In Conversation With Hollywood Star Rose Byrne On Her Upcoming Show, Physical
The Australian actress tells us all about the strong female lead she plays in the series
We’ve all seen her play the role of Helen, the rich, successful best friend to Lillian in Bridesmaids and later, as the super funny wife in Neighbors, sharing screen space with Seth Rogen and Zac Efron. Yup, we’re talking about Australian actress Rose Byrne. Although she has established herself in comedy roles, she has also proven her versatility in Hollywood hits such as X-Men: First Class, X Men: Apocalypse, Spy, Insidious, Troy, Peter Rabbit, to name a few. Known for her small-screen roles in shows like Damages and Mrs. America, Rose is now all set to star in her latest Apple TV+ series, Physical, which releases on June 18.
Set in the 1980s, the dark comedy features Rose playing the female lead, Sheila Rubin, a quietly tortured but seemingly dutiful housewife supporting her controversial husband’s bid for state assembly. However, behind closed doors, she’s also battling a complex set of personal demons relating to her self-image until she finds release through an unusual source: aerobics. When she discovers a way to merge her newfound passion with the flourishing technology of videotape to start a revolutionary business, that’s when she begins her road to success. From a stifled, overlooked enabler to a powerful, confident economic force, Sheila transforms into a female lifestyle guru, something that was completely radical back then.
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Ahead of the series, ELLE caught up with Rose Byrne to know all about her experience playing the empowering character and more.
ELLE: What were your thoughts on the show when you first got the script?
Rose Byrne (RB): I thought the first episode was so arresting. I had not seen a character like this before being told in such a way, and honestly, I didn’t know how this would unfold and was intrigued to know more about this woman’s story. She was an unconventional, anti-hero.
ELLE: What was the inspiration behind Shelia Rubin’s character?
RB: It’s a deeply personal story for Annie Weisman, the writer, creator and show-runner of Physical. She was inspired a lot by her own mother and female entrepreneurs of that time like Jenny Craig and Kathy Smith, and the kind of space women found within the fitness world to create businesses and become innovators in their own way. It’s common now to have that platform obviously with social media, but back in the 1980s, it was groundbreaking for women to become economically independent and start their own businesses.
ELLE: The show is all about aerobics. Is dancing something that comes naturally to you?
RB: It was not something that came naturally to me. I am not a dancer, nor am I coordinated (she laughs), much to my shame and disbelief. So I trained quite early on. We had a wonderful choreographer, Jennifer Hamilton, and she and I did Zoom classes few times a week. When Sheila starts out, she’s not good at it and then evolves into an inspiring teacher. So it’s an evolution, and that was fun to play around with.
ELLE: Coming to the show’s styling, we see lots of leotards with matching headbands since it’s set in the ’80s. What else will we see, and what did you like the most of the styling?
RB: People made their own leotards back then. It was not necessarily easy to buy, and the fabrics like lycra were all very new, so they would source the fabrics and make their own leotards, so even our costume design is specific to that. Our costume designer Cameron Lenox stitched everything to make it fit properly, and that’s what gives it an authentic feel to the show.
ELLE: Have you ever visited India and watched any movies from Indian cinema?
RB: I have travelled through India, and I loved it. This was over 10 years ago, and I visited Mumbai and Rajasthan. I went to the cinema there and saw a movie. I don’t remember the name, but it was fantastic! There were so many people at the cinema, and it was so interactive. All of it was in Hindi, and people behind me were helping me translate it, and there was so much enthusiasm for the cinema. I wish people would flock to Australian movies like that. I was like, ‘why can’t we get people in Australia’ to line up like that? I loved it and will never forget the experience.
ELLE: What else is keeping you busy right now?
RB: I just produced a movie in Australia. It’s called A Long Labour Of Love, which I’ve been developing along with my best friend through our production company, Seriously Red. It’s about a Dolly Parton impersonator who is striving to be taken seriously in her own life, and it is hilarious and tragic as well. We just finished that, and I do have a small supporting role in it.
Photographs: Apple TV+