Average Joe’s Kathrine Barnes on ‘Genre-Defying’ Series & Her Assassin Character

BET Plus has a hit on its hands, and it comes in the form of Average Joe.

The intriguing dramedy has drummed up plenty of buzz, and Average Joe Season 1 is only just getting started.

One of the series’ greatest strengths lies with its cast, which includes the captivating Kathrine Barnes, whose Russian assassin Arina will play a larger role as the series continues through its thrilling first effort.

Barnes was kind enough to jump on a Zoom and tell me about her character, the series at large, and many other topics.

The versatile actress was incredibly sincere with a great perspective about the series. Check this one out, TV Fanatics!

Kathrine Barnes Photo #2 - Average Joe

I got to check out the first couple of episodes, and I enjoyed it.


I didn’t know what to expect from the trailer. I was like, “It seems like it’s going to be really intense.” And it was. So from your perspective, can you tell us a little bit about Average Joe and your character?

Definitely. So, Average Joe is genre-defying, set in Pittsburgh, and it’s about Joe Washington, a plumber, and his wife and daughter. And we meet them at a time when Joe has just lost his father, and he finds out that his father has been stealing millions of dollars from the Russian mob.

I am the Russian mob following in after Pasha Lychnikoff, Nicolai, who is the actual crime boss of the show. And it’s basically about the decisions Joe, his family, and his closest friends make in the wake of that revelation.

It’s a very intense show. What attracted you to the role?

Deon Cole, Russian assassin. There wasn’t a lot to say no to, and the character description was really enticing. It was the most information I’d ever seen in a character breakdown before, and really thoughtful stuff with consequences in these paragraphs about this woman.

I was just like, “Oh my gosh, there is a full-fledged human being here. Let’s see what we can do with it.” Yeah, there’s so many spoilers I’m trying to avoid. Let’s leave it there.

I was talking about shows I would be covering this summer with someone, and I was talking about Average Joe, and they were like, “How would you describe it?” And I was like, “You know what? I don’t know because it’s a crime drama, and it’s really, really funny.” I was laughing out loud at certain parts.

Me too.

Kathrine Barnes Photo #3 - Average Joe

So, asking you, how would you describe the series to somebody if they asked you that?

I’m going to steal one of the regulars Cynthia McWilliams has been saying to people, which is that it’s black Ozark, but with some really necessary comedic moments, action, crime, dramedy, and family. You’re absolutely right. It’s kind of difficult to nail down.

Exactly. I was like, “I don’t really know.” I just know that I was covering my eyes at one point and then laughing the next.

I know. I know. And it’s so funny because, a lot of times, comedic moments in dramas can be used in a way that lets the audience off the hook. And I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. The poles of intensity and lightness are so stark that you can’t get let off the hook.

And so it makes those poles more necessary as opposed to a break. You know what I mean?

Kathrine Barnes Headshot  - Average Joe

Sometimes in comedy, really serious stuff takes away from that moment, but it doesn’t here at all. No.

Loyalty and honor are prominent themes of the season. Can you tell me how that kind of funnels in and relates to your character specifically?

Oh yeah, that’s such a good question. Arina is the most skilled assassin living in this world that the show takes place in, but she’s been out of the game for a long time because of some trauma and also because she doesn’t think of it as a game. It was her life, and she has a code that she lives by now.

It’s not like she enjoys killing. It’s not her life’s work. So I think her honor comes into play insofar as she does what she has to do, and she’s not relishing in it. She doesn’t want to kill people necessarily. She’s just excellent at it and will do it if she has to.

Loyalty is, again, another spoiler-filled, tricky concept, but she was Nicolai’s right-hand man for years. They’re war buddies. They are like family. The loyalty is without question. Even if that wasn’t their dynamic, it would have to be because that’s what he demands of everybody working for him and in his life.

In Arina’s journey, her loyalty has been betrayed. And so I think it calls into question her relationship with Nicolai, the role loyalty plays in her life, how much weight she used to put into it, and whether or not that’s still relevant to her during the story.

So vague.

It’s okay. It’s okay!

You mentioned the cast before, and that was something that drew you in along with the role itself. What was it like acting alongside everyone? Do you have any interesting stories from the filming process or anything like that?

I have so much. I spent most of my time with Pasha, who is a juggernaut. He’s an insane man. I love him as a human. I love him as a performer. It was wonderful to watch him take up space, get what he needed for his character, and then just play. He’s such a playful, impulsive performer, and it was really inspiring to watch.

Cast of Average Joe

It helped me feel a lot freer to just take up space with my character and try to make her as three-dimensional as possible because that’s what he’s doing over there, and you’ve got to keep up.

And then it wasn’t until some of the later episodes that I really started to get into work with the other series regulars, and it was magnificent. It was everything you could dream it. They’re all so funny, even when they’re doing just the most dramatic stuff you’ve ever seen.

So the encouragement to improvise and the camaraderie between takes made every moment a delight. Zero complaints. All praise.

Oh, awesome. And I’m always interested with actors. You guys take on so many different roles, and with each role, I imagine, you tap into different parts of yourselves. Is there anything specific that you learned about yourself while filming this series?

Yeah, yeah, definitely. Most of my jobs up to this point on-screen, not onstage, have been one day, two days, tiny roles. And there is kind of, self-imposed or not, or community imposed or not, this pressure to show up, nail it, leave. There’s not a lot of time to play necessarily, and there’s not a lot of time to live with your character.

Kathrine Barnes Attends The

And so when I got onto the Average Joe set, I started realizing that I was carrying some of that pressure with me to nail it right away because I wasn’t coming back. Except for this job, I was coming back.

And so it made me realize how much scarcity mentality I was bringing into the work and then try to take a step back and be like, “Okay, who cares if you mess up the scene? You’ve got a dozen more you got to do in the next week. You’ll handle it then. It’s not completely on you to take the weight of the world on to make this whole thing work.”

Yeah. It was nice to recognize the scarcity in myself, and then it was nice to discover that I could adapt to a different way of being that was much more conducive to doing good work.

That’s nice. I’m glad.

This might be hard because I’m going to give you one word. You have to describe Average Joe in one word.

Give me a minute.

I know it’s hard. Or you can give me three.

No, no, no. I’ve done this. I’ve answered this question in three before. And what’s happening right now is, do I pick one of them or do a different one?


Stepping away from Average Joe just a little bit. Reading through your bio, you have acted in various roles, like you were saying, onstage and on-screen as well. If you could craft the perfect role for yourself, what would that look like?

Kathrine Barnes Attends The BET Awards - Average Joe

Oh, God. I’m probably going to be more useful describing what I feel the process might be like, honestly, because there is no role I don’t want to give a shot to. But it would be something where I have the script for a long time. I have a lot of time to do homework. I love homework. I love doing the work and a lot of prep time.

It would ideally be something where I get to work with just rock stars and use a variety of skills.

I’m describing Average Joe, except for the amount of time I had to prepare for it, where I’m using a variety of skills that are both creative and cerebral and physical and working with an insane director that is weird and unsettling and maybe sort of plays with structure in a way that audiences aren’t necessarily used to, something maybe a little polarizing.

Let’s start there. I’m not sure what the character would be yet, but I think that’s the project.

Okay. Sounds interesting.

Kathrine Barnes Headshot #2 - Average Joe

Yeah, I wonder what that’s going to be.

What TV shows are you currently enjoying, and what are some of your all-time favorite comfort shows? You’re having a bad day, and you just got to sit down and watch your favorite show.

Yeah. How much time do you have? So I have not been able to watch the Succession finale because I am afraid to let it go. Same with Ted Lasso, but I am only one episode behind on both. I’m obsessed with those shows. I think Succession is one of the most important artifacts we have.

I’m watching Yellowjackets. I can’t get enough.

Oh my God. I’m catching up on Abbott Elementary. I am going to start Winning Time like yesterday because my brother is going to be in season two, which is so exciting, and I need to be a good sibling. But also, I hear the show’s incredible. I pretty much spend all my time watching TV and movies, so I could do this forever.

Kathrine Barnes Headshot #3 - Average Joe

And comfort shows. Oh, God. Arrested Development, I’ve probably seen 50 times all the way through. Parks and Rec, 30 Rock. It’s mostly comedies that I go back to for a comfort show. The Office UK and US versions. Peep Show. This isn’t TV, but I’ve been really into watching the Monterey Bay Aquarium Live Otter Feed.


I know!

That’s cute.

That’s probably enough for you.

Kathrine Barnes Headshot #4 - Average Joe

Yeah, no, that’s really cute. And comedies are always the best. Even something you’ve seen a hundred times. You know every joke, but it’s still amazing.

A hundred percent. And the smart ones too. All the ones that I mentioned, you’re just going to keep finding, even just a flick of a wrist, you never noticed before, and you’re like, “Ha.”

***This interview has been edited for length and clarity.***

You can watch Average Joe on BET+ Mondays. And follow our reviews here at TV Fanatic.

Whitney Evans is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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