By Nadine Matthews, Special to the AFRO

The youngest of three girls, actress Paula Newsome has always described her upbringing as “Like the Huxtables.” She admits that it has gotten much harder to characterize her family and childhood years in that way. “Now, that’s kind of a hard thing to bring up. What a bummer,” she tells the AFRO. “I feel a little bit robbed because I really did grow up like a Huxtable and now how do I explain that reference without feeling a twinge of unease?”

Still, the actress who now stars in the hit HBO comedy drama “Barry” can’t help but burst with enthusiasm when she recalls her childhood. “We were salt of the earth people and it was normal but it was also fabulous. One of my fondest memories is of my father going out and buying all of us Huffy bikes. He came back and I was like, ‘Let me at the Huffy. I don’t care nothin’ about nothing else right now!’ I loved my Huffy bike with the streamers.”

Paula Newsome is one of the stars of HBO’s ‘Barry.’

In “Barry” the main character is a hit man who goes to Los Angeles for a job an ends up falling in love with acting and becoming a part of that community. Newsome plays Janice Moss, who works as a detective. There have been plenty of African-American cops and detectives on television but Newsome shares that Janice has been fleshed out in a way that those roles usually aren’t.

“What I love about Janice is that as an African-American actress it’s very easy to get relegated to roles that are basically one dimensional that are more servicing the best friend or the boss. What is beautiful about this role is that she is a full-fledged, three-dimensional person. She is fierce, she’s funny, and she’s fragile. It’s so beautiful to be playing a woman who has the same challenges as me and other women do.”

Janice is also finally, after a lifetime of putting work first and romance way down on the list, allowing herself to fall in love. TV comedy icon Henry Winkler (“Happy Days”) plays the potential love interest for Janice. “My love interest is an icon!” She jokes, “It’s hard to wrap your mind around it.” She reports that the TV legend has been a dream to work with. “He’s a very kind man and just very generous. Early on, he wanted to make sure that during our work together that nobody felt uncomfortable because we sometimes have to be a bit intimate. It’s just so cool.”

Like the main character Barry Berkman, Newsome is a transplant to Los Angeles from the Midwest. “I’m originally from Chicago and I was in New York six years before I went to LA. I didn’t know that Chicagoans were so normal until I got to Los Angeles. People in Los Angeles are their own little beast. We don’t look one another in the eye as much and connecting with people is a little more challenging. I don’t know if it’s the car culture or the Hollywood culture or maybe a little bit of both. It took a while to find my tribe.”

What kept her going when she moved to LA was the work. Newsom has worked with the likes of Halle Berry, Octavia Spencer, and Viola Davis. “I have been really fortunate in that I’ve been able to work a lot. In New York it was more of a struggle. At that time there was not as much film and television production. In LA I could make a decent living as an actress and LA is also great for my health. I eat healthier and work out more here I don’t think it would have been possible in New York. The quality of life here is different.”

Newsome is also multi-lingual. “My brain is kind of wired for sound. I’m an auditory learner and I fell in love with French. I studied it for about two years and I’m fluent in it.” Her recent jaunt through Europe inspired her to learn yet another language. She says, “I traveled through Europe for about three months last year.”

Wanting to buy gloves for her sister and mother from one of the fashion capitals of the world, she also stopped in Florence, Italy. She unexpectedly fell in love with the Italian culture and people. “It is a culture that loves beautiful food, beautiful women, beautiful architecture, beautiful art, beautiful wine, and they have a passion for it.” Inspired, she says, “I decided I’m gonna learn some Italian.” She is now fluent in Italian.” The key to learning, for Newsome, is taking classes. “I had to go into a class once a week. It’s like rewiring your brain.”