STEELE INTERVIEWS: Rose Byrne


Many people know Rose Byrne for her role as Ellen Parsons on Damages for which is nominated for an Emmy award. She currently appears in the heartwarming, quirky film Adam as schoolteacher and children’s book author Beth, a calming influence and love interest for Adam [Hugh Dancy], an engineer with Asperger’s. Beth pulls Adam out of the window (as Jenny McCarthy refers to in her book Louder than Words) but throughout the entire film the pair must decide whether or not the relationship can realistically survive. Adam’s father has recently died and Beth soon becomes his sole support system, something which she ultimately finds too overwhelming. She has a close relationship with her own father (Peter Gallagher) who faces legal issues and Beth must choose between Daddy and her new boyfriend. Dancy creates more than a caricature and does a commendable job as Adam. However debut director (writer) Max Mayer does not push quite far enough in the script and film. The characters could be developed more. Adam is quite intriguing at the beginning and then his quirks and ticks get annoying and he uses his Asperger’s as an excuse at times. The film started to grow too drawn out at times. While Adam strives to prove that those with Asperger’s can function in society with empathy and tolerance, the film left me with more doubts than answers.

Recently, Rose Byrne stopped by the Ritz Carlton in Boston to talk about Adam. Byrne started acting in Australia professionally at 13 and began taking acting classes at eight-years-old. How does she master that American accent? “Growing up watching Alex P. Keaton and Family Ties,” she admitted.


You just came back from India. Did you do any yoga over there?

Byrne: No. I didn’t do any yoga. I desperately tried to find a place to do yoga. You have to be more organized and I wasn’t which was a shame. No, I was just sort of traveling around the country which is incredible if any of you have gone or plan to go. Do go if you get the opportunity. No I wasn’t planning on working. I had just finished working on this show called Damages [as if we hadn’t heard of it or seen it—fan here!] and then the script came and my agents were very encouraging for me to read it and I did and it was really good. This is really a clever, beautiful, moving, heartfelt script with a character that I’ve never been approached to play before. She wasn’t chasing zombies or in a spaceship or running from the end of the world or crying in a tent desperately before she gets attacked. She was a liberated, wonderful, complex woman and she also didn’t take her clothes off in the first five pages. It was really rare to come across something like this. She was a gift, I suppose.

When you take something from the written role to the performance, what did you bring to the role?

Byrne: It’s hard for me to be objective about what I myself bring to something but I guess I was definitely given such a gift with her. It was fun to go to a character who was so different in so many different ways. She has a tolerance about her and patience about her which I loved and of course the comedy in it was really fun. That was something that I’ve been wanting to try to do is something lighter and funnier.

What did Hugh bring to the film that surprised you?

Byrne: It’s a remarkable performance. Knowing someone with Asperger’s, he does a beautiful job. It’s very accurate, sensitive to it and yet compelling. Which is a hard thing to do, because we’re making a film, and you want it to be entertaining and all that stuff. And yet he makes you care about someone who’s kind of difficult to access. He does a really good job of that.

Is it hard being on TV and finding good film roles?

Byrne: Well, just schedule-wise because the show takes up 5-6 months of the year. The role I have on Damages is so good and better than most of the film roles out there that I would be getting access to that for me that it was a bit of a no-brainer for me to sign on once I had got the role. And working with Glenn obviously and it’s a very prestigious show. And I myself for one love series. I watch Mad Men. I think TV right now is having a renaissance especially for women.

What do you like best about this film?

Byrne: For a viewer, I guess I thought it was a very truthful story. I think truth is stranger than fiction. It put a fresh take on a romantic comedy as well which is a genre we’ve seen done so much. It always falls into nostalgic, sanctimonious, cheesy crap and it’s completely unrealistic. I thought this was a refreshing and realistic take on it without being boring. It’s a very accessible film.

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