We are definitely at a Golden Age for the small screen. Cable TV and streaming platforms like Netflix and Apple TV have changed the game and resulted in more Actors steadily crossing over from feature film to series based programs, as well as pushing the boundaries of what Writers, Actors and Producers are able to create. This is a huge win for the viewing public as well as the Artists. The average viewer now has a wider selection of genres (and subgenres) to choose from and those whose passion is to create them have more work opportunity than ever. One performer beginning to make her mark in television is up-and-comer Canadian Actor Linzee Barclay. In the span of her short career she has raked up some impressive and diverse roles on her resume, including the lead role as a Nazi Woman in the award winning German-English short film Homefront (2015), her feature debut in the crime drama Gone Tomorrow (2015) and recurring roles on hit television series Lost Girl (Syfy/Showcase), and most recently, on the American series Reign (CW). Proving to be the chameleon type of performer who effortlessly shifts through genres and character types.
Reign is the CW Network’s historical fantasy series following the life of a young Mary, Queen of Scots during her time at French Court. The program is currently in production on its fourth season and has proved to be one of the CW’s most popular shows. Barclay appears as ‘Sharlene’; a sassy, cockney harlot who begins an unlikely friendship with Noblewoman Lady Greer (played by Celina Sinden). One of the things that Barclay has become known for is her mastery of accents and dialects. It’s an attribute that played heavily into her favor being selected as ‘Sharlene’. Marilla Wex, a Crystal-award-winning voice artist and dialect coach, worked with Barclay on Reign and comments, “It took producers two rounds of casting until they found someone as talented as Linzee to play the feisty and funny ‘Sharlene’. She brought a lot of energy, humor and play to the set both on camera and off. Her dialect was fantastic! Most Canadian Actors can pull off a decent standard English accent but what Linzee brought was a subtle lower-class accent that was really perfect for the role.” Barclay admits, “My parents are Scottish and we spent a great deal of time in Scotland throughout my childhood. I think that exposure early on to different British dialects helped me develop an ear for them and then I just continued to hone that skill as I became an Actor.” When further asked about her process she elaborated, “I use different trigger words/sentences for each one. I try to isolate specific sounds in any given dialect and then find the music to the speech pattern of that region, and then it’s just the confidence to go with it. There are so many British dialects, but with an American Show like Reign, they wanted a more “General Cockney” sound to combat any worry that American audiences could understand ‘Sharlene’. The challenge was finding a happy medium for Producers and the Writers.” While accents may come easy to this Actor, the role was not without certain unexpected challenges. As a period piece that takes place during the mid 1500’s in French court, the look of the show is paramount to provide the realism of its setting. One way in which Barclay related to the challenges of the era was in terms of wardrobe. She reveals, “Getting used to wearing a corset for long hours will cause you to have greater respect for what women of that time period dealt with. I know it sounds silly, but you do have to breathe differently, which goes against all your theatre training. I now understand all the heaving bosoms on historical shows; it’s all upper-chest breathing!” She laughs, “I’ve learned from that experience to breathe out during your
costume fitting when they are sizing you for a corset – you will be thankful for that little extra room later on.”
As a fan of movies like 1998‘s Shakespeare in Love, Barclay understands the huge fan base that Reign has acquired throughout its many seasons. The combination of historical fact mixed with popular myth provides a unique creative playground for storytellers and performers. However, Barclay sees her character on the show as a bit of a fun dichotomy. Although ‘Sharlene’ is a working class harlot, the role provided Barclay an opportunity to present something of a feminist representative in this genre of storytelling. She explains, “Characters like ‘Sharlene’ are great fun to play and are rare on certain shows. Especially in a historical piece like Reign which is more serious in tone due to its depiction of court life. More often than not it is the Male characters that are the comedic relief in a show and the females are the foil for their jokes. It was freeing to play a character that comes in and shakes things up. Someone who really don’t care what people think and is so frank – its refreshing as a Female Actor”.
Whereas traditional television has for the majority used the Male perspective as its vehicle to take the audience through its narrative; modern TV has seen the female perspective become increasingly more centre stage . An early example of this was the long-running series Lost Girl (winner of two Canadian Screen Awards in 2014). A Syfy/Showcase supernatural drama which sees its main character “Bo” (played by Anna Silk), a succubus in modern day in search of her own origin as well as that of her powers. Playing against the norm once again, Barclay’s character ‘The Handmaiden’ is a Fae; an immortal soul who is a servant to the character ‘Rainer’, played by Kyle Schmid (History of Violence, The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants). Barclay’s explains her character stating, “She is very nosey and pushy but takes great pride in her station and has an Old World feel to her. It was fun to play someone who was so feminine and proper in contrast to the bad-ass energy of Anna’s Bo.”
Lost Girl was Barclay’s first recurring television role, who was brought into the audition room after a Casting Director noticed her in a Workshop in Toronto. Primarily a stage Actor up until this point she admits to being nervous her first day on set but quickly adjusted. As a Sci- Fi/Fantasy show, Lost Girl uses a lot of special effects; it was something that was new to Barclay. She explains, “There are a lot of effects in Lost Girl, that are put in afterwards in post production. It was a lesson in trust and not judging yourself. I found if I broke the scene down to the human elements it was a lot easier to approach than getting caught up in suspending my belief in the scene.” Anna Silk, (the star of Lost Girl) recognized Barclay’s abilities from day one and credits her for making the performances better stating, “Linzee’s talent as an actor brought so much to the role and to the performers around her. I have worked with many incredible actors over the run of the series but only a handful really stand out with a level of talent at the top of their game; Linzee is one of those actors. Her professionalism, poise and presence fill a room, raising everyone around her to that level; a rare talent indeed.”
Barclay will soon be appearing in CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries (the series has numerous wins from the Canadian Screen Awards) as ‘Bessie Fellows’ and National Geographic’s feature movie 4 Billion Heartbeats. As Barclay continues to diversify her roles, her work location also diversifies between
her home country of Canada and the newer opportunities afforded her abroad. We look forward to see what this multi-talented performer does next.