From director Rachel Lee Goldenberg (Valley Girl), the HBO Max original dramedy Unpregnant follows 17-year-old Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson) who enlists her ex-best friend Bailey (Barbie Ferreira) for a wild, 1000-mile road trip over three days, in order to get an abortion. It’s a decision that she never imagined she’d have to make but a positive pregnancy test has led to the unexpected choice and she’s going to need genuine support to get through.
As part of the film’s virtual press day, Collider got the opportunity to chat 1-on-1 with Barbie Ferreira who talked about her desire to be a part of projects that serve something bigger, wanting to explore the comedic aspects of the character, finding the tone of an abortion comedy, doing stunts, her character’s own romantic journey, sharing this experience with co-star Haley Lu Richardson, and where she thinks these characters might be in five years. She also talked about returning to her Euphoria character for Season 2, and how much that series evolves and changes.
Collider: How did this project come about for you? Is it something that you went through an audition process for?
BARBIE FERREIRA: Oh, yes, I fully auditioned a few times, with (director) Rachel [Lee Goldenberg]and then with Haley [Lu Richardson]. It was last summer, right after Euphoria had come out and I was looking for my next project. Unpregnant made so much sense to me because I like to be a part of projects that serve a greater connotation. And also, it had an opportunity with Bailey to play a different character and explore the comedic aspects that I have. It was really fun.
When a project comes your way and it’s an abortion comedy, what is your reaction to that? Was it something you were immediately curious about?
FERREIRA: I am the kind of person who was immediately curious and intrigued. I like when projects like this, and even from an audience member, bring something new to the table. A lot of things are almost carbon copies of themselves and things can be repetitive, and I was like, “What is this movie trying to say?” It was like a clear message. It also had those really classic, amazing road trip, comedy and teen movie aspects, with completely different and more emotional connotations, in the actual journey itself. So, I was really intrigued about having this really amazing, teen comedy that is pretty accessible to everybody who watches it but also has this internal message and this greater idea. That was really cool.
This movie really pulls off the insane trick of telling a story that doesn’t make light of abortion but is still a fun movie. Did you have a lot of conversations about tone, either prior to or during shooting?
FERREIRA: Yeah. I’m sure Haley also had a lot of conversations but for me, it was finding the balance of being the funny one but making it real. I didn’t want it to be too on the nose. I think the funniest things are when things take a second to hit and you laugh right after. Being able to still bring that Bailey personality and general demeanor into the heavier scenes, whether it be at the clinic or in other situations, it was a lot of finding the flow in Bailey’s need to be comedic. I feel that way. When I’m nervous, I just make a bunch of jokes, all the time, so I brought that into Bailey – the nerves, anxieties, and how she deflects it with humor.
This is just such an interesting friendship because obviously it’s strained right now but your character supports Veronica in her decision without really questioning her or making her doubt herself. Do you think that helps make their friendship also feel more real and relatable?
FERREIRA: Absolutely. What was really shown in the movie is that Veronica’s “friends” who are supposed to be her best friends, she can’t really talk to openly about anything. She can’t have a discussion with them. She can’t talk about it with her boyfriend. She doesn’t have this communication with people because she is so scared of being judged. And Bailey is this figure that’s the least judgmental, roll with the punches kind of girl, and is really there for Veronica. She pays no mind to the fact that she’s actually having an abortion. It’s more of, “How am I able to make sure that she can get there on time?” Bailey misses that friendship a lot and it messed her up in the head, so she wanted to be there for her friend who really was close to her and really meant something to her, in that way.
The movie also has a brief departure into action flick territory. What was that like to get to do? How much fun was it to get to do like the whole car chase?
FERREIRA: That’s also a new thing for me, doing stunts. I’m by no means a girl who does my own stunts. At one point, I had to roll in the dirt and that was hard for me. I’m not very nimble. I’m not very quick on my feet. But the car chases were so fun. Some of it was green screen with me screaming while someone bounces the car. It was hilarious. The action aspects of it were really fun for me and also a learning experience. I worked very closely with my stunt driver who would be dressed exactly like me in a wig, which was very weird. It was super fun.
What did you love most about your character, from day one, and were there things that you really grew to appreciate about her, as you peeled those layers away?
FERREIRA: Yeah. I think what I really love about the character is her cynicism towards high school and people in general, and questioning everything, and not buying into the bullshit that people put on you when you’re a teenager. That’s my favorite part of her. She just doesn’t care what people think about her, in that way. I had to grow into some of Bailey’s decisions. I loved all of it. I never had a moment where I didn’t understand why Bailey did something. I always felt like I knew where she was coming from, even if her decisions weren’t the best.
It’s fun to get to see Bailey go on her own romantic journey and explore her relationship with her family.
FERREIRA: It paints the whole picture of Bailey Butler. Instead of her being the best friend who’s just there for the ride, she’s a fully fledged human being who has her faults and her pluses, and all the stuff in between.
How much fun was it to get to explore the romance?
FERREIRA: I love that. I haven’t really played a queer character and it was sweet because it was her first kiss. That was really cool. Betty Who was incredible. It brought me back to being young and awkward and strange, and also really insecure but wanting to like kiss, and the awkwardness of how to talk to people who you’re really attracted to. It was super fun. I loved it.
Veronica and Bailey go on this wild journey together and have plenty of ups and downs along the way. What was it like for you to have Haley Lu Richardson to go through this experience with?
FERREIRA: Haley and I were so close, from the beginning. We’re both really crazy girls, in a good way, I hope. I shouldn’t be the judge of my own craziness. We’re just really high energy goofy and silly, and maybe a little too silly. It was a ride. Every day was something new. We were just keeping ourselves alive. The scenes were really in depth and we were in the middle of the desert where it’s freezing cold or the wind is whipping, so we had to keep that fun alive a lot of the times. We definitely kept each other entertained. It was amazing
If we could catch up with these characters in five years, what do you think they’d be doing? Do you think that this experience would have bonded them and they’d still be friends?
FERREIRA: Yeah. I’ve had a few situations in my life where this has happened, where you’re young kids and you have a falling out in your friendship, and then you spend years awkwardly not wanting to confront each other or communicate because kids don’t know how to communicate and no one knows how to communicate, and then you rekindle the friendship and they’re still your friends to this day. When there’s a bond like that, like with Veronica and Bailey, they’re friends for life. They always have been. Veronica just had to steer a little bit away and so did Bailey, to find themselves as individuals and come together as friends again.
What was it like to have Rachel Lee Goldenberg at the helm of this project?
FERREIRA: Rachel was great because she’s a great listener. When you’re making a teen movie or television show, you have to listen to people who are of that age. By no means, am I a teenager but I like to keep up with Tik Tok and Instagram, and all of that. I graduated high school six years ago. I feel like people who listen usually get a way better story and a better, more natural feel. Sometimes when your generation is different than the other generation, it’s harder to use the same slang or music, or whatever it is, of that time. So, I love that she really talked to us and listened to us, whether it would be about that, or about the character, or about what teens do now. The best part of it was that we had a really collaborative effort and they were so accommodating and listened to me.
You’re definitely building quite the career as an actor, between Euphoria and Unpregnant. Do you think it will feel different to return to your Euphoria character for Season 2, after having had this experience?
FERREIRA: I do. I know Kat like the back of my hand. We did it for so long. It was a whole year, or almost a year, doing it. I do miss playing Kat, so I do think it’ll feel like returning back to this character that I’m so in love with and that I really, really think is the role of a lifetime. I haven’t done it in awhile because of the quarantine, so I miss it. I think it will make me miss Kat more because that’s my baby. It’s cool to play the arc and see how Kat’s personality will evolve, depending on what happens. It’s gonna be super cool to develop how Kat is in Season 2.
Have you gotten to read any scripts yet?
FERREIRA: I’ve read a few scripts. Fun fact, Euphoria is rewritten a lot. Sometimes you get a script and then, a few days later, you get a completely different story. So, who’s to say what’s actually gonna happen. All I know is that it’s gonna be great and it’s gonna be an adventure and it’s gonna go there once again.
Unpregnant is available to stream at HBO Max.
Christina Radish is a Senior Reporter of Film, TV, and Theme Parks for Collider. You can follow her on Twitter @ChristinaRadish.