Barbie Ferreira’s Unpregnant Character Doesn’t Exactly Fit In, But Neither Does She

Photo: Courtesy of HBO Max.
This story contains mild spoilers for Unpregnant, now available for streaming on HBO Max.

Although Barbie Ferreira is only two years into the acting game (her first credited gig was in Sarah Jessica-Parker and Thomas Haden Church's HBO dramedy Divorce in 2018), the model-turned-actress is already making the artistic decision to purposely seek out roles that allow her to portray the personalities that aren't as common in mainstream media. Having watched her fair share of movies and TV in her 23 years, Ferreira very much leans towards playing characters that are...different, to say the least.

"I definitely gravitate towards things that are unique and bring something new to the table," she told Refinery29 via Zoom. "I get bored of overdone stories and things that don't take any risk."
That's probably why Unpregnant immediately grabbed her attention. In the new HBO Max original film (adapted from the Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan young adult novel of the same name), two high schoolers find themselves embarking on an unforgettable journey across multiple states for what should be a basic civil right: an abortion. Ferreira stars in the project as Bailey Butler, a misfit who not-so-reluctantly comes to the aid of her former friend Veronica Clarke (Five Feeet Apart's Haley Lu Richardson) after discovering that Miss Goody Two-Shoes has gotten pregnant. Determined to get to an abortion clinic states away, the estranged besties hit the wide open road, learning important lessons about themselves and each other along the way.
True to her word, Ferreira taps into a special place to bring her Unpregnant character to life onscreen. Bailey isn't your typical teen lead. Prickly and somewhat socially awkward, she doesn't fit in with her classmates. Part of her doesn't care — being popular is overrated for the most part — but much of Bailey's chaotic energy is the result of feeling abandoned by the people she loves most. Still working through the trauma of her parents' divorce, Bailey also finds herself on the outs with her childhood best friend Veronica, replaced by a trio of shallow girls who prefer social media gossip to Star Wars. So she rides solo, mostly by choice, but also because she kind of has to.
Ferreira can relate to that particular teenage angst, candidly sharing that she feels a deep affection for the Baileys of the world; the star knows exactly what it's like to be looking in from the outside because she too was an outsider growing up.
"I relate to outsiders and tend to think that they're the coolest characters, so I definitely have a bias," she laughed. "If I'm doing a teen movie or teen show, I like to play characters that remind me of when I was a teenager because I can see where they're coming from."
"Because she's on the outside looking in, Bailey is someone who sees the truth and serves as a voice of reason amidst the chaos," Ferreira continued. "She's the perfect mashup of everything I've ever gone through in high school. She's really relatable — I really empathize with her. When I was her age, I was definitely a little bit unhinged."
The character isn't completely dissimilar to the personality that ushered Ferreira to Hollywood, bookworm turned baddie Katherine "Kat" Hernandez in HBO's drug-laced and sex-laden drama Euphoria. She notes that her character in the Emmy-nominated series is also an outsider, watching her friends and classmates enjoy their high school days while she watches from the sidelines. Bailey and Kat may have starkly different auras — Bailey was born in-your-face while Kat's powerful vibe is the result of a strategic effort to stand out from the crowd — but their struggle is the same. Both girls are simply trying to figure out where they fit in in a world that hasn't necessarily made space for them.
Relaying Bailey's discomfort with her social standing for Unpregnant in an authentic but not heavy handed way was key for Ferreira. She wanted it to be obvious that the character was purposely trying to stand out of the crowd, but also hint that her often puzzling personal choices were also the result of not being able to fit in with her classmates. So the actress meticulously mapped out Bailey's entire chaotic energy, from her choppy green locks to her gas station-chic looks to her social skills (or lack thereof).
"I thought it was really important to bring a modern take on what we think an outsider looks like for this role," she said. "There has to be reason why people are like, 'ugh, we don't want to talk to Bailey or sit next to her.' It's partly because of how she looks and how she acts."
"Bailey also blurts out a lot of things that can be inappropriate or poorly time," explained Ferreira. "She's chaotic, but a lot of it is a mix of being young and having some baggage because of personal trauma, so she often masks the heavy things she was going through with humor or deflection. I really wanted to portray out that awkwardness and insecurity that one has when they're a teenager."
What the actress hopes audiences young and old will gather from Unpregnant — in addition to walking away with a better grasp of the necessity of access to reproductive healthcare — is a sense of kinship with Bailey and Veronica. Being a teenager isn't easy, but we know what it's like. And we survived.
"I just hope that people come out of Unpregnant feeling good," she concluded. "I want them to feel empathetic towards these girls and really root for them. Because we've all been there."
Unpregnant is now available for streaming on HBO Max.

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