Arts & Culture

Interview: Genevieve Barr

Thursday 29 November
Interview: Genevieve Barr

- November 29 at 8:30 AM

Genevieve Barr’s performance in the BBC drama The Silence introduced us to a talented young actor, who wants to inspire young deaf people with her work on and off screen. She is currently working with Phonak on their Hear the World campaign. To find out more visit

What has it been like working on television as a deaf person?
Interesting, particularly with regards to the reactions of actors and crew I’m working with. They normally get over it quickly though! I’ve been playing hearing characters, which is a testament to the hard work of my vocal coach – it has opened up more opportunities for me than if I was only playing deaf characters. It has required more acting skills than I expected – resisting the temptation to read lips! 

What were your experiences of University?
Growing up in a close-knit village, attending a tiny boarding school, it was disconcerting going to Edinburgh and being exposed to thousands of people housed together in halls of residence. Whilst I had many good friends, the close relationship to my great uncle was the most precious experience for me.

What inspired you when you were working as a teacher?
Teaching in a deprived school opened my eyes in ways I couldn’t have envisioned! It was a tough experience – I was inspired by the unexpected moments, where kids who truly hated English found something to enjoy in the subject. I believe you can change your circumstances in life: other peoples’ expectations should never dictate your ambitions and aspirations.

Who are your role models?
Actors such as Leonardo Di Caprio and Meryl Streep. They inspire me with their ability to transform themselves and their zest for tackling difficult roles. It was fantastic working with musician Bryan Adams when he took my photograph for the Hear the World campaign – I’m always impressed when people are multi-talented, the way he is.

What prepares you for stepping into the shoes of a character?
Intense concentration and watching other actors and actresses perform. I like to go on a cathartic journey – it has to feel real for me and therefore I have to connect it to my experiences and feelings.

Was there anything challenging about working on The Silence?
Everything. There were times when Amelia was struggling with her identity. Sometimes I didn’t want to withdraw into myself and achieve the state of concentration necessary for playing her – she wasn’t always a happy person!

Who or what has helped you achieve where you are today?
My parents. They refused to let anyone dictate who I was going to be and become. They gave me the freedom to be whoever I wanted even though they didn’t always enjoy my decisions! My sister Antonia and I used to argue endlessly but she definitely helped instil my fighting streak and determination.

What are your passions?
Family, friends, creativity and sport. I always need to have a book in my bag, be in the midst of writing a play or novel and be acting. It fulfils me and keeps me on my toes. I love playing sport, particularly team sport. My friends and family keep me grounded and entertained. I feel very lucky to have the support I have.

What are your personal philosophies?
One of my favourite poets, Robert Frost, wrote “I took the road less travelled by, and it has made all the difference”. I think that being deaf has enabled me to celebrate being different and take risks and chances I perhaps wouldn’t have done otherwise.

What advice would you give to young deaf people?
You can have many dreams. Hold onto all of them, chase them – when you get them, don’t let go. Stay open-minded because opportunities come when you least expect them but don’t sit at home waiting for them. Try new things, take different chances – get a good education first to have a safety blanket.

What is your next step?
I’m excited about the work coming up this year – I’ve recently co-written and performed my first ever play in London. I’m looking forward to directing my first film. I’m doing a lot of work in disability – exciting things will be happening in 2013.