Bridgerton star Ruby Barker has spoken out against Netflix and Shondaland, the Shonda Rhimes-helmed production company behind the show, for failing to support her after she suffered two “psychotic breaks.”
Barker—who played Marina, a woman rejected by Regency-era London society because of a scandalous pregnancy—spoke about her experience during an interview on Oxford University’s LOAF Podcast over the weekend. The actress shared that her first psychotic break happened after Season 1 of Bridgerton wrapped in 2019, and the second happened in 2022. She said she received “no support” from Netflix during that time.
“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 if I would benefit from any sort of aftercare or support,” Barker, 26, said. “Nobody.”
In May of 2022, Barker shared in an Instagram post that she had been “really unwell for a really long time” and that she had been “struggling since Bridgerton.”
“I am in hospital at the minute and I am going to be discharged soon and hopefully get to continue with my life,” Barker told her followers at the time. “I was raged-filled, angry, all this intergenerational trauma bundled up inside me. I was carrying the weight of the world on my back and now I am at the point where I have a diagnosis.”
In that Instagram post, Barker also thanked Netflix for “saving her” by giving her the role on Bridgerton. On the LOAF podcast, though, Barker said that she was distressed by her sudden ascent to fame caused by the hit show, which made promotional obligations difficult: “It’s almost like I had this metaphorical invisible gun to my head to sell this show because this show is bubbly and fun.”
The work itself was a challenge too, Barker said, explaining that the turmoil and isolation that her character, Marina, suffered through took a drastic toll on her mental health.
“During filming, I was deteriorating,” she said. “It was a really tormenting place for me to be because my character was very alienated, very ostracized, on her own under these horrible circumstances.”
On Bridgerton, Barker’s character, a small-town newcomer into high society, is shamed by her wealthy cousins for her pregnancy, the result of a clandestine love affair. Marina is urged to marry quickly to conceal the secret, and in the ensuing tragic conflict, ends up getting outed in the show’s central gossip column. She attempts to have an abortion, which fails, before agreeing to marry her now-dead lover’s brother out of a sense of loveless duty.
“When I went into hospital a week after shooting Bridgerton Season 1, it was really covered up and kept on the down-low because the show was going to be coming out,” Barker said on the podcast of her first psychotic break.
She continued: “In the run-up to the show coming out, I was just coming out from hospital, my Instagram following was going up, I had all these engagements to do...my life was changing drastically overnight and yet there was still no support and there still hasn’t been any support all that time. So I was trying really, really hard to act like it was OK and that I could work and that it wasn’t a problem.”
The Daily Beast has reached out to Netflix and Shondaland for comment.