Cody’s Hannah Barefoot Credits Budding Hollywood Career To Wyoming Work Ethic

Very few hopefuls can make a living acting in Hollywood, and Cody native Hannah Barefoot is one of them. From guest spots on “NCIS” and “The Chosen,” to starring in Lifetime TV movies, she credits her Wyoming work ethic for helping her break through.

Wendy Corr

May 15, 202313 min read

Hannah Barefoot has wanted to act and perform as long as she can remember. She grew up in Cody, and was back recently trying on hats at the Irma Hotel.
Hannah Barefoot has wanted to act and perform as long as she can remember. She grew up in Cody, and was back recently trying on hats at the Irma Hotel. (Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily)

As a girl growing up in Cody, Hannah Kellerby was in every music and theater production possible. Moving on to the University of Wyoming, she elevated her game and studied her craft, but life choices took her elsewhere, away from her lifelong yearning to perform on a stage.

But that dream never left – and now the once-hopeful performer has carved out a name for herself among the elite few in Hollywood as a working actor and filmmaker with a long list of credits, and more projects lined up for the future. 

Chasing The Dream

Born and raised in Cody by her parents Joe and Anita Kellerby, Hannah was close with her two older sisters, Lisa and Sarah. She sang in the choir and was in community theater productions, eventually choosing to continue her education at UW as a theater major.

“I always wanted to be an actor,” Barefoot told Cowboy State Daily. “And I think that started because my dad and mom were both so involved in it.”

But college life took its toll, and Barefoot said that during her junior year at the University of Wyoming, she nearly had a mental breakdown.

“I didn't have a good footing for myself,” she said. “I didn't have a good spiritual life or good emotional health. Nothing was working for me, really, except I was in plays left and right all the time. I was so busy. I just felt like I had a mental breakdown a little bit, and I just ultimately quit acting.”

Hannah Red Carpet 5 13 23
(Photo Courtesy Hannah Barefoot)


It was at this low point that she met the man who would become her husband, a young worship pastor named Andy Barefoot. 

“I quit school and got married, and my husband got a job in Portland as a worship pastor,” said Hannah. “He's an amazing musician. And I went back to school at Portland State for drawing and painting.”

But the yearning to perform onstage never really went away, and there were near-daily reminders of a life she had chosen to give up.

“I couldn't watch plays,” she said. “I could barely watch movies without the pain inside and the thought that, ‘I could be that.’”

Her advancing age (although she was still in her 20s), along with marriage and then motherhood, made Barefoot believe that perhaps that ship had sailed.

“I was like, ‘Well, I'll just never do that again,’” she said. “But it hurt so bad. It was like I went through a divorce.”

Making Her Way Back

While attending the University of Wyoming, Barefoot said she realized that she had no mentors, no one to model a life that might include marriage and family, and a career as an actor. She said this contributed to her withdrawal from acting.

“Growing up in Wyoming, you don't really know many actors,” said Barefoot. “And my professors either weren't married or they were divorced or things like that. So I was just like, I don't know if I can do this.”

But when her son, Keller, turned 2 years old, Barefoot said she had an epiphany.

“When my son was born, when he turned 2, I just realized I have to do this,” she said. “I'm raising this child. I want him to be everything that's inside of him. And here I am not doing the one thing that I think I'm really good at, and that I really love.”

So Barefoot started taking acting classes in Portland, auditioning for and winning spots in nonunion commercials and  films, eventually finding work in union films.

“I got my Screen Actors Guild (SAG) card after working on a couple of commercials and my first union TV show, which was ‘Grimm’ on NBC,” she said. “That was in 2012.”

Then came the dilemma — once an actor has been accepted into the SAG union, she’s not allowed to work on nonunion projects. So the young couple had a decision to make.

“There wasn't enough union work in Portland, so I said to my husband, ‘We’ve got to move to Los Angeles, honey,’ and he didn’t want to,” said Barefoot. “But ultimately, God made this happen. I really believe this. Andy was the one who was like, ‘We need to move to L.A.’ So we moved to L.A. on my birthday in 2015.” 

  • Cody native Hannah Barefoot has carved out a successful acting career in Hollywood.
    Cody native Hannah Barefoot has carved out a successful acting career in Hollywood. (Photo Courtesy Hannah Barefoot)
  • Hannah Barefoot grew up in Cody, then left to pursue her passion for action. Now she wants to produce a project in her hometown.
    Hannah Barefoot grew up in Cody, then left to pursue her passion for action. Now she wants to produce a project in her hometown. (Photo Courtesy Hannah Barefoot)

‘You’re Never Too Good To Flip Burgers’

Once in Los Angeles, Barefoot hit the streets, auditioning for every project she could.

“You audition way more than you act in a job,” she said. “Odds are you'll audition for, like, 100 things before you book one. So you have to learn to love auditioning, because otherwise you'll never act.”

While getting her foot in the door, Barefoot said she and her husband did odd jobs to make ends meet.

“There was a season when my husband wasn't working as much either. He had a different job at the time, and so we both were driving Ubers,” she said. “I've hosted at restaurants. I’ve done a lot of things. Because there's great actors who are also working at Trader Joe's or something like that.

“And my dad, I remember him telling me, ‘You're never too good to flip burgers.’”

But when she landed a recurring role in Amazon’s “Good Girls Revolt” in 2016, Barefoot said she figured she could give up the side hustles. 

“It was my first long-term job, and I quit everything that year,” she said. “And then that didn't get renewed, so I didn't I didn't work for a while. And all of a sudden it was like, ‘Oh, I need to get all those things back again.’”

Gaining Momentum

It didn’t take her long to get regular roles.

Beginning in 2016, Barefoot began racking up television roles in shows like “CSI:Cyber,” ‘The Young and the Restless,” “NCIS,” “Dirty John,” “Criminal Minds” and “Lucifer.”

In 2017, she had the starring role in a Lifetime suspense movie titled “Off the Rails” (which also featured a song written and performed by Hannah and Andy called “To See You Smile”), followed in 2018 by a starring role in another thriller, “Blood, Sweat and Lies.”

“But I started getting tired of having credits on my resume that started with the word ‘deadly,’” Barefoot said. “And I don't want to denigrate any of my past work, because they're making movies in Hollywood, which is very hard, and I respect the heck out of that.

“But for me, I was starting to feel like I was playing the same character over and over again.”

In 2018, Barefoot was offered the starring role in a TV movie called “A Country Christmas Album.” She and Andy took the opportunity to collaborate and bring their own music to the show, co-writing a song titled “Geronimo” that was featured in the movie.

Taking Control

By this time, Barefoot was beginning to branch out more into other aspects of filmmaking.

In 2017, she wrote and produced a short film titled “Incendio” that stretched her range and showed off more of her skills.

“(Incendio) was the first thing I ever wrote,” she said. “And I wrote that because I was tired of playing the girl next door. It’s an action comedy that's really bloody and funny.”

Barefoot said the short film screened at 17 film festivals internationally, which thrilled her, but also gave her a tool with which she could audition for more varied roles. 

“Having that footage of me being able to fight was what got me into playing villains,” she said. “Because in Hollywood, it's very interesting. People will only cast you as what they can already see you as, so you have to show people that you can do something else, and it worked.” 

In fact, Barefoot said she prefers playing villains rather than “damsels in distress.”

“They're usually the better role,” Barefoot said. “They're usually way more fun, and there’s just more to do.”

Working Actor = Uncertain Future

Last year was very busy, said Barefoot.

“Last year, I did a commercial, I did a movie and I did two TV series,” she said. “One was a recurring role, where I did a bunch of different episodes, which hasn't come out yet – it’s on AppleTV, and it will come out, I believe in July. It's going to be called ‘Me,’ and it's going to be really good.

“And then I did another show called ‘The Chosen,’ which is a really great show. And I'll actually be returning to that in June. And then I did a play, too.”

But this year has been totally different, she said.

“I've done one job so far, and I'm going back to ‘The Chosen’ next month,” said Barefoot. “And then, honestly, I don't know what the future holds, because it's always up and down. And also, everyone's striking right now.” 

The ongoing writer’s strike, along with other related union negotiations, may impact the amount of work she is offered in coming months. But she’s counting her blessings, because not every actor working in Los Angeles has as many projects lined up as she does.

“I had a really good year last year, so I do have money in savings,” she said. “And I'm thankful that I already qualified for my health insurance, because only 3% of actors (have enough work to) actually qualify for health insurance.”

  • Hannah Barefoot outside the Irma Hotel in Cody.
    Hannah Barefoot outside the Irma Hotel in Cody. (Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Hannah Barefoot and her sisters and mom, not in order, Sarah, Anita and Lisa.
    Hannah Barefoot and her sisters and mom, not in order, Sarah, Anita and Lisa. (Photo Courtesy Hannah Barefoot)
  • Hannah Barefoot says she's passionate about building Wyoming's filmmaking industry.
    Hannah Barefoot says she's passionate about building Wyoming's filmmaking industry. (Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily)

Balancing Wyoming Values With L.A. Culture

When the Barefoots moved to the big city of Los Angeles, where marriages can begin and end in days rather than years, the couple faced a new set of struggles.

“We almost didn't make it,” said Hannah. “I mean, there was a whole stretch where we really struggled. But we really fought for it, and I'm so thankful that we stuck it out, because now I think we have a different marriage than we used to. It's like Marriage 2.0. He really knows me now and I really know him. And I don't take that for granted at all.”

Raising their son in the big city has its pros and cons, said Barefoot.

“It's cool because he has a lot of opportunities,” she said. “He's a great baseball player, and he's exposed to great baseball opportunities there. We love the Dodgers, so we go see the Dodgers as often as we can.”

Barefoot said she feels fortunate to have been raised in Cody, where life is less complicated, and wonders from time to time what it might have been like to raise their son here. But Barefoot said she genuinely loves Los Angeles and the community of people they associate with.

“There's mountains, there's the ocean, there's great artistic things that come through the city – plays, music, whatever,” she said.

And Barefoot said the family is very grounded in their Christian faith. Husband Andy is a worship pastor at Westlake Village, just outside of L.A.

“He’s an excellent musician, and is doing very well there,” she said.

But Hollywood values sometimes intrude into her carefully balanced lifestyle. For instance, because of her unique last name (which, contrary to how it may appear, is actually a Scottish/English surname), Barefoot was pressured by a would-be agent to pass herself off as Native American. She said, no way.

“That is so wrong,” she said. “White people have taken enough things from Native people, they shouldn't also take their jobs. Especially when there's actually a push for Native representation in Hollywood right now, which is wonderful and good.”

Bringing Hollywood To Cody

The writer’s strike has put a damper on work opportunities at the moment, but the delay isn’t slowing Barefoot down. She’s actually in her hometown this week, scouting locations and funding partnerships for a project she’d like to film at the end of this year.

“I've written the script, which is a modern day Western romance with music, and it's set on a ranch just outside of Cody,” Barefoot said. “And I have decided I'm going to shoot it at the end of this year, for several reasons. One, the script is set here. But two, I thought that it would be cool to write something that would draw people to Cody in the wintertime, to help bolster the economy.”

A dearth of film incentives in Wyoming, though, puts several hurdles in the way.

“A lot of the people that I talked to in Hollywood love the idea, they love the script, but when anybody hears about a movie set in Wyoming, they immediately think, ‘Oh, beautiful. We'll shoot it in Canada, or we'll shoot it in Montana,’” said Barefoot. “And I'm just so opposed to that, and that's probably why I'm shooting it independently.”

But Barefoot is determined to secure the funding and partnerships she needs to fulfill her vision.

“I want to honor Wyoming, I want to showcase Wyoming,” she said. “I want to do something that will actually funnel money into the city. And I want to add to the beauty of it.

Cody's Hannah Barefoot and her husband, Andy.
Cody's Hannah Barefoot and her husband, Andy. (Photo Courtesy Hannah Barefoot)

Staying Grounded

Barefoot said she has close relationships with her family – one of her older sisters, Sarah, and her husband are directors of a missionary organization in Vermont; her other sister, Lisa, is the institutional research manager at Northwest College in Powell. Her father, Joe, passed away suddenly 11 years ago, but she comes home often to visit her mom, Anita, and spend time with sister Lisa’s family.

But Barefoot said she wouldn’t trade her life for anything.

“I love Hollywood,” she said. “I love the industry. There's a lot of ugliness to it, but there's a lot of ugliness to a lot of industries. And there's a lot of beauty to it – there's a lot of wonderful people who are so incredibly talented and so dedicated and so generous with their time. I'm just kind of just in love with the whole thing, honestly.”

While Barefoot said she’d love to be working nonstop, not reaching high levels of stardom has its advantages.

“I'm really thankful to be where I'm at, because I can walk around unnoticed,” she said. “But I'm really thankful for the career I do have. And I'm not going anywhere, either.”

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Wendy Corr

Broadcast Media Director