Rose Byrne Still Isn’t Sure She’s ‘Arrived’

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Photo Source: “Platonic” Courtesy Apple TV+

Editor’s note: This interview was conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike

In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast features in-depth conversations with today’s most noteworthy actors and creators. Join host and senior editor Vinnie Mancuso for this guide to living the creative life from those who are doing it every day.

Rose Byrne has compiled one of the most wide-ranging acting résumés of the last two decades, effortlessly bouncing between comedy (“Bridesmaids,” “Spy”), horror (“Insidious”), drama (“Mrs. America”), and sci-fi (“Sunshine”). She credits her inquisitive nature with keeping her career eclectic.  

“To stay curious is really important. I think the minute you’re not, then you’re probably not going to be doing very interesting work, perhaps,” she tells us. “Keep that curiosity alive…and also keep your life alive. Have as much of a rich life as you can in real life, not just in your work. I never think I’ve arrived, in any sense of the word, whether it’s feeling completely creatively fulfilled or whatever it is; it does always feel like a constant journey of inspiration.” 

On this episode of In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast, Byrne guides us through her acting career, from getting rejected from drama school to her busy 2023, which includes two Apple TV+ series—Francesca Delbanco and Nicholas Stoller’s “Platonic” and Season 3 of Annie Weisman’s “Physical”—plus a return to horror in Patrick Wilson’s “Insidious: The Red Door.” 

Byrne’s acting process involves staying open to everything.  

“I try to remain really flexible and try to keep it…ephemeral is not the right word, but to just have elasticity with [acting], and flexibility, so you can change on a dime. I heard a great analogy once: Acting is like handing the keys over to someone else to drive. That’s a very general sort of metaphor, but I quite like that. And I find the more that I can do physically, the less I get in my head. And then the less I’m in my head, the less self-conscious I am. 

To be honest, I can’t create a performance until I’m there and I feel what’s in the air and the other actors are in front of me. You can have all your ideas and do your prep and conversations, but until you’re there and you’re in it, you don’t know.” 

Insidious The Red Door

“Insidious: The Red Door” Credit: Nicole Rivelli/Sony Pictures Entertainment

She’s still learning to feel comfortable turning down roles.  

“In this business, you do one thing and it might be successful, so then you get projects coming your way that are all just the same or really similar. So it’s like, I got every ensemble female comedy coming my way after ‘Bridesmaids.’ But it’s also knowing when that’s pretty obvious and you can think, OK, I’ll be OK if I don’t [take this role]. But I do find it very hard to say no. I do not take that lightly. I find it really excruciating. I feel bad. I’ve had to get tougher. I’ve had to get a thicker skin to say no, because I’ve [heard] so many noes in my life from people.”

Byrne, like many actors, can’t quite put the concept of onscreen chemistry into words.  

“I’m as fascinated as you are about the question [of chemistry]. I truly am. I think it’s like lightning in a bottle. I see actors onscreen or onstage, and I’m like, Wow, the chemistry. And they could very well hate each other. It’s so ephemeral; you could really get along with someone and then have no chemistry onstage or onscreen with them. It’s so intangible. Particularly on camera, I think, because it’s something that happens between the lens and the real thing. 

I think we’re all chasing it, right? On every job, we’re all chasing that chemistry that you…have with people. And if it translates, that’s the big thing. Didn’t [Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny] not get along on ‘The X-Files’? Weren’t they famously never talking to one another? And you’re like, Wow, they were fantastic as Scully and Mulder. I remember reading that, so, allegedly, allegedly.”

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