Anya Taylor-Joy on Playing Barack Obama’s College Girlfriend in Barry
For the past eight years, Barack and Michelle Obama have arguably been the most lovable First Couple this country has ever seen. They sing along to Usher. They impersonate each other. And more than that, they seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company—even in the world’s most glaring spotlight.
The Obamas seem so perfectly matched, it would be almost impossible to imagine a time when they weren’t a power couple, right?
Well, Netflix is about to try. Today the streaming giant released Barry, a biopic about the POTUS and his life BM (before Michelle). The film is set in 1981 when Obama was starting his junior year at Columbia University. And it gives us a look at what he was like as a young college student figuring out his future, while living in a racially charged and crime-filled New York City.
The movie also gives us an idea of who he dated before meeting Michelle at a Chicago law firm in 1989 (for more on that meet cute, check out Southside With You). So what was Obama’s college girlfriend like? Probably pretty similar to Charlotte, played in the film by 20-year-old actress Anya Taylor-Joy.
“Charlotte is the amalgamation of three of Obama’s actual college girlfriends,” Taylor-Joy told InStyle when we sat down with her at the Toronto International Film Festival. “We looked back at the way he lived his life and the people who he surrounded himself with and it helped us create this character.”
Taylor-Joy said that Charlotte was a grounding force for Obama during a time in his life when he was really trying to find himself. “She is a New Yorker—she knows who she is and where she stands in the world,” said Taylor-Joy. “And that is really attractive to Barry because he is more of a poet and a dreamer. They’re very different people, but they challenge each others ideologies with an incredible amount of kindness and love."
Even though their young love doesn’t last in the end, the relationship was a part of this pivotal moment in the future president’s life. “The film is obviously about Obama, but it’s still a very universal story about feeling lost and looking for your place in the world,” Taylor-Joy said. “It’s interesting to see what he was like at this point of his life because he is the President, but at the end of the day, he’s also a man.”
Barry is streaming on Netflix now.
Check out the trailer above.