We recently caught up with Malcolm Barrett about his role on the new television show Timeless.
From Eric Kripke (Revolution, Supernatural), Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and the producers of The Blacklist comes this thrilling action-adventure series in which a mysterious criminal steals a secret state-of-the-art time machine, intent on destroying America as we know it by changing the past. Our only hope is an unexpected team: a scientist, a soldier and a history professor who use the machine’s prototype to travel back in time to critical events. While they must make every effort not to affect the past themselves, they must also stay one step ahead of this dangerous fugitive. Can this handpicked team uncover the mystery behind it all and end his destruction before it’s too late?
OJ Williams: Congratulations on your new show.
Malcolm Barrett: Thank you, it was a pleasure.
OJ: And you guys just did NY Comic Con, right?
Malcolm: Yes, we just did it and it was awesome.
OJ: The Comic Con fans are like no other fans, I’m sure.
Malcolm:Yeah, there’s nothing like this. I was at NY Comic Con two years ago, but being there with my own TV show was a dream come true.
OJ: So, can you tell me a little about the premise of the show?
Malcolm: It is a time travel adventure show about unlike trio put together to get back the time machine that was stolen by a big bad villain.
OJ: And tell us about your character.
Malcolm: My characters name is Rufus Carlin, he’s a scientist, and engineer and a pilot of the time machine. He’s just somewhat insecure social individual who, because the time machine is stolen, is forced to go back. He’s the only pilot for the machine. He has to take the prototype back to Goran to get back the time machine. He’s sort of a sweet guy, who’s put in a place he’s completely not ready to handle. He’s a person who has so much conflict going against him and he’s just trying to overcome all of it.
OJ: You guys go through so many time periods. Which one was the most fun to revisit do far?
Malcolm: One of my favorites was the Alamo. Just because all of the cowboy stuff comes up and, you know, cool outfits, and I got to handle an 18th century gun. I got to feel badass for an episode.
OJ: I can imagine each time period is different. But being African-American I’m sure it’s different. So tell me how it works in the show?
Malcolm: I’m a big fan of time travel and it’s very rare to see black actors or characters in that genre. We’re rarely a part of that conversation and I think it’s because.. There might be some kind of conflict and I think it’s unfortunate. And it was great to see that here, you know. I was a couple pages into the script and I saw the line: “I’m black and there’s no time in history that will work for me” and I thought “that’s it, this is the show that I have to do.” I couldn’t wait to chop that. We even tweaked that at the shoot. I did the scene with Pattison Joseph who plays ***, and it was interesting because when we shot that scene, I’m not sure if it was too much heat in the moment or we didn’t know exactly where we were going, and it was interesting because ****. That’s why we added that line “I don’t know how we should cross the pond,” because there’s not only the dichotomy of being a black American but also there’s a dichotomy of black American versus black rich that adds a different experience and we wanted to bring that to the commercial audience.
OJ: Obviously being on television is a very different foray than doing film. What’s the daily difference between the two?
Malcolm: It’s a very different grind, you know, and it’s intensely different. With movies you get a little more time to work with the material and you’re doing one show, one character. Here each week, each episode is epic. We’re going to the Civil War, we’re going to 1864, we’re going the 40s, you know. It is a daily crucial grind for the entire staff and crew. We’re getting a set and it puts a hefty work on everyone involved, because you can’t use anything more than once. We create those epic sceneries only to tear them down a couple days later.
OJ: Where do you hope to see the character go this season?
Malcolm: It’s interesting, I have no idea where the character might go. He goes form this guy who barely wants to leave his work station and he won’t even talk to a girl he has a crush on, and she sits just a couple desks away, to suddenly having to fight Nazis and try and stop Lincoln assassination. So I have no idea where the character is gonna go over the course of the season. But whatever we did looks amazing, so I can’t wait to see what happens next.
OJ: And how far is he from you in your personal life?
Malcolm:I grew up with two passions, I was the math and science kid and later on the acting thing sort of came about. You know, I went to Stuyvesant which was number one science high school at the time. I’m a New York kid, grew up in Bed-Stuy, so I know what it’s like to grow up in what people make not to be the best neighborhood while simultaneously being a relatively intelligent individual. So for me it’s pretty close to the heart to play him. I love doing that, I love seeing smart black people on television. So far me I’m playing the character that I’d love to see on TV.
OJ: So now that we know a little about your background, tell me how you went from Stuyvesant to acting?
Malcolm: So what’s funny, as a kid I was heavy on math and science and that sort of stuff. But at the same time I had passion for literature and writing and creative writing. And these were the things that were driving me. And at Stuyvesant the school had money. So we had money for productions, so my junior and senior year I started doing plays. And as a result of that, I wanted to go to NYU for theatre. And that was my line of profession since then.
OJ: Tell us about the latest episode?
Malcolm: In the latest episode we go back to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. It was a significant time for all individuals in terms of the Civil War and in terms of what happened to black men and women and all that. So that’s what happens, entering the Civil War and trying to stop the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.