Jessica Barden stars as Sister Carla in the TV adaptation of Australian author Marele Day's novel Lambs of God.
Jessica Barden stars as Sister Carla in the TV adaptation of Australian author Marele Day's novel Lambs of God. Mark Rogers

What playing a nun taught me: actor's social media message

JESSICA Barden straddled two different centuries while she was in Australia working on Lambs of God.

The British actor stars opposite Miss Fisher favourite Essie Davis and The Handmaid's Tale's Ann Dowd in the four-part Gothic mini-series about three nuns living on a remote island forgotten by the Catholic Church and the wider world.

"Sister Carla is really pure and kind-hearted - a very sweet nun - and then I would be going to Bondi and having drinks with my friends," Barden says. "We had lots of jokes like 'Oh Sister Carla having a whisky at Bondi again'."

Barden, Davis and Dowd went through a 'nun crash course' to portray the Sisters of St Agnes, who grow their own food, make their own clothes and live completely off the grid.

Ann Dowd, Jessica Barden and Essie Davis in a scene from Lambs of God.
Ann Dowd, Jessica Barden and Essie Davis in a scene from Lambs of God. Mark Rogers

But their idyllic, quiet lives are disturbed when they are visited by a young priest (Father Ignatius, played by Sam Reid), who wants to turn their crumbling home into a resort for the wealthy.

"We got to learn how to knit, we tried spinning and making the wool from beginning to end, which was great for the atmosphere that Jeff (Walker, the director) and Sarah (Lambert, the writer) created for us," she says. "It was perfect for me, Essie, Ann and Sam to spend all that time with each other."

The 26-year-old was intrigued by the idea of portraying a young woman who had never met a man and was completely naive to the ways of the modern world.

"You have this young woman who has never been influenced by a male's expectation or gaze in any way. It felt important for me in this world of social media, where it's so important to look or dress a certain way and to have amazing hair, to show a relationship where a woman isn't thinking anything like that and isn't bothered by what Ignatius thinks about her in this modern way," she says.

Jessica Barden, Essie Davis, Ann Dowd and Sam Reid in a scene from Lambs of God.
Jessica Barden, Essie Davis, Ann Dowd and Sam Reid in a scene from Lambs of God. Mark Rogers

"I hope viewers feel really proud to be a girl or a woman, which is how I felt when I was making this. It is a very different way of showing all the complications and all the amazing things about being a woman and of course a nun is the purest version of that really. There's so much expectation from the world on a woman Carla's age, but I just hope people realise it doesn't really matter. I hope they realise they can have as much fun as Carla has and can just focus on being your own person like her. She's never really insecure at any point because she was raised to be independent and self-sufficient."

The visually stunning series, filmed by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Don McAlpine in his first foray into TV, also stars Kate Mulvany, Sigrid Thornton, Damon Herriman and Daniel Henshall.

Lambs of God premieres on Sunday at 8.30pm on Fox Showcase.



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