By Emily Butler
Photos Contributed

Abigail Barlow

Musician & Musical Writer

Not long after the period drama Bridgerton released on Netflix last winter, it became a musical—not on Broadway but by going viral on TikTok. In true social media form, the duo behind it, Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, involved their audience every step to create tunes that were singable, hummable, trendy, and somehow familiar with elements of pop, classical and jazz. Next up Barlow & Bear have a Bridgerton concept album coming out by the end of this summer—a project that Mountain Brook native Abigail says has given them the foot in the door they’d always dreamed of.



What inspired you to initially make Bridgerton the Musical videos?

I have been posting my original pop music to TikTok since I was a teenager, so this was nothing new! I had begun writing a separate musical with my partner Emily Bear, which was the first time I’d ever attempted writing for musical theatre. When quarantine got tough, both of us were very uninspired and frustrated with our solo projects. We were ready for a change. The minute I finished watching Bridgerton, my head was BUZZING with inspiration. I flew to my piano and wrote the first song in 15 minutes. When I decided to post it to TikTok as a simple songwriting challenge for myself, I had absolutely no idea that one post would change my life, but I’m so grateful it did.

What do you think made the Bridgerton videos take off?

Honestly, I have no clue. With COVID completely shifting the reality we once knew, I think everyone turned to the internet for some sort of escape. When we started exploring this story that already had a following, people LOVED that they were getting more content out of a show they adored! And that’s how we felt writing it too. This project started as fun, and I think that genuine love for the music we were making made our audience love it too.

How have your fans fueled your work, if at all?

Our fans have been so involved from the very beginning. When we started this project, Emily and I decided to livestream every writing session on Instagram. Not many people know what goes into creating a musical, and so many of our fans would be with us, day in, day out, trying to help us craft and explore this storyline that we all love in a new way that could work on the stage.

How has social media, especially TikTok, been influential on the course of your career?

TikTok and its community has allowed me a path I never in my wildest dreams believed I could take. It opened my mind to a completely new way to tell stories. I’ve only ever written for myself, so when I get to step into a character’s shoes and write someone else’s story it frees me. I guess you never know what you can do until you jump off the ledge try!

What media attention stands out the most that you have gotten?

Having the entire Broadway community embrace Emily and me the way they have has been the craziest experience. Seeing Broadway stars I’ve met as a fan at stage doors singing songs that I wrote? Crazy. I will fangirl about it forever.

What do you dream of doing artistically?

I want to do it all! I think creating in any and every facet I want to has become the dream. I love to act, so I’m constantly auditioning and taping for TV and film. I love writing pop songs, so I’m releasing music independently. I love composing and creating worlds, so I want to join the likes of Pasek and Paul and Lin Manuel in bringing musicals back to TV and film. I think the problem is that I’m so passionate about every form of art, so my dreams change depending on the day.

What are some of your early memories tied to music and the arts growing up in Birmingham/Mountain Brook?

I’m so grateful that my parents supported my passion and gave me the opportunity to pursue it. When we moved to Birmingham, I danced competitively with Birmingham Dance Theatre for many years, and I found my love of musical theatre through Red Mountain Theatre Company. RMTC’s conservatory program was my LIFE from seventh grade to senior year. It gave me some of my most important mentors, taught me how to be a working professional in the entertainment business, and blessed me with a community of kids just like me that felt like family. Honestly, if it weren’t for their program, I don’t think I would’ve ever found myself in the line of work I’m in today.

Who are your biggest fans?

I think my sisters are my biggest fans. I’m so blessed to have three built-in best friends that don’t support me because they have to, but because they believe in me. My sisters are my rock, and they have been right beside me through every chapter of this journey. My family is the entire reason I have been able to pursue my dreams as a career. Having a strong foundation is key in an industry like entertainment. I know they will always be honest with me, even if they know I won’t like it sometimes. Being surrounded by that kind of support and love is the thing I’m most grateful for in life.

What music/musicals do you like to listen to?

I love any and all musical theatre, so it’s very hard to pick my favorites. I love Next to Normal, Hadestown, Heathers, In the Heights, Legally Blonde, Dogfight, Bring It On… I told you I can’t choose favorites!

What’s something people might not know about you?

I can sing and talk with my mouth closed! It’s the freakiest party trick and I love to scare my friends with it.

What’s next for you?

Bridgerton has led to so many exciting opportunities as a songwriting duo, and although we can’t give details now, be on the lookout for us! Bridgerton will not be the last you see of Barlow and Bear.

Follow Abigail at @abigailbarloww on Instagram and abigailbarlowww on TikTok.

Kate Edmonds

Actress 

If you or your kids graduated from Mountain Brook High School any time around 2018, you might have seen a familiar face on Lifetime this summer. Kate Edmonds played a teenager who was kidnapped in A Party Gone Wrong, and as Quinn in Secrets on Sorority Row she got entangled in mysterious events tied to secrets around the tragic death of her mom’s college sorority sister. And that’s not all. Her newest film, Third Saturday in October, is scheduled to release in early 2022, and in 2017 she shot her first network television role on Homicide Hunter and in 2017 her first feature length film, Root Letter. We caught up with her when she was home in Mountain Brook teaching acting classes to kids to talk more about her roles.

What in the realm of acting are you most proud of?

My gut says A Party Gone Wrong, which is one of my Lifetime movies that just came out. It is about my character and her best friend who go to a party, and they end up in an Uber that takes her to this warehouse and is trying to sell her organs to this trafficker. It’s crazy and seems so surreal, but it’s actually based on real events. My character was not a good character, a little involved with the trafficker. Even though I’m playing a bad character, I’m part of telling the story. This stuff really happens, and women of color are more likely to go missing. 68,000 women of color go missing every year, and more than half are never even reported. The roles where I actually get to tell a real story and spread awareness are really special to me.

What’s your favorite part of being on set?

I literally love every part of being on set. Everything I’ve shot has been out of town, so I’ve been staying in hotels with all the cast and crew. It feels like a high school field trip. You get to be with all your best friends, just having the best time. I get to play the parts and tell the stories, and it is so surreal that I get to do it for my job. It is really hard work since our days are about 12 hours long, and then we get 12 hours off. I love going through hair and makeup, the terrible craft food services they feed, the wardrobe, and getting to act with everybody. Everybody has such a specific job—wardrobe, camera, etc.

Does everybody on the cast form a friendship during the filming?

It sounds so cheesy, but it’s your film family. You’re all working against time and against the amount of money you’re being given. You really all have to work together even when sometimes you hate your family and don’t want to be around them.

What are some of your early memories tied to the arts growing up in Birmingham/Mountain Brook?

I grew up doing Red Mountain Theatre company. My sister grew up doing musical theatre, so my earliest memories are her auditioning for musicals. My mom encouraged me to do the same. The first show I was in was The Wizard of Oz at Red Mountain. I played the littlest munchkin and I had no lines. It changed me forever. I also did Virginia Samford Theatre. I was in theatre my sophomore and junior year of high school.

Who are your biggest fans?

Definitely Meg Duesner, my acting coach who has read for me for almost all my callbacks. Also of course, my parents. I have friends in this business whose parents maybe aren’t as supportive or they just act like it’s a hobby. But my parents have always believed in me and supported me.

What are some of your favorite movies and TV shows?

I actually recently watched a show called The Wilds, and I’m so hooked on it right now. I would love to be in a show like that. Also, I love the show Freaks and Geeks. It is iconic and has a great cast. From childhood, I have also loved Freaky Friday with Lindsay Lohan. I could probably recite every word.

Speaking of Lindsay Lohan, what actors/actresses do you find inspiring?

I love Amy Poehler—she is hilarious and I’ve read her book. She is a strong woman in comedy. She produces and she acts, she has a family and she does it all. She talks about how looks aren’t everything. I really like that about her. Also Anya Taylor Joy—she is so versatile. She’s kind of a chameleon and is a different person in everything she acts in.

Are those traits that you would like to carry over in your work?

Yes, the idea of being a chameleon and only relying on myself and my skills to do my job. Also the ability to tell stories and experience lives that are very different from my own.

If you could work with anyone in the film industry, who would they be?

My goal right now is to work with more female filmmakers. I feel like in the industry I work with a lot of male producers, directors, etc., and they are great. But I know there are great women filmmakers out there, and I would love to be a part of their work.

How have you grown as an actress since you first started?

When you are first acting, you are like, “I’m going to say these words,” and as you learn and grow, it becomes, “How can I make these words real for me? Who is this character in my life, and who am I talking to in my life?” The work actually means something to me. I make the character my own and become the character.

What’s something people might not know about you?

I’m really into fashion outside of acting, I’m into weird colorful clothes, and I love to style my friends. I recently got into personal shopping and challenged myself to style 10 to 15 of my friends. Even in high school I was making my own jewelry, and I always had weird shoes, purses and earrings. I’ve always been pushing the boundaries for fashion.

Emily Ferguson

Actress

Emily Ferguson might have been studying fashion design at Belmont University the past four years, but that didn’t stop this 2017 MBHS graduate from exploring other creative endeavors too. She played Jennifer Mann in the 2019 film After Class alongside Justin Long of Die Hard and The Set-Up Fame, and she’s filmed other projects in Alabama that are coming out soon. Here’s what she had to say about those experiences, her aspirations and her roots.

What was your experience like on set?

It was so surreal, every aspect of it I was blown away by. I was trying really hard to keep my cool and seem like I had done this before. Also just getting to be in New York was so much fun. My favorite part was getting to see how the other actors work. All of my scenes were with Justin Long, and he is so talented and every take he would do it differently and improv a little. It was so amazing to be able to watch him do that. I was sitting there taking mental notes watching his craft.

Can you tell me about a memory that stands out the most from filming?

I had a big monologue scene that was covering a pretty heavy topic, and I remember a little before the scene, the director pulled me aside. He explained what he envisioned for the character, because the character was actually based on a real person that he knew in his life, and so he was telling me about that and how the character was inspired. But he also gave me a lot of leeway as an artist to put my own spin on it and bring myself into the character. I remember that being so helpful in creating the character for me and giving her depth. I was so impressed that he took the time to do that and how he cared so much about the project.

What do you think prepared you the most for those moments?

I have been taking acting classes since I think when I was 15 at Acting Out Academy with Meg Duesner, and I learned everything from her. All of that came so in handy in my audition and on set of how to analyze a script to gain character clues and create more of a well-rounded person so that it is not just a two-dimensional character but a human being.

Did you have a specific moment where you knew you wanted to act?

There were two movies that made me want to be an actor. The first movie was Thunderbirds, with Vanessea Hudgens. I was 6 or 7, and I remember watching her and thinking, “That’s what I want to do.” At the time, I didn’t really have a concept of what an actor was but I knew that is what I wanted to do. The second movie was J.J Abrams’ Super Eight. With that movie I was able to understand what an actor was. I wanted to be a part of a story like that.

If you could work with any actor/actress, director or writers, who would they be?

There are so many! Definitely Emma Stone and Elle Fanning, but I might be really star-struck. I also really want to work with Taika Waititi. I’ve been a fan of his since Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and he’s such a clever storyteller and so incredibly funny. I would love to be a part of anything he makes.

Who has been most encouraging throughout your acting journey?

Definitely my parents. I could not be more grateful to them.

What inspires you creatively?

With acting, with each role I try to draw inspiration from different people or situations that connect to or reflect the character of the storyline. Fashion wise, my grandmother is probably my biggest inspiration. Her closet was full of different colors, textures, prints and sequins. When I was growing up, one of my favorite things to do was go over to her house and try on all her clothes and jewelry. 

How have you grown as an actress since you first started?

The biggest place I’ve grown is in my confidence, my ability to let go of my nerves and my worries of what others are going to think of me and my performance.

What’s something people might not know about you?

When I first meet people, I’m kind of shy, and as an actor you would think I would be really outgoing and out there. I think that is one of the reasons why I gravitate towards acting because I get to express myself and step into someone else’s shoes. I’m telling a story, so I don’t have to worry what they think about me.