*We caught up with Theodore Barnes to dish about his latest role in the new BET+ comedy sitcom, “The Ms. Pat Show,” starring rising comedy queen Patricia “Ms. Pat” Williams and executive produced by Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels.
The series is one of the few sitcoms featuring a Black mom as a lead tracking as far back into the 90s and has become an instant fan-favorite for BET+.
Per the network, the series follows a fictionalized version of Ms. Pat’s life’s journey. From turning her life around as a convicted felon to becoming a suburban mom, the show is full of wisdom, unfiltered honesty and outrageous, in-your-face humor that’s reminiscent of an old-school sitcom, complete with a live audience.
Theodore shines as Junebug, Williams’ youngest son who brings all the real, relatable teenage comedy. You may have also previously seen the California native as Brian Walls on ABC’s currently airing hit series, “The Goldbergs”, and as the series regular lead on Netflix’s “Prince of Peoria”, as well as a recurring role on Nickelodeon’s “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn”, and guest-starring roles on “Goliath” for Amazon and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” on FOX. He was also a series regular lead for Nickelodeon’s “Legendary Dudas”.
“This show is just comedy from everywhere, every aspect,” Barnes tells us about “The Ms. Pat Show.”
“Junebug, he’s the youngest, and I would say that he’s bringing the comedy for those viewers that are my age and a little bit younger,” he said of his character in our exclusive interview. “The relatable life lessons, some of the things that he does, people would definitely be able to relate, whether it’s school, at home, with friends, that’s a huge one, man. Then tying into family life and how he talks to his parents and how he responds to his parents, it’s one big relatable lesson. It’s just real. Everything is real. My character’s real. To me, it’s definitely probably the most relatable character that I’ve played that is most like me in real life.
Get into the rest of our Q&A below with Theodore below.
How much of your own personality do you embed in a character like Junebug?
Theodore Barnes: Oh, it’s more than you think. I probably would say 70, 80%, and it just makes it so much more fun because it’s you. I’m always trying to make the character as close to me as possible. You can definitely put your own twist on it. I’m pretty sure people will see that there is, I won’t say like a bit of a mirror, but, yeah, I will say that there’s a bit of a mirror. So, yeah, I would say about 80% of it just full of a whole bunch, yeah.
Who would you say Junebug is most close to in the family?
Theodore Barnes: Well, I would say that he has own personal relationship with everybody, and on the good side, not as much as the bad side. I mean, every family has their flaws with each other and certain things they may not like, but I would definitely say that each family member… I mean, it’s one big family. We’re all together and every situation we go through is together. So you can’t help but be close and really love each other. So I would say he has his own personal relationship with everyone in a good way.
How challenging was it for the crew to get through filming any one episode with Ms. Pat and not laugh out loud?
Theodore Barnes: The good thing is that it is a comedy and we can laugh. So there are certain situations that they let roll out and we, as actors, try to stay in it as best as possible and not try to crack and break character. But, oh yeah, Ms. Pat, oh, she’s something else. It could be 6:00 in the morning, first scene being shot, and she could just say something on the fly that’s going to wake everybody up. So, yeah, plenty of times where we broke character, and there’s a lot of times where we just had to hold it in for the sake of that good take. That was a great take that she came up with. So, yeah, it wasn’t tough, but it was a little bit of a challenge. But we got through it. We definitely got through it.
In the pilot episode, there are several themes explored like obsession with social media and live-tweeting and then the race relations dilemma with your sister in school. What other social themes are explored on this show that the audience will really resonate with?
Theodore Barnes: I won’t say cover pretty much every base, but the popular, and I’ll let your imagination wander with this one, but the popular things that are going on in 2021, whether it’s, I mean, human rights, Black Lives Matter, it’s everything that’s going on present day I would say we’ve dipped, dibbled and dabbled in just about all.
I choked on my water 😭😭😭 When I tell y’all this show is ACTUALLY realistic pic.twitter.com/nlDNN6pE39
— Tarek Ali (@itstarekali) August 16, 2021
So what about Junebug… does he have any standout episodes this season that you’re really proud?
Theodore Barnes: Oh, yeah. I’d say, about three, yeah, that are definitely tailor-made and definitely relatable. Yeah, excited about those three. And actually, really, there’s one that I can’t wait to see put together because, man, that episode, that week filming that episode was just powerful. So, yeah, 100%.
How would you describe the creative energy that Ms. Pat brings to the set?
Theodore Barnes: That’s a great question. Her creative energy, I would say she feeds off everyone’s energy and it fills up her energy bar. And whether it’s a word, or a joke, or a movement that comes out of it, I feel like she feeds off of what we give her. Because a lot of times we would round table and we would talk about certain things. If there was something she didn’t really understand in the script that I might understand, I would speak up and say, “Hey, Ms. Pat, yeah, I understand that. Maybe you don’t understand it because I’m a little younger, so that’s kind of my time.” And so in that we would bounce, everyone would bounce off each other. Even though we were actors, it all felt like we had creative control. But when she was really locked in, oh man, it was really sky’s the limit. But just her energy, I feel definitely feeds off the energy we would give her and then we would feed off the energy that she gives us.
Did you learn anything valuable working on this shoot that you’ll carry to the next production?
Theodore Barnes: Yeah, definitely. I really learned that even though this is something that I love and that it is fun every day, that it indeed is a job. And sometimes in the moment, emotions can get flared. And for me personally, I would say coming in at 6:00, 7:00, and you might not leave until maybe 11:00 PM, 12:00, we’ve been stretched as far as 1:00, 2:00 in the morning, and so it really… Because this is not for everyone, this lane is not for everyone. And I would say that I really learned to put myself aside and realize that this, it’s for something bigger.
With every job that I do, I always want to take something with me to the next one, whether it’s preparation, how I prepare. I mean, there’s just so many aspects. But with Ms. Pat, I would definitely say that it’s shaped me to step into the adult world, because this is the first job that I had booked being 18 years old. So there’s a lot of things. There’s a lot of privileges and rest and relaxation times that you don’t necessarily really get anymore now being technically an adult, being 18. So I would definitely say it filters back into now I’m well-trained to get up at 5:00 and not be done till 10:00, 11:00, and wake up and do the same thing the next day. So, yeah, I would say that the work ethic, how I’m taking that strong work at work ethic into the next job.
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Talk about your family support. Who recognized this talent in you and pushed you into show business?
Theodore Barnes: My parents always encouraged me to try everything. There’s a wide range of things that I’ve tried and figured out that I didn’t like it and onto the next. But with this, like I said, they asked me if it was something I wanted to do. Because I started off doing backgrounds as just something fun to do. It was one of my mom’s friends. She had passed it along the list. She said, “It would be something nice to do. You’d make a little money. You might work one, two days.” And it’s just something cool. It was something nice to do at that young age.
I think I did it for about two years. Then same lady, mom’s friend, she says she met an agent that is looking for new clients. And I guess at the time I was somewhat of a character as a child. So my parents asked me if I wanted to go. It was never, “This is something you’re going to do.” I always had a choice, and that’s why I’m thankful for them today, because now making choices and being a young adult, certain things are way easier for me because I feel like I break them down and I evaluate the situation a little bit more.
Circling back to when I did start really acting in front of the camera and booking stuff, it was something fun for me to do. I really didn’t discover the love for it, and I know this might sound crazy, but, hey, it is what it is, I didn’t really discover the love for it maybe two years ago, I want to say my sophomore year of high school. Then by that time I had already been doing it for maybe like two or three years being in front of the camera and actually booking and working for real, for real.
But it’s really like therapy for me. And my parents have been supportive since day one. The process of going up the ladder, they’ve been right there with me and they’re always going to be right there with me because, I mean, I came out of them. So I feel like they would never do anything to hurt me. They always got my best interest at hand. Any decision that we make is going to be in my best interest so that we can elevate and continue to rise up. So, yeah, everybody’s been on board since day one. That’s just how we rock over here in the Barnes household.
So are you the superstar in your friend’s group?
Theodore Barnes: Well, my friends, my main core group, they know the deal. They treat me regular. I’m always going to be regular. And they’ve told me from the jump, they tell me all the time, “Don’t let this new TV show change you because we’ll still beat you up!” So they’ve been holding it down. I’ve been regular to them and I’m always being regular.
It just, it’s what it is. It’s a job. I try to tell people that, “It’s just a job. Remember that. Don’t let it get you hyped up into thinking you’re bigger than what you are because, at the end of the day, it could all go away just like that. So you got to stay humble, stay thankful.” But they’ve been, in crew and they know who they are, they’ve been down since day one and they still are down. So when I really do get that one that hits for real, for real, they’ll know the deal, for sure.
Lastly, what would you say makes “The Ms. Pat Show” unique compared to similar comedies series out right now?
Theodore Barnes: What makes this show unique is that it is real and it is 100% raw. And don’t take that raw word lightly because I’m so for real when I use the word raw. My three words for it are real, raw, and relatable. I really feel like people laugh at what genuinely is funny to them. I know a lot of times where sitcoms, there might be certain situations that are a little stretched. And it’s just like, I feel like it’s just like having four cameras in my everyday household. It’s really situations that people will be able to relate to. And I think that is going to make the show… Well, not, “I think.” I know that’s going to make the show a hundred times more funnier.
Because, at the end of the day, I’m always going to come back to real and relatable. We are giving you that authentic feel and that’s going to bring people back and that’s going to make people rewatch. I feel like the goal is with me whenever I watch shows like Martin, Fresh Prince, because I do watch those over and over again, I like to find something new to laugh at each time. So, yeah, that’s my answer for that.
“The Ms. Pat Show” is now streaming on BET+.