When TV Meets Reality: How Marlyne Barrett Went From Aspiring To Be A Nurse To Playing One

When TV Meets Reality:

How Marlyne Barrett Went From Aspiring To Be A Nurse To Playing One

Photo Courtesy of TV Guide

Marlyne Barrett, aka charge nurse Maggie Lockwood from the hit TV show Chicago Med, took the time to share her insights as to what drew her to acting, what motivates her in and out of acting roles and what she seeks to accomplish outside of the world of acting, such as her dedication to helping victims of sexual trafficking and abuse.

Barrett took a five-year break, from acting, before accepting the role of charge nurse Maggie Lockwood of Chicago Med, after enduring the trauma of a sexual assault.

The Way Out, a non-profit organization which provides help and support to victims of sex trafficking, primarily in the Montreal area, was founded in 2013. Barrett helps raise funds for the non-profit organization, which is a much-needed resource for vulnerable women who often have nowhere else to turn for help.

Professionally speaking, Barrett had a recurring role from 2006 until 2008 as Nerese Campbell in the HBO crime drama The Wire, and in 2007 she had a recurring role as Felicia Marquand in the FX legal drama Damages. Her current role, as charge nurse Lockwood, started in 2015, in the NBC drama Chicago Med. 

When did you first get the acting bug?

I think the acting bug began in early high school. I always played sports and in elementary school, I had an aunt who would put on plays during the holidays. It was my obligation as my mom and her siblings came together and all the kids would get together and put on a play and I was always a part of it.

Somewhere during high school when we stopped doing it, I realized I missed it. And I got involved in a play at my high school shortly after this and realized that there was an ease when I was on stage. Not thinking it was performance, but I was really committed to telling the story. So, I guess, you could say that the bite started somewhere around 8th grade.

Her current role, as charge nurse Lockwood, started in 2015, in the NBC drama Chicago Med. Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Sisson/NBC
What’s it like portraying an emergency department charge nurse, on Chicago Med? I read that you previously had studied nursing. Did that factor into your choosing this current role?

Yes, it did factor in, in accepting the role. There was something in playing someone in society with an interest in other people’s long-term health that really appealed to me. I love the idea of nursing. A nurse gets to apply so much compassion to a person while they are pursuing a difficult process in their life to becoming whole. Portraying a charge nurse in an ED trauma center is a bit different because most people come in the actual life and death moment. In other departments like the O.R., you aren’t necessarily encountering the person screaming bloody murder. When they come into the E.D trauma most of the time they are still conscious. There’s something to be said about the ease that a person must have in reaction to the emergency care.

The rest and the skill set in knowing that there’s a system in place to rescue the person and that your team is ready to help save lives. And I think it was really important to me to portray that character with authenticity.

And knowing how people view our show as a true north as they are going through certain situations. It’s important to me to give that assurance to people as they watch the show that the medical insinuation in the U.S is a place where possibly all Americans will have to go through.

"Portraying a charge nurse in an ED trauma center is a bit different because most people come in the actual life and death moment." Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Sisson/NBC
Nurse Lockwood is a strong character. Is that partly what attracted you to the role?

I wanted to portray a single woman who had forgotten herself and immersed her commitment to the care of other people. In that forgetfulness was now going to learn how to love herself. I think in the following seasons we will really see Maggie dive into a personal love for herself.

For the first 3 years, I wanted to portray a stable person. The heartbeat of the Chicago E.D trauma center and the constant of the environment. She needed to be strong to manage so many people and assure yourself of so many people psychological and behavioral patterns. She had to be strong because she was very strong in acquiring this position.

Photo Courtesy of Eli Nichol

Why would they promote her? That had to be the reason. The way I understood the character is that she was a prodigy to Goodwin at a young age and she knew that she could elevate her. Maggie, in her early to mid-30’s it takes an extraordinary woman to do this. She seems to be a friend to all and has risen above all of the stereotypes.

How do you get into character for any role? Do you have a certain process?

I do have a process. It varies for each character because I’m looking for an entry point and sometimes that comes from the inside out and sometimes from the outside in. For Maggie, it came from the outside in because I understood nursing care before I understood Maggie Lockwood.

I really leaned on the attributes of the charge nurse and the reactionary skills of a woman in that position. I remember seeing patients that were coming in and asking myself what kind of stability do I need in order to be able to call out which room each patient was going to go in, how do I balance the incoming flux of people? It required a steady skill set.

When I started portraying her with ease, I realized that I finally understood her walk and her talk. What happens when you start from the outside in your body falls into play, followed by your emotions and the spirit of the person is the last to join the party. Somewhere in there is where the method is a safe place to trust the techniques you’ve learned in school to get you there.

What was your most challenging role as an actor? How did you own it and make it work?

My most challenging role as an actor I have yet to play. Some of the roles I’ve auditioned for represent a big challenge for me, but not the most challenging. I’ve always had an ease with the human condition. I love getting to know people and I love to test those skills on a broader, deeper scale.

I find challenges in each portrayal. I believe playing Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman on an Equity Stage in Montclair, New Jersey was one of my most beloved challenges. The theater company decided to cast younger and to age me to play older Linda. My co-star Frankie Faison, who is a brilliant actor who had worked with me on the Wire, had approached me to do this.

I really enjoyed Tennessee Williams and it was an all-black cast and something I had never done before. I loved the detail of portraying a black family going through the same trials as a Caucasian family at the time. Great playwrights and great writing could do that for you. Leveling out humanity and making it a universal truth for all human beings. So I guess the best answer to your question is, Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman.

If there’s one thing that you would like to accomplish, outside of acting, what might it be?

The missing kids of America are something that’s been on my heart for a long time. Somehow contributing to a systemic abolition of the way that children are abused and go missing around the world, would be one of my dreams. How? That’s a secret that God has yet to fulfill, but he keeps revealing to me how. Kids. Kids are my dream. The leaders of the future have to stop getting kidnapped, or trafficked, or hurt.

You devote a considerable amount of time to helping victims of sex trafficking. On a personal note, you’ve endured sexual assault and took time to deal with it and heal. You have a connection to The Way Out (a non-profit organization devoted to helping victims of sex trafficking, founded in 2013) and recently hosted a fundraiser for La Sortie aka The Way Out. Was the fundraiser successful?

It was a success (The Way Out). We were able to raise enough funds to not only open a home, but to see it through for at least a year. Each year we host these fundraisers to secure the funds for the housing to be able to function for that entire year, to see a group of 20-40 girls not only rescued but healed, and healed from the effects of these events.

I know it takes longer, but this starts them on a journey to be a viable presence in their own life. I believe that now we will see triple in the next year and I hope to be involved in opening a lot more homes.

I am specific with who I secure my name with. And in this, I knew Gerry Plunkett who secured me in how they would see this through. And I want to continue to work with organizations that want to see these missing kids come back to a wholesome life.

What can you tell us about common misconceptions about sex trafficking?

Now, more than ever, it seems that nearly everyone either knows someone or has personal experience with sexual abuse. I think one of the common misconceptions is that you didn’t see anything. That you didn’t know the person that might have been involved. They talk about a child being taken, but someone must often know their behavioral patterns. So very often you’ve seen something.

If you watch children’s behavioral patterns online or physically as they go about their day or route, you will be able to recognize what the traffickers are using to take these children. It’s quite often that they are being watched. Another misconception is that they’re not missing they just ran away and I believe that’s what the traffickers want us to believe.

And I think lastly, it’s a misconception that girls or boys want to stay in it because somehow, they think they are prostituting themselves because they want to make money. Meanwhile, the way the trafficker has organized the system is with fear and how a traumatized mind could be taught to do a lot of different things. These are the three things that I’d say to look out for. And also, don’t get involved just because there’s a traumatic event.

As you said, at this point we know someone who’s been a victim or has been abused and there are multiple resources available in our community in our society and a way of life that we could initiate a support system if anything ever happens or support an organization by making sure they don’t run out of funds.

So, I encourage reaching out to our senators and to our congressman that they may stay involved in the abolishment of sex trafficking because it’s evidently just an evil spirit here to wipe out our next generation and that’s a lie! That’s just an evil lie.

"Nothing will stop me from being hands-on and involved and I think the victims that are being rescued and helped back to life are the loudest voices of focus for me." Photo courtesy of Parrish Lewis/NBC
Do you have any ideas as to how we can stop sexual abuse and sex trafficking altogether? Many more people have had the courage to come forward and confront their assailants. Do you see this as an indication that, finally, we are seeing positive change?

You know that famous slogan, “See something, say something” I think that applies to most situations when we’re seeing evil things going on. Nothing will stop me from being hands-on and involved and I think the victims that are being rescued and helped back to life are the loudest voices of focus for me. In regard to the abolition of it, you just keep on plowing the field against the thing. And when you plow against a thing eventually the snake will peak its head and you could cut that off too.

I’m a person of faith that firmly believes that there’s a God in heaven that’s watching over this dark stuff and if everyone just applies faith in love we will see a fruitful result. I don’t have an opinion about what people are doing, I just know that I have a responsibility and I pray that those who acknowledge their responsibility can be there to lock arms with me and we could do the work.

That’s the most important thing because as people are standing there pointing fingers, there is still a kid who’s getting raped right now and that’s my main focus.

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Stephen Doyle

"Steve Doyle, originally from Philadelphia, holds a B.A. Professional Writing from Penn State University. He's a blogger, short-story writer and has created several hundred marketing content pieces for clients such as: JC Ehrlich, Ambius, Henckels & McCoy, DDC Group, Burns Logistics Solutions, Inc., etc. Steve is an award-winning, highly skilled communicator who loves to help get others' stories told in as an engaging manner as possible."

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