We all know someone like Alicia Rutherford. Alicia is the mom we all love to hate. She’s the mom posting all over social media about how well she’s juggling life with her new baby, even making her own baby food, and somehow managing to not feel tired by any of it. If you believe her she’s a total supermom! After meeting Alicia in early episodes of Workin’ Moms on CBC, it’s easy to see why the other women in her “Mommy and Me” class don’t exactly “feel the love” for her. However, from a viewer standpoint, it’s hard not to enjoy the tension and conflict Alicia’s presence in the group creates.
Wynonna Earp’s Katherine Barrell plays Alicia and the role is a chance for fans to see her in a new, comedic light. Barrell worked on Workin’ Moms during Wynonna’s hiatus and the role represented an inspiring new challenge for the actress. Not only did she get to dust off some of her comedic skills, but she had to work with some new scene partners that challenged her in ways she hadn’t been tested before.
Barrell spoke recently with The TV Junkies about Alicia and why she was so glad to be a part of Workin’ Moms. She also discussed why she finds the show, its stories and creator Catherine Reitman so inspiring, as well as why she believes it’s such an exciting time for Canadian television.
The TV Junkies: It’s exciting seeing so many women featured front and center on Workin’ Moms. Was that part of the appeal for you?
Katherine Barrell: The women-centric aspect was a huge draw for me and having it be a female-centric comedy. It’s such a pleasure getting to work with women, especially on comedy, which is something that I think is really rare and very unique. The fact that it had both those elements for me was a slam dunk.
TTVJ: Had you done a lot of comedy before? KB: I have done a good amount, but I wouldn’t say a lot. I love doing comedy and did some training at the Groundlings school in LA. I’ve done a couple comedies since and would love to keep working in comedy because I find it a huge challenge and an absolute blast.
TTVJ: Can you tell us some more about Alicia? KB: She’s the perfect mom who makes all her own baby food and diapers. She’s the mom that everyone loves to hate on. The important thing about Alicia being in the show is that she represents a large section of parents–parents trying to do everything by the book, make everything organic and keep up with all the latest articles on rearing children. She’s trying her absolute best, which is what I think all parents are doing, but there’s always different versions of what that looks like. I think Alicia represents that kind of character that also needed a voice in this world. She was really fun to play, but she’s a character that is easy to hate on for sure, which is fun.
TTVJ: Did you go to any friends with kids for advice on this role? KB: I think the friends I went to were the women who I was working with on the show, quite a few of the actresses are also mothers. We worked with six sets of twins on set so we did an episode that was all about wrapping babies, and there’s a 10 foot long piece of fabric you have to strategically wrap across your body, those were the days when I’d be asking questions.
TTVJ: Like when they swaddled my baby in the hospital and I was never able to duplicate it again. KB: Exactly! Those are the moments that the show talks about that makes it so special. That’s what I love about the show, is it’s all the things parents are told they need to do and then the reality of trying to achieve all that. That juxtaposition is really the catalyst for the whole show.
My character had her own baby so I had these two twin girls I worked with, and what was amazing about working with babies over three months, is all the kids started growing up on set. When they are babies there’s a huge change you can see. I’d come back to shoot something three weeks later and the girls would be huge. A lot of my parenting questions came up through that.
TTVJ: So what was it like working with the babies? KB: I loved working with the baby because the baby is unpredictable. You can’t be in your own head and think ‘I am going to do the scene like this.’ Much like I imagine parenting to be, it never works out the way you think it’s going to and you have to roll with the punches. I remember one scene I had where the baby would not stop grabbing at my lips and face and crying. We just had to go with it and it was one of the most authentic acting experiences I’ve ever felt because I was so present and so upset and just crying with her. I think they might have used that take, but I just gave what I felt right now which was utter frustration and I was so tired. But I’ve never experienced a moment as an actor that felt so raw for me and it was an incredible feeling.
TTVJ: I know you have done some directing and writing on different projects in addition to acting. Catherine Reitman, who created Workin’ Moms, is also starring in it. What was that experience like, getting to see her do things first hand? KB: It was super inspiring and amazing to watch her work. She’s showrunning the show, starring in it, her husband is there and in it, they have two young children and a dog, and I’d think ‘I don’t understand how you’re still standing right now. I just don’t understand.’ I remember looking at her handing off her fake son, taking her real son into her arms and going over to the monitor and ‘dude, you deserve a frickin’ award for surviving all this.’ It was so inspirational. Talk about a show about women trying to do it all, and the woman who created it literally had to do it all to get it done. It was so inspirational and I’ve never been so inspired watching someone work.
TTVJ: Workin’ Moms is just one of a handful of new Canadian TV series coming our way over the next year that has me really excited. With so much great Canadian TV going on at the moment, I would assume that has to really excite you as a Canadian artist, right? KB: I think CBC is really stepping up to the plate. I get this feeling from CBC that they are trying to get out of the old national broadcaster stuffy image that they had for so long. They are doing stuff that is a little more edgy.
The other reason why I think Canadian TV is doing so well is that we don’t have these massive budgets for all these special effects, so Canadian content creators have to depend on creating really amazing characters and relationships. When I think about all my favorite Canadian TV shows that’s why I love them. I love that type of story. I don’t need things to explode. I just need somebody to bare their soul and I’m totally satisfied.
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Workin’ Moms airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on CBC.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.