When I ran into Carol Barbee (’81) at Simply Yummy during Homecoming weekend, she mentioned a new project she had cooking with Kiefer Sutherland and Fox TV.
Sutherland’s name causes several Demon Deacons I know to lean in closer for the scoop because of their shameless addiction to “24.” Mea culpa. But as The New York Times noted Sunday, Sutherland’s new character is “a long way from Jack Bauer, the tough terrorism fighter” in the post-9/11 series that ended in 2010.
His new show is “Touch,” airing at 9 p.m. ET on Jan. 25, and Barbee as executive producer is one of the creatives behind it.
She majored in theatre at Wake Forest and has long been a highly regarded writer and executive producer in Los Angeles.
Sutherland plays Martin Bohm, father of a son who has a disability and is mute but eventually begins communicating with his father in numbers patterns that can be deciphered to show connections across the past, present and future. Tim Kring, Barbee’s former boss when they worked together on the television show “Providence,” is the show’s creator. He based the drama on a combination of scientific theory and spiritual concepts, Barbee told me in a telephone conversation this week.
“It’s about how everyone and everything is connected,” she said. “I think it’s very zeitgeisty. I really do. It’s a smart show, but it’s also a sweet show. It’s a heart-on-your-sleeve show.” She says the story with Martin and his son will be the constant, but throughout there will be “little short stories” that take place around the world that demonstrate how the small things in life have great stakes. “It lifts up everyday, ordinary people, and says, ‘You matter.’” It’s also about the butterfly effect, she said. “You have no idea the number of lives” someone affects.
Barbee’s career followed naturally from her time as a theatre major from Concord, N.C., influenced by professors Harold C. Tedford, Donald H. Wolfe and Caroline Fullerton. “They were such a huge part of my life,” Barbee said, “and they’ve stayed in my life since, too.” She credits Fullerton with pointing her toward graduate school, a future she had never considered before Fullerton asked her point blank where she planned to apply and suggested options. Barbee received her MFA in acting at UCLA, a school that ranked among Fullerton’s recommendations.
“I think a liberal arts education and a true university experience expands your mind, expands your horizons. It’s where you find yourself. That’s how it was for me,” she said. “There’s an old Neil Young song that says, ‘All my changes were there.’ And that’s how I feel about Wake Forest. I went from being a kid to a thinking person who sort of figured out who she was a little bit and who had the opportunity to study with amazing minds.”
She said she honors others in her industry who choose to find their path into acting and film outside of college. “For me college was the way. And for me Wake Forest was just a perfect experience.”
In timely piece of advice for young people, this mother of two boys says, “I’m a big fan of whatever it is you’re interested in and whatever it is you love — go do that and don’t worry about how you’re going to get a job out of it, because from my experience — and what I’ve seen of a lot of my friends — when you really love something and really pursue it, it will lead you to a life you love.” Her father still jokes with her, she said, about his not having liked the idea of her being a theatre major. Her brother and sister were more practical. “My dad always laughed and said, ‘I don’t get it! It’s my theatre major who’s making money.’”
Look for Barbee in March during Words Awake! — a writers’ conference celebrating Wake Forest writers and writing. She will be on a panel discussing screenwriting. Read more here about the conference.