GET WELL SOON
“Actor. Comedian. Writer. Lady.” That is the bio on Celeste Barber’s Instagram account where over nine million fans savor the posts of the Australian funnywoman. Her growing following laud her wit and relatability in her social media parodies of celebrity poses and outfits, her stand-up act that she’s taken around the world, and her performance as stay-at-home mom Barb in The Letdown.
Now the actor, comedian, writer, and lady is leading a new series, Wellmania. Inspired by the eponymous book by journalist and author Brigid Delaney, who serves as co-creator and writer of the comedy series, Wellmania finds Barber playing Liv Healy, an Australian food critic living, working, and partying in New York with a less-than-healthy lifestyle. Liv is about to get the biggest break of her career — a spot as a judge on a food TV show — when she travels home to Australia for her best friend’s birthday party. During the visit, she loses her green card and learns she’ll first have to pass a health exam before getting it replaced. Desperate to get back to New York in time for her big moment, Liv sets out to try just about every wellness fad there is to get in shape in record time.
The character speaks to the same audience that Barber draws in through her social media persona — women who embrace the loud, messy parts of themselves just as much as the healthy, put-together parts. “Liv is an excellent, loud, unhinged, flawed, chaotic, exciting woman. There are so many Liv Healys in the world, and I want to show how beautiful and endearing that quality is and how important it is to have loud, exciting women around,” says Barber. “Her story is about growth, understanding, and self-realization, but it’s also about a woman who’s 40-ish and still doing stupid shit at an age when, supposedly, women are expected to have it all together. She’s flawed but she’s also fulfilled in her life and excited by challenges and just constantly moving forward. It’s so important to see those stories about women, and I hope there are many more stories like that to be told!”
The journey Liv takes through Wellmania goes deeper than juice cleanses and gurus. She discovers that mental health and well-being are just as important as physical wellness. “As we know from our own lives, a romance isn’t going to make everything better, just as a wellness treatment is not going to make everything better,” says Delaney. “But what is going to make things better is if you have good relationships with everyone around you, you have a strong sense of community, you live up to your values, you have friends who can help you make it through hard times and who you can help through their hard times. I think that’s the universal experience we wanted to tell.”
Barber was so drawn to the story that she came on board the project not just as the star, but also as an executive producer. Barber knew one thing was needed to ensure Liv’s story was told well: women. “It’s just so important to have females at the front,” she says. “The story of Liv Healy is a female story, so it’s important to have the female touch on all levels of production, not just heads of department, but all throughout production. I needed to have as many women as possible on set, in the writer’s room, in post. We have to have women telling women’s stories.”
Barber leads an incredible cast and crew of women on Wellmania to make it one of the smartest and most poignant comedies around. For all of the women who relate to Barber, they will find plenty to relate to in Liv. The show is confident, hilarious, and unapologetic, just like its protagonist and its star. As much as it pokes at the absurdity of the wellness craze, it also reminds us what health really means, one mistake at a time.