“Not a single person from Netflix, not a single person from Shondaland since I have had two psychotic breaks from that show have even contacted me or even emailed me to ask if I’m OK or asked me if I would benefit from any sort of aftercare or support,” Barker, 26, claimed on the most recent episode of “The Loaf” podcast. “Nobody.”
Barker — who portrayed Marina Thompson on seasons 1 and 2 of the Netflix hit — alleged that her hospitalization following her first psychotic break, which occurred shortly after season 1 filming wrapped in 2019, was “covered up” and “kept on the down-low” because the show was about to premiere. (She suffered her second episode of psychosis in 2022.)
“I was just then coming out of hospital [when season 1 premiered on Netflix] because it took a year in the edit. My Instagram followers were going up, I had all these engagements to do, my life was changing drastically overnight and yet there was no support,” she said. “And there still hasn’t been any support. So, I was trying really really hard to act like it was OK, this is OK, and that I could work and that it wasn’t a problem.”
Barker explained feeling like she had a “metaphorical physical gun” to her head to “sell” the “bubbly” romantic drama. “I don’t want to then come out and poo-poo on that, because then I’ll never work again,” she quipped.
There were aspects of her character — a distant cousin of the Featheringtons, who was sent to their home after becoming pregnant following a secret relationship — Barker claimed, that added to her mental health struggles. “It was a really tormenting place for me to be because my character was, like, very alienated, very ostracized, on her own, under these horrible circumstances,” she shared.
Barker first revealed in May 2022 that she had been hospitalized for an undiagnosed mental health condition after realizing she had been “really unwell for a long time.”
“I just want to be honest with everybody, I have been struggling,” she explained via a since-deleted Instagram video. “So, I’m in the hospital at the minute, I’m gonna get discharged soon and hopefully get to continue with my life and I’m gonna take a little bit of a break from myself.”
At the time, Barker credited Rhimes, 53, for “giving her an opportunity” and “saving” her during her time on Bridgerton. She noted that while she had to drop out of a West End production of Running With Lions after contracting COVID-19 in addition to dealing with her mental illness, she had high hopes for herself once she was able to be discharged.
“I cannot wait to fulfill all of my engagements and to have a good career and a good life,” she continued. “Because I do not want my diagnosis to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I want to survive and I will survive, and I’m going to. And so are you. That’s the beauty of it, so are you. If you’re with me, you’re in good hands. Thank you.”
After only appearing in one season 2 episode, it is unknown whether Barker will return as Marina for Bridgerton’s upcoming third season. However, season 3’s love story will center on characters related to Marina, as her cousin Penelope Featherington’s (Nicola Coughlan) friendship with Marina’s former fiancé, Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton), will blossom into a romance.
While Barker has taken issues with Netflix and Shondaland’s treatment of her mental health, she has been vocal about her praise for the show’s colorblind casting.
“I’d seen Belle, the film about Dido Elizabeth Belle, who was a mixed-race aristocrat in the Georgian period of time. I saw that film and was like, ‘Wow, it would be so amazing to play that character, but it’s already been made, I’m probably not gonna be in a period drama simply because of my race,’” she told the Daily Mail in a February 2021 interview. “Then, obviously, getting the casting [information] through from Bridgerton and seeing it’s a Shonda Rhimes thing, that diversity is the main objective of the show — it was just amazing to be a part of it.”
Us Weekly has reached out to Netflix and Shondaland for comment.