los Angeles. Going into casting rooms, it's a different kind of presence when I think people know your work a little more and trust you a little bit. It's kind of funny to see how different the energy is. I'm just honored to be feeling it and hope that I can do service.
Are fans recognizing you now?
CB: It's funny, I've always had a weird balance with that. I was on Chicago Fire for four years, and that was a very big show. We were in Chicago, so within Chicago, we were recognized all the time. It was really fun, but I noticed even there [for] a lot of people, it takes people a couple seconds. I think I look very different, or maybe it's just because my energy is so different from the -characters I play, but people don't really recognize me. Or if they do, it takes a couple double-takes. and then I've usually walked on by. Every now and then I get somebody and I'm really awkward. I stutter and I stumble over my words, but I really like to have conversations one-on-one with people more than group panels or any of that junk. When a fan stops me and we get to talk, I feel like most of the time I'm the one talking their ear off and they just want to get away. So I still enjoy it.
Who is Ben, your character on Tales of the City?
CB: I hate to kind of diminish him to something as just an extension of his love, but he's a solid partner. I think the audience is really going to take notice of him and him traversing through this relationship with Michael. So I reflected on him so much as this strong partner and how he finds his identity and allows his own voice to be a part of this relationship and how he also comes to balance with what Michael's world is and what he is entering into, which is so encapsulating and amazing. Ben has hard points with it and a lot of acceptance to it, as well.
Was Ben a character from the book?
CB: Ben is a character from the book, and funnily enough, Ben is loosely based off of Armistead's partner. His partner's white and I'm black, so that was a big running joke, because we're both lovers and sweethearts. But he is a really, genuinely incredible person as well, so it was great to have him on set and to kind of reflect on. We created a friendship out of it, which was really nice.
What challenges are coming for Ben and Michael?
CB: It's hard to sum up as relationship angst, but it is. There's a lot of partnership battles. I think, funnily enough for Ben, I don't believe that the age is a really big issue, but it is for Michael. So that's another major figuring out point for the two of them. The history that Michael has been through with his struggle with HIV and AIDS—the community and going through the loss of more than half of his community. It's such a big reflection point for a couple of episodes. So it's a lot of young meets old, two lovers trying to figure it out, and I think a new person finding his footing or his space within this beautiful and incredible family, which is the home of Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis).
Ben and Michael are exploring the possibility of having unprotected sex. Is that an issue lots of couples with one HIV positive partner deal with?
CB: Oh, absolutely. Straight, gay, both. There's always ramifications to taking that kind of step with your partner. Specifically with Michael; he's positive, and it's got to be a conversation that both people come to and find a place that they're both comfortable and feel safe and able to explore, because sex can be incredible. It shouldn't ever have to be limited. I don't want to give anything away, because it is definitely a plot point. It's more of a challenge, I will say; this comes back to the generation gap. A younger LGBTQ community has come up in a new wave of PrEP. There's a variety of different kinds, but it's definitely created a different kind of conversation with HIV/AIDS for a younger generation. Hopefully not to be forgotten is the struggle that came before, but for someone like Michael who saw it and lived it, there's definitely a fear and a guilt I think.
How different was San Francisco to Chicago?
CB: Every city is so different. I love them both. I hate the expense of San Francisco. I can put that down in writing, but San Francisco is such a rich, incredible city. They're both cities that have American history. They're integral to the creation of our country. It's so hard to say which one I would like better, but San Francisco has more maybe freedom, because it isn't under snow for half the year. Chicago, I feel like, is a little more industrial, and they encounter that in their arts in a lovely kind of way. San Francisco is much more light and freeing, but there's a dark, twisted history as well that feeds into the people's work there. I'm an art fanatic: visual arts, music, anything and everything in all forms. When I think of people and I think of the city, I always try to relate it back to the work that comes out of it. I think it's a really good reflecting point.
You don't need to choose, but how did filming in San Francisco inform Tales of the City?
CB: Oh gosh, I hate to admit this, but I think we're allowed to: We filmed a majority of Tales of the City in New York, in Yonkers, New York and the Bronx, because mainly for Olympia. She can't travel that far that much back and forth, and her whole home, her base, and her life is in New York. We wanted to honor that. But, we did shoot for about two weeks in San Francisco, and it was a frigging blast. It's a hard city to shoot in. The expense of it is really a lot different from shooting in Chicago. We were filming in the lake in February, and half of our stunt crew almost lost their fingers because of frostbite. They're very, very different, but both have exciting challenges.
For Russian Doll, would you shoot every scene in a single location at once?
CB: Oh yeah. It was all block shot, which is what that's called. It's really difficult because you'll be shooting for one, eight, four, six, and three. We would maybe not have the full script for episodes six and eight. You've got to do these scenes where I'm breaking up with Beatrice all day, because we're in the apartment where I break up with Beatrice and let's just film it out because it's a lot cheaper. To the credit of the producers, Leslye [Headland], Amy [Poehler] and Natasha [Lyonne] and everybody else that was behind it figuring out the logistics, 1,000 hats off to them, because they did it and they did it really well. It was difficult, don't get me wrong, but if we hadn't done it that way, I don't think it would've been successful.
Where do you see Nadia and Alan after they break free of that loop?
CB: I have no clue. Everybody keeps asking me that. I don't know what they're going to do. I have no clue, just like my character in the show who is just going along for this ride with this woman. I'll help keep her in balance as much as I possibly can, but we're on this ride. I've talked to Natasha, had a great time at her birthday, and we just had a really lovely kind of come-to-Jesus about the work and how happy we both are. This is so personal for both of us. To see it flourish and, more than anything, people from all walks of life understand it and relate to it, and it trigger thoughts of what are male feelings of depression and how do I handle myself? Am I communicating enough to maybe get help from my friends and my family and my loved ones? That is a million dollars in the bucket. We had a little come-to-Jesus, and I asked her where she thought it was all going to go. I don't think she knows. She just finished Orange [Is The New Black], and I know that her and Leslye are going to get into writing, but they both are coming off of a lot of other stuff. I think they need time to really do it and do it right, and I want to give them that space. I think I'd wait another year if they needed it.
But you will be involved in a second season?
CB: I hope so. I don't know. I was only signed on for a year contract. I wasn't even a series regular, actually. Initially, we had talked about it going into a whole different world. We had talked about other characters. They talked about us going and doing a whole different thing. There was also mention of just a new story, so I have no clue where they're at at this moment. That was all early, early in the beginning. I'm excited to see it just as much as everybody else.
Did you film a movie this year too?
CB: Yeah, I have no clue when it's coming out, but it's a movie with Drew Barrymore. It's called The Stand-In. I'm really excited about it. It's a comedy and I have a little, itty bitty part in it, but I had a lot of fun working on it.
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To Donald Trump: 5 Ways You're Actually a Flawless Being Doing a Beautiful, Unbelievable Job Right Now
You could resign if you want to, but then who will keep America so GD great?
With Donald Trump making a visit to Bangor, Maine today, the editorial board of the Portland Press Herald issued an op-ed calling for President Trump to resign.
The harshly critical piece entitled "To President Trump: You Should Resign Now" was framed as an open letter to the president and got straight to the point with this opening plea, "We're sorry that you decided to come to Maine, but since you are here, could you do us a favor? Resign."
In recent days even George W. Bush has been critical of President Trump's response to protests, so this new piece quickly became a trending topic on Twitter. Obviously this is another baseless attack from the lying news media—AKA lügenpresse. Considering how delicate our president's ego is—he's our special little guy—we can only hope that Donald Trump didn't see the letter; but just in case he did, it's worth writing another one to lift his spirits. So here's our best attempt—with lots of pictures and flattery to keep him reading:
You Know How to Look Tough<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3NTYyNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTE5Nzc3M30.9B4CSWzpZGjBq7APFv_KJKf-QV8n2kEIYcBIOTUt02k/img.jpg?width=980" id="0a07e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="980538d3ccf27d180ce2f7e147f1259f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="trump eagle scared" /><p>Joe Biden is always trying to challenge you to push up contests or saying he would "<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/21/politics/joe-biden-donald-trump/index.html" target="_blank">beat the hell</a>" out of you, but you don't engage with that nonsense. You know that it's not important for a leader to actually be tough as long as you look tough. That's why you avoid protesters like the plague. In 2018 you <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/12/donald-trump-visit-to-london-called-off-amid-fears-of-mass-protests" target="_blank">canceled your London trip</a> amid protests there, and more recently, you authorized the use of violent force to disperse peaceful demonstrators <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-calls-tear-gas-reports-fake-news-protesters/story?id=71052769" target="_blank">so you could have a photo-op in front of a church</a>.</p><p>Whether it's because you don't want to be seen as having less than absolute control over the unruly crowds, or just because you pee a little bit whenever you're around political activism (probably that), we all owe you a debt of gratitude for avoiding any confrontation or engagement with <a href="https://www.popdust.com/jimmy-fallon-blackface-2646105674.html" target="_blank">the mass protests against police brutality</a> that are taking place throughout our country right now—why engage when you can just use more police brutality to avoid them altogether?! It's the only way for you to maintain that all-important facade of toughness that makes you undeniably the most respected current president of the United States. And now that you've <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/white-house-fence-protests-washington-1508703" target="_blank">surrounded the White House with two miles of barricade—</a>#BuildThatWall—we never have to worry about press cameras catching sight of a faint stain spreading out from the crotch of your pants.</p>
You Know Who the Real Enemy Is<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3NTYyMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNzg3NjY1M30.J6PsxmoxCL_8jSPRBcTHkFrHNRm7bgVmYzBcXmfDNHQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="c7b59" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f8a213c28f6c8ba27cef403b76ff012c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="trump after you tweet" /><p>Earlier this year FBI director Christopher Wray announced that racist domestic violence was <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/02/10/804616715/fbi-announces-that-racist-violence-is-now-equal-priority-to-foreign-terrorism" target="_blank">being prioritized just as much as foreign terror threats</a>. On one level that could be seen as a sign that white supremacy is a major problem in the US, and that perpetrators of deadly hate crimes should be labeled terrorists, but you know better—obviously, since you're both very stable and a genius. If we start labeling white people as terrorists, then it will just make it harder to keep stoking fears about Islam, bad hombres, and other brown people problems.</p><p>Besides, if white men can be bad guys too, then that could include you! And as we all know, an attack against you is <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7808431/Trump-channels-Uncle-Sam-tweet-saying-Democrats-just-way.html" target="_blank">actually an attack against all good, patriotic Americans</a>. Therefore the real enemy is anyone trying to aggressively call out and push back against white supremacy and white nationalism. That's why <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/antifa-group-trump-designate-terrorist-organization/story?id=71045287" target="_blank">you want to designate Antifa a terrorist organization</a>. Who cares that they <a href="https://www.factcheck.org/2020/06/trump-cant-designate-antifa-or-any-movement-domestic-terrorist-organization/" target="_blank">aren't even an organization at all—</a>it's just an ethos of publicly and aggressively confronting fascism and related ideologies. And who cares if there's no way to single out anti-fascist activism from wider, constitutionally protected protests like the Black Lives Matter movement?</p><p>Treating people who oppose you as terrorists will free you up to <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52932611" target="_blank">unleash state violence</a>, <a href="https://www.aclu.org/issues/national-security/privacy-and-surveillance/watchlists" target="_blank">surveillance, and travel restrictions</a>. Besides, we already have <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52932611" target="_blank">a hyper-militarized police force</a>, which has worked out great—apart from a few "<a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/500328-national-security-adviser-blames-a-few-bad-apples-says-theres-not" target="_blank">bad apples</a>" (who seem to operate with impunity for some reason, right up until there's a mass uprising). So put "<a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-my-generals-my-military-2017-10" target="_blank">your military</a>" to work and crack down on all of them with the full force of martial law! Or, as you put it, "<a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/2020-daily-trail-markers-trump-declares-we-will-dominate-the-streets/" target="_blank">Dominate the streets.</a>" Keep <a href="https://theintercept.com/2020/06/04/fbi-nypd-political-spying-antifa-protests/" target="_blank">interrogating protesters about their political beliefs</a>, and if enough of them end up too scared or too imprisoned or too dead to keep opposing you, you won't even have to take away their voting rights (although, we should look into that) to be a shoe-in for reelection!</p>
You Know that Free Speech Is Not as Important as Guns<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="528bc162ed6e6a07fe1e0245016bffff"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-K7XJGk8lyQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>In your recent announcement that you were "mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting," you said you were doing so "to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your second amendment rights." It was the only amendment you mentioned, and you even gave it some extra emphasis <a href="https://www.indy100.com/article/trump-second-amendment-speech-george-floyd-protests-9544011" target="_blank">as though encouraging "law-abiding Americans" to exercise their gun rights</a> in the face of rioting—because gun-toting Trump supporters to mass demonstrations of institutional racism and white supremacy will...calm things down?</p><p>We don't have to fully understand you to appreciate the fact that you skipped over that pesky first amendment—with the free speech and right to assemble that could get in the way of your military dominating the streets—and got to the important one. Maybe the "innocent" man you touted in your speech—<a href="https://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/2020/05/31/unfounded-trump-tweet-echoes-heavy-metal-guitarist-claim-that-antifa-beat-machete-wielding-dallas-man/" target="_blank">who chased after people in Dallas while wielding a machete—</a>wouldn't have been "savagely beaten," if he'd been wielding a gun instead. Besides, everyone knows that the only real enemies of free speech are <a href="https://www.popdust.com/mark-zuckerberg-trump-2646117777.html" target="_blank">private companies who call you out for "glorifying violence."</a> As long as the American people retain the right to retweet you with impunity, they have all the free speech they need, and they should stay inside and protest in ways that don't disrupt established order or do anything to upset the status quo (because no one has the right to make you pee a little bit).</p>
You Value the Economy<iframe width="100%" height="150" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode twitter-embed-1268968348278292484" id="twitter-embed-1268968348278292484" lazy-loadable="true" src="/res/community/twitter_embed/?iframe_id=twitter-embed-1268968348278292484&created_ts=1591380605.0&screen_name=CNN&text=The+President+went+from+talking+about+jobs+to+praising+police.+Then+he+claimed+it%27s+a+%22great+day%22+for+the+man+whose%E2%80%A6+https%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2FP3mMAREHMc&id=1268968348278292484&name=CNN" frameborder="0" data-rm-shortcode-id="51cee049686210db564d6bbf94f563e3"></iframe><p>Every president knows that the maintaining the economy is important, but as a business man—with that eagle-eyed focus on short term growth that has <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/donald-trumps-business-failures-were-very-real" target="_blank">led several of your businesses into bankruptcy</a>—you've made it clear that you value the economy more than anything else. Whether it's <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/05/politics/donald-trump-coronavirus-economy-models/index.html" target="_blank">the thousands of lives that will be lost</a> to the COVID-19 pandemic as we "reopen the economy" or t<a href="rgy-infrastructure-environmental-review-coronavirus" target="_blank">he dismantling of environmental regulations</a> that were getting in the way of cost-saving pollution, you don't let anything get in the way of a quick economic boost. You know that what's good for major industries today will be good for the American economy...also today.</p><p><span></span>Who cares about tomorrow?! We're having a hard time right now, and people want to <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/05/politics/trump-unemployment-numbers-protests/index.html" target="_blank">hear about how you've reduced unemployment</a>, not about 110,000 dead Americans or the necessity of police reform in the wake of <a href="https://www.popdust.com/derek-chauvin-hat-2646109506.html" target="_blank">George Floyd's murder at the hands of a police officer</a>. You can commemorate <a href="https://www.worldenvironmentday.global/" target="_blank">World Environment Day</a> by <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-environment-oceans/trump-plans-to-open-atlantic-sanctuary-to-commercial-fishing-sources-idUSKBN23C26N" target="_blank">opening up ocean conservation areas to commercial fishing</a>. Have ocean fish populations been cut in half over the last 50 years? Sure, but that means we have at least another decade or two before <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/report-million-extinctions-and-ecological-collapse-are-way" target="_blank">the total collapse of marine ecosystems</a>, and by then it will be some other jerk's problem!</p>
You Could Probably Cure COVID-19 if You Really Wanted<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3NTY4MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTQ4Njg1OX0.UrYXJOB4Wut0GXnPkWhdOIOzYHq4pAS3JSSKg2qvSlA/img.jpg?width=980" id="cad7c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4d96bd6d9c28bdbcb31a1d0c32f23083" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="trump covid tester" /><p>Thanks to the fact that you have your priorities in order, and are purely focused on the economy, you haven't worried too much about all this pandemic nonsense—by, for example, providing adequate testing or not stealing vital PPE and ventilators from the states. You did <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/germany-confirms-that-donald-trump-tried-to-buy-firm-working-on-coronavirus-vaccine/" target="_blank">try to get Americans exclusive access to a potential vaccine—</a>which would really stick it to all those jerks dying in other countries—but that didn't really pan out, so you'll probably just have to until the economy's sorted out so you can come up with a cure yourself.</p><p>After all, you have "<a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2019/05/30/donald-trump-iq-intelligence-1347149" target="_blank">one of the highest</a>" IQs, "<a href="https://www.politico.com/blogs/2016-gop-primary-live-updates-and-results/2016/03/trump-foreign-policy-adviser-220853" target="_blank">a very good brain</a>", and "<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-healthcare-us-medicine-coronavirus-centers-for-disease-control-a9384441.html" target="_blank">natural ability</a>" for medical science. It only took you a matter of moments and the most superficial level of thought to come up with a brilliant new avenue for research—injecting disinfectant into people's bodies—so you can probably have this whole thing sorted out in a day or two once you get around to it.</p>
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