Celeste Barber's new show Wellmania tells a story we rarely see on screen.

When it comes to Netflix's new series Wellmania, Celeste Barber's Liv really shouldn't be the main character.

At least, that's what the storytelling of the past would have us believe – when the loud, funny, unmarried, and child-free friend was always relegated to sidekick status. There for a laugh (and sometimes an embarrassed groan) but rarely ever the woman who ascends to main character level, complete with a fleshed-out storyline. 

The new eight-part series, inspired by the book Wellmania: Misadventures in the Search for Wellness by author and journalist Brigid Delaney, and co-created with Benjamin Law, takes this stereotype and flips it on its head. 

As Wellmania kicks off, the character of Liv really does have all the calling cards of a classic disastrous rom-com best friend. 

We first meet her in the throes of an awkward one-night stand, she's knocked back more than a couple of drinks, and later on she barrels into her best friend's birthday drinks before crashing through a glass table and bringing the festivities to a dramatic halt. 

But alongside the welcome big comedy moments in Wellmania lies a deeper story about health, identity and adult friendship.

Which is exactly the story comedian and actor Celeste Barber – who has also amassed a monstrous following of 9.5 million thanks to her hilarious, headline-making photos – wanted to tell. 

When Wellmania kicks off Australian food writer Liv, who is based in New York, has just discovered that she's in with a chance to score a once-in-a-lifetime job that will catapult her into American mainstream fame.


But then her trip to Australia, for the previously mentioned disastrous birthday drinks, sees her trapped in her home country and banned from re-entering the States unless she fixes her health, fast. 

What comes next is Liv throwing herself into an extreme 'wellness' journey where she'll try anything, even the most bizarre, Goop-like trends, in a bid to return to her old life.

Celeste Barber in Wellmania. Image: Netflix

"It was really important for us to make sure that Liv was a firecracker," Celeste told Mamamia when speaking about how she brought Liv to life on screen. "She's been treating her body like an amusement park for way too long and now she has to reassess. 


"It was also important to look at the wellness industry from a curious point of view," she continued. "Liv is a celebrated journalist, and she's been successfully living in New York for 15 years. But she also loves to lean into the taboo. 

"So we're able to look into that world further than just going 'wellness means I get up and do yoga'."

In Wellmania we see Liv try everything from cupping to colonics, but in her preparation for the role, Celeste didn't dive into any offbeat wellness trends.

"I couldn't really do cupping this time because of filming," Celeste said. "But I've had cupping done before and I honestly didn't know it was so full on (in the series Liv's back bleeds from the cups). So it was weird watching what really happens there.

"But I did have a colonic about 1000 years ago, because I had to," she continued. "In my life now I drink water and I go for a walk but so many of these (wellness trends) are a full-time job. 

"In the wellness world when you pick what you're going to do, you then have to fully immerse yourself in it for the benefits. That's what I learned from the show. It becomes your life."

Along with Liv's various wellness ventures, Wellmania also dives into a story many women, who are single and child-free in their thirties and forties, know all too well. 

The need to put on a comedy show when meeting people whose lives look different to theirs. To instantly and publicly make themselves the butt of the joke before anyone else can. To lean into the wild, glamorous side of their lives so no one feels pity for them.


"There always needed to be a reason why Liv behaved like this," Celeste said of why these moments were highlighted in the series. "We had to dive into all the nuances that make women different. 

"So when it comes to her telling these stories and making herself the joke, why does she feel the need to say that? To always describe herself by saying 'Oh, I'm just the life of the party?'

"It's that thing where women who don't have children feel they have to justify that all the time," she continued. "That was a story we wanted to explore. What is her role if she's not a mother or a wife? 

"She is having to kind of speak on why she is like this and look into the deeper meaning behind it."

In Wellmania actress JJ Fong plays Amy Kwan, Liv's longtime best friend whose birthday is the catalyst for her making the disastrous trip back to Australia. 

Their complex relationship is very much the backbone of the series and a direct result of the creative team talking through the complexities of adult friendships behind the scenes. 

"This was something we all talked about in the writer's room early on," Celeste said. "We all individually told stories of what it's like to really have adult friendships.

"So many women in the room said things like 'I have a friendship that started at uni. It's been 25 years and I'm not sure if we would be friends if we met now. But I cannot imagine my life without them.'


"I thought that was really interesting, the idea that in adult friendships it is history that gives us connection. We might not have that much in common, but you are part of my DNA. 

"We really wanted to put that into the show, that idea of saying 'I can't live without you, but I don't really remember why we're friends. I didn't realise that we're quite polarizing to each other.

"Those complicated relationships are my favourite thing in the world."

 JJ Fong and Celeste Barber in Wellmania. Image: Netflix. 


The series, which was filmed in Australia and co-stars Genevieve Mooy, Lachlan Buchanan, Remy Hii, Alexander Hodge, Simone Kessell, Virginie Laverdure and Johnny Carr, also led to a few interesting encounters with fans.

"I did all my own stunts, I would just like that noted," Celeste tells us. "My husband watched the series and then said to me 'were there any stunts in it?' I was like, 'dude, there are massive stunts and I did them'.

"There's a scene in Bondi where we are running and it was the same day that Sydney was hit with one of the most hectic storms I had ever seen," she continued. "As we watched it roll in I just remember everyone yelling 'run!'.

"Then as the storm came in people were coming up to me and saying 'can I get a photo?' And I was like, 'no because we're going to die in this storm...'" she laughed. 

"Sydney is my favourite city in the whole wide world and I love shooting on location. But sometimes in those moments, you think 'I wish we had a studio'."

Wellmania is a hilarious, sometimes sobering, new series that is well worth your time.

Wellmania will be released on Netflix on March 29.

Laura Brodnik is Mamamia's Head of Entertainment and host of The Spill podcast. You can follow her on Instagram here.

Feature image: Netflix

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