“I’m ready. I am 100 per cent ready for this,” she tells. “I got this show when I was 40, well 39, but the year I turned 40. It’s weird. I’ve been working at this for 20 years, more, and I was like, ‘Why can’t I, why can’t I?’ when I was in my 20s, and now I know why. Because there was no way I was ready for this until now. It’s so exciting. I have to pinch myself a little bit, in a way, because I also know I’m ready for this now.”
In Wellmania, which is based on the book Wellmania: Misadventures in the Search for Wellness by Brigid Delaney, Barber stars at Liv Healy, a food critic living life to the drug-fuelled, sex-filled fullest in New York. She’s on the cusp of landing her dream job on a television show, but after returning home to Australia to surprise her best friend Amy (JJ Fong) on her birthday, she becomes stranded when her green card is cancelled – and the only way to get it back is to dramatically improve her health. Looking for the fastest way to fitness, Liv embarks on a radical wellness journey.
It’s a role that was made with Barber in mind, as she’s been onboard since the beginning of the project. “I loved [co-creator] Brigid’s writing,” Barber explains. “I think she’s hilarious and really relatable and clever. I thought this was a great idea and a smart idea for me to do as well, going from what people know me from in the Instagram world, coming over and looking at the wellness world. Although I’m a trained actor, I can’t just do Lady Macbeth.”
While Liv’s lifestyle and efforts to get ‘well’ might be extreme, Barber says she could relate to the character. “I love her so much. She’s an extension of me, parts of her are an extension of me,” she says.
“I related to her getting to a point in her life and going, ‘Whaaaaaat! Oh my gosh, I’ve hit this age and having to reassess things.’ I’m definitely doing that now I’ve turned 40. I’m looking at what’s important in my life, not just work, work, work. And I related a lot to that with my character.”
Barber adds, “Liv is braver that I am. I know people see me as being quite brave, but her ability to just run her mouth and live in each moment, I aspire to that. She’s very in the moment at all times, just throw it up and see how it lands. I get excited to play that sort of stuff.”
While she may send-up celebs on Instagram, Barber says this show does not “take the piss” out of the wellness industry, but rather looks at it through curious rather than judgemental eyes.
Alongside Barber for this wild ride she’s on is her “hot husband” Api Robin, an occasional prop or scene partner in her posts. The couple have been together for 20 years and share two children together, sons Lou and Buddy. “He’s the most excellent human being, my husband,” she gushes. “I can’t begin to tell you. He’s wicked, he’s so great and I’m really, really grateful.” Asked what the secret to their success is, she laughs “distance”.
“I sometimes imagine that if he died, I’d be sad, so stop being a bitch. It helps! Twenty years is a long time, I feel as though we are coming back together. There’s something happening in this time of my life, as you get older, where you just kind of go, ‘Let’s just breathe and have fun with it.’ And he’s hot. I mean, if he’d looked like a hatful of a---holes, we’d have been done!”
(Wellmania streams on Netflix)