This story is part of , our podcast featuring interviews with actors, artists, celebrities and creative types about their work, career and current obsessions.
Barry Watson has starred in a lot of popular TV shows, playing oldest son Matt Camden in the family drama 7th Heaven back in the mid-1990s, as well as notable characters in ABC sitcoms What About Brian and Samantha Who?
But in The CW’s action adventure series Naomi, created by Ava DuVernay and Jill Blankenship and based on the comic books of the same name, he’s helping reshape what superhero shows are all about. Watson is an adoptive dad to Naomi McDuffie, a 17-year-old Black teen who loves comic books and SuperMan. We find out right away she isn’t from our planet — about the same time she finds out. If that’s not an unusual enough coming-of-age story for you, consider the added twist: Watson is also a military man who’s been assigned by his bosses to help the US track down aliens from outer space.
“If you still believe that only chisel-chinned men can save the day, she’s about to open your eyes to other possibilities,” The New York Times writes in its review of the series, which premiered in January. “With a Black teen lead, played by the actress Kaci Walfall, and two female creators, Ava DuVernay and the writer and producer Jill Blankenship, the show stands out as a departure from the comic book world’s predominately white and male-centered standard.”
Watson sees Naomi as a role model for young girls, including his own 9-year-old daughter. “Naomi is not somebody who’s afraid to try things or take risks,” Watson said in an interview for CNET’s I’m So Obsessed podcast series.
“When I first read the pilot, I was like, ‘Oh, she’s like Ferris Bueller. Everybody loves Naomi,” he adds. “And she’s good at everything. But she’s good at everything because she’s willing to try.”
I spoke with Watson about the series’ twists and turns (spoiler free!) and how the entertainment industry has changed since he started working as a 16-year-old actor in 1990. For someone who’s spent a lot of time working in TV series, Watson also admitted he’s not into binge-watching them. Instead, he sets out with his iPhone and built-in GPS on long walks, including around Atlanta, where Naomi is filmed.
“Whenever I have time off I walk, and I don’t walk to any particular place, I just walk to try to discover something new. I realized I know more about Atlanta than most people that are from Atlanta, just by walking from point A to point Z and seeing all the letters in between,” he says. “Instead of binge-watching, I’ve just been trying to just discover more things and just kind of fuel myself that way.”
When I ask him to fact-check some of the things I’ve found out about him on the internet, including that he has a secret formula for loading the dishwasher, he laughs.
“It’s just the way my mind works. I’m like, ‘Well, this part of the dishwasher is meant for this, this and this. And this part of the dishwasher is meant for this, this and this. So instead of just throwing the things in there, I kind of have them in order where I feel like they’re spatially more efficient, where you can load more in there.”
He tells me that living at home through the pandemic with his wife and kids has convinced him to let go of his dishwasher-loading obsession. But when I ask him what piece of tech he’d like invented just for him, he serves up another laugh.
“I would probably have a robot that would probably help me load the dishwasher the way I liked it to be loaded.” That robot would probably leave him more time to spend on his current obsession: playing board games with his kids, notably Jeopardy.
Listen in to my interview with Watson in the podcast player at the top of this article. Or you can subscribe to I’m So Obsessed and catch up with us on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Patrick Holland or I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about work, career and current obsessions.
I’m So Obsessed was created by our executive producer, Danielle Ramirez. Our editor and lead producer is Sophia Fox-Sowell, and this episode was produced by Rebecca Fleenor.