April 13, 2020 Interview – Malcolm Barrett
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Malcolm Barrett is a man of many talents. From writing to acting, he is most famously known for his various roles in television series such as NBC’s Timeless, ABC’s Better Off Ted, and AMC’s Preacher. Showcasing an ability to stand strong in a variety of genres, most recently, he starred as a lead in the new Hulu Into The Dark film Pooka Lives!. A film perfect for Barrett keen sense of humor, it’s just another notch in his belt showing he has the chops to hang in a Horror flick too! A fun, new challenge for the diverse Barrett, he recently sat down to chat about working in different genres, being a part of Pooka Lives!, his alias in Hip Hop as Verbal, future projects, and a whole lot more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in film/television for the better part of two decades. With a resume featuring some really cool films and television series, first tell us, what initially inspired you to pursue a career in acting?
Malcolm Barrett – At the end of the day I like telling stories. I like telling stories about people who are from the same place I am. I love telling stories about things I don’t usually get to see or that interest me – whether it be Comedy, Horror, or getting a deeper look into who we are as people.
I used to write stories when I was kid and my first grade teacher would have me read them to kindergartners. I was also a big reader, so that winded up translating into doing poetry and the stage. I just had a huge passion for performing in one way or another and it wound up bleeding professionally into acting.
Cryptic Rock – Very cool. You have worked in Comedy, Drama, and Horror. Is there a particular genre you enjoy working in most?
Malcolm Barrett – I don’t know. I apparently have some sort of an affinity for comedy. To be honest, I like whatever challenges me in a new way. I like language, so I think the better the writing is for a character, it’s always going to be interesting to me; whether it’s Horror, Comedy, or a Drama. As long as I get to express myself through the writing in a smart, complex way, it’s probably always going to grab my interest.
Cryptic Rock – Right, a good story is a good story. You have a leading role in the new Hulu Into The Dark film Pooka Lives! which came out on April 3rd. How did this project come about for you?
Malcolm Barrett – I’m sure it was a number of factor, but Felicia Day is the producer and an actor in the film. She and I knew each other through the comic con scene, having friends in internet spaces as well as friends in this industry who are fun and create. Those are the circles we are in and I think we got re-acquitted for a pod cast we did together. She told me, “I have this Comedy Horror movie and I think you would be great in it.” I told her, “Look, Felicia, I will work with you in a heartbeat.” I loved the idea she showed me, so here we are.
Cryptic Rock – It’s a fun story with a mix of comedy and horror. Your character Derek was center stage in the film. What was it like portraying him?
Malcolm Barrett – Playing Derek was a lot of fun. He’s definitely an imperfect guy and reluctantly relying on his friends. The cast who play Derek’s friends are great and I had an immediate affinity for everybody involved. I think we had either all worked together or been fans of each other’s work in some shape or form in the past.
Alejandro and Felicia were very open to improv and to whatever creative ideas I had in the moment. It just wound up being a very symbiotic, comfortable relationship from the very beginning.
Cryptic Rock – It shows on screen. Derek’s character is having his life ruined via the internet, and what makes that ironic is he creates something that is even more dangerous within the cyber world.
Malcolm Barrett – I thought that was interesting. The fun part of this is playing within today’s society; technology, going viral, cancel culture. Also folklore, but not just through word of mouth, but how that’s translating through the internet with things such as Slenderman and other mythos that we are creating in society now globally. It was fun to play with all those things.
I have a very different view of cancel culture than Derek. I think Derek thinks he is a victim of cancel culture and inundated by the voices of influences, bloggers, and people who aren’t necessarily experts on anything, but have huge followings. I feel Derek thinks he may be a victim of all this and he literally creates a monster, bringing the power back to him. Like a lot of people who do things for the wrong reason, the power overtakes him, he loses control, and the movie unfolds.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, it is interesting to see how it all unfolds. So, if asked, would you do another Hulu Into The Dark film?
Malcolm Barrett – In a heartbeat. I loved everybody they put together on this – from the producer and director to the cast. It was a lot of fun! If they want me to do another crazy little movie I would be hard pressed to say no.
Cryptic Rock – It would be cool to see you do another film for them. Looking back, you came into acting professionally when the industry began to change. In many ways, television has surpassed feature films right around the time when The Sopranos hit. What has it been like to experience the evolution of television as an actor?
Malcolm Barrett – It’s interesting because television is one part of media, and media itself is evolving and changing. I’m watching it happen, it has grown from having just basic channels. Like you said, one of my earliest roles was The Sopranos on HBO.
To see how many options there are is astounding. You still can’t beat the reach of movies though; to have work globally recognized is amazing. However, there is also something about being in people’s homes. I think there’s a reason why a lot of times we feel comfortable with actors we’ve never even met before, they are in our homes.
It’s interesting to see the explosion of sources. We are kind of just redoing cable though, right? We’re spending 30 dollars for each of these things, but we’re all going to end up in 5-15 years having a streaming package and redoing cable all over again. The cool thing about all the options is it has allowed explosion of genres and a lot of different options for people’s interests. An Into The Dark puts out a new Horror movie semi-based on a holiday every month – that’s amazing to be able to do that!
It’s a wild thing and I think all of us are trying to take it in. Even when you look at the internet, and people like Felicia who are able to create there successfully, it’s all interesting. I think everybody in the entertainment industry are trying to utilize that to the best of their ability.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, it is all very new, we are still learning about all of this. Beyond acting, you write and are involved in music too. Is there a possibility of a new album in the future?
Malcolm Barrett – I have one solo album, The Backpacker’s Guide to the Galaxy which I released in 2011. Then I have two albums as a group, Verbal + Icarus – which is my boy Brandon Scott, who is also an actor. We recently released an album last year called Fun House. We have had music used for internet shows, etc. Will I do a solo album anytime soon though? I have a feeling I have a lot of time on my hands right now… so anything’s possible.
Cryptic Rock – Awesome! It is a different outlet then acting, so that is great to have.
Malcolm Barrett – It’s fun. I came from free styling and battling, so it’s definitely a whole different muscle. At the same time, you are using the same thing though. I’ve done improv, so I think the battling, improv, and free styling combines it all, coming together.
Cryptic Rock – Yes. It will be compelling to see you create next. What are some other new film/TV projects you have coming up that you can tell us about?
Malcolm Barrett – We are waiting to see how things are going. I recently played Ted White in the Aretha Story for National Geographic’s “Genius” anthology series. That has Cynthia Erivo, Courtney B. Vance, and Omar J. Dorsey, among other amazing actors. I’m excited, but that’s the thing, everything is sort of up in the air right now. That’s probably the biggest thing I have coming up right now though.
Cryptic Rock – That sounds very exciting, hopefully it will premiere soon. One last question. If you are a fan of Horror and Sci-Fi films, do you have any favorites?
Malcolm Barrett – That’s a hard one. I love the classics, I remember watching The Blob (1988) growing up. I didn’t watch them too much when I was younger though; stuff like the A Nightmare on Elm Street films used to get me. When I got older I became a bigger fan. I liked Rec 2 (2009) and Rec 3: Genesis (2012). Rec 3: Genesis becomes a complete genre shift for the series. It’s badass and shot well. I loved that one.