It was the primary day of June, and Rose Byrne, the Australian actress, had a voluminous houndstooth scarf wrapped round her neck. “It’s not New York winter, but it’s actually quite cold here,” she mentioned, talking over Zoom. “I had to go to Uniqlo and buy a big puffer.” (In her mellifluous accent, the phrase sounded extra like “puffah.”) Byrne, who’s often primarily based in Brooklyn, was in Sydney, the place she grew up, and the place she had arrived some weeks earlier, alongside along with her accomplice, the American actor Bobby Cannavale, and the couple’s two younger boys. They had spent a fortnight observing Australia’s ultra-strict quarantine edicts. (“Hotel, police, the whole thing. That’s why Australia has been so incredibly successful in dealing with COVID,” Byrne mentioned.) She had simply executed “preschool drop-off and all that jazz” and was strolling over to the Sydney Theatre Company, the place she had made her stage début, at twenty, and the place, final 12 months, she and Cannavale have been presupposed to star collectively in Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge,” till that plan was scuttled by the pandemic.
Apart from the headband, Byrne, who’s forty-one, was sporting a giant grey sweater, along with her hair in a ponytail and a pair of sun shades perched on her head. In films like “Bridesmaids,” TV exhibits like “Damages,” and performs like “Medea” (wherein she acted reverse Cannavale), she is thought for her nearly intimidating attractiveness, however her method is relatably frazzled, and she or he prefers to mix in. “Bobby is so striking-looking,” she mentioned. “He can’t escape people’s attention. He’s tall, and he has this voice. I can sort of disappear more easily, but it’s hard to hide Bobby.” She gave a raucous snicker.
Byrne stood outdoors the theatre, on the Sydney Harbour wharf. The prime of the Harbour Bridge gleamed within the distance, above the serene blue waters of the bay. She walked in and up the steps, admiring some current refurbishments, and inspected a row of posters promoting the season’s productions. “Ooh, they’re doing ‘The Lifespan of a Fact’! Bobby did it in New York, with Cherry Jones and Dan Radcliffe.” Ducking in line on the theatre’s café (“I have to put in my QR code, for contact tracing, otherwise I’ll get in trouble”), she ordered a flat white with oat milk.
Byrne is starring in “Physical,” a brand new darkish comedy on Apple TV+, wherein she performs Sheila, a troubled San Diego housewife who turns into a spandex-sporting aerobics guru amid the transition from the touchy-feely seventies to the every-woman-for-herself eighties. “In a way, it’s kind of a companion piece to ‘Mrs. America,’ ” she mentioned, referring to final 12 months’s historic miniseries on FX about American second-wave feminism, wherein she performed Gloria Steinem. (She is planning to play one other political determine, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, in a movie concerning the Christchurch mosque assaults.) “Sheila is very disillusioned with the movement. Her marriage is liberal on the surface, but in fact she’s incredibly unhappy. And she has this entrepreneurial, industrious spirit.” Byrne went on, “The eighties were really the beginning of the age of the influencer that we’re living in now, and that self-belief is so American. Sometimes I walk around America and I’m, like, ‘How did I get here?’ I still feel very Australian in that way.”
As far as train goes, Byrne, in her day-to-day life, tends to want a spot of Iyengar yoga to the exertions of aerobics. Her position in “Physical,” nevertheless, clued her in to the points of interest of a higher-intensity, dance-based exercise. “The show is not not funny about aerobics. The outfits are hilarious, and we were always laughing on set, but it’s also a huge part of Sheila’s story,” she mentioned. “The way people described it, it was like a cult, an addiction.” She took a sip of espresso. “For the show, I did Zoom sessions with this amazing choreographer, Jennifer Hamilton, and I slowly started getting better, and I could see the addictive qualities of it, the adrenaline, even when you’re at your most tired. The thing about me is”—she lowered her voice—“I’m a little bit lazy. I like to just hang out. I’m a Leo, and people are always, like, ‘Are you sure? You? A Leo?’ ”
Through the café’s floor-to-ceiling home windows, a shocking view of the bay was seen. She pointed to a peninsula throughout the harbor: “I used to take the ferry to high school every morning from there, from Balmain, where I grew up. They would give out free toast.” She sank right into a reverie. “It was so good. This thick white bread with butter and Vegemite! Me with the toast on the ferry. A very relaxing way to start the day.” ♦