A murderous, paranoid Scottish king, witches and war: Who could want for more in this Shakespearean tale? | Images courtesy Apple

Charleston’s Lucas Barker began his acting career around the age of 5, even before he could read. Instead, he had to memorize entire scripts by trading lines with his mother until he was sufficiently prepared to deliver them for auditions. 

Barker | provided

Now 15, he’s not (yet) a household name, but you may recognize his youthful face from appearances on the small screen. His TV credits include: Ratched, Dave, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Mentalist, Justified, Criminal Minds, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and more. 

That’s an impressive resume for a Wando High student. But Barker’s CV is about to get more interesting as he makes his feature film debut next month opposite Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand in Joel Coen’s new movie, The Tragedy of Macbeth

Not at all intimidated about the prospect of re-interpreting a Shakespeare classic, Barker said that he saw this opportunity as, not only a big break, but an incredible chance to further hone his craft under the mentorship of several true masters. “This was one of the best things to ever happen to me.” 

That said, it was still a little daunting once Barker actually showed up for work.

“I was extremely nervous when I walked in for my first table read with all these incredibly talented and very well-known people, but I quickly realized that they are all very nice and easy to be around,” he told the City Paper.

To execute his part properly, Barker had to hunker down with dialect coaches. He also had to become proficient at horseback riding, a task for which he prepared by taking after-school classes here in the Lowcountry. 

There were, however, unexpected stops and starts to the filmmaking process given the strange events that were then unfolding on the world stage. “Because of COVID, we were forced to take a break from filming last year,” Barker said. “There was a lot of uncertainty when we left but we finally got called back to finish the job this summer.” 

Once action resumed, Barker took full advantage of his time on set playing the role of Fleance to watch and learn from the other high-caliber cast members. But Barker said he particularly relished the one-on-one time he received from Joel Coen, who was actually working solo for the first time, rather than collaborating with his brother and longtime partner in crime, Ethan Coen. “He was so amazing and so hands-on as a director. I vividly remember him laying down in the dirt with me for one scene, making sure I knew just what to do.” 

Beyond those close encounters with Hollywood legends, Barker recalled how the set itself was unlike anything he had ever seen. Supposedly in an effort to keep the production untethered from reality, it was decided that there would be no outside shoots. So, every second of the movie was created inside a studio lot. “We were told at the time that we were actually working on the largest soundstage in the world,” Barker marveled. 

As is often the case with participating actors of any given project, Barker said that he has not seen the final cut and that he will be as surprised as everyone else when it arrives in theaters on Christmas Day. He did convey that what little he has seen of the footage has been impressive enough. “For one thing, it was deliberately shot in black and white tones, giving it a distinctive look and feel that sets it apart from most other contemporary works.” 

While remaining humble about his own contributions, Barker is predicting that Coen’s minor masterpiece will be well-received by the general public and by folks within the industry. He also anticipates that Coen, Washington and McDormand will likely be nominated for numerous accolades for bringing The Tragedy of Macbeth to life come awards season. 

As for himself, Barker is already looking forward to whatever comes next, although he is hesitant to say precisely what that might be. He is, after all, a Charleston County high school student currently enrolled in honors and AP courses. And that’s quite a load to carry in and of itself.

“I’ve been reading and auditioning for further film roles but I have also become interested in robotics, coding, and building computers for people in my neighborhood. So, we’ll see.”