After establishing herself as a dramatic actress during a five-season stint on the underrated FX legal thriller, Damages, Rose Byrne has remade herself as a comedic powerhouse. It all began with her winning turn in Bridesmaids, and since then Byrne has burnished that cred with movies like Neighbors and as the villain in Melissa McCarthy’s upcoming comedy, Spy. In her latest movie, Adult Beginners, Byrne stars opposite Nick Kroll and her real-life boyfriend Bobby Cannavale in a deliciously cynical comedy about a venture capitalist who loses everything before finding love with his sister and her husband. Thirty-two stories above Manhattan at the Trump SoHo hotel, we spoke to Byrne about acting alongside her partner, the lack of female directors in Hollywood, and the important charity work she’s involved in.
What first attracted you to the project?
The screenplay was so beautiful, and well written. I just really fell in love. I read it so fast and I was just like, this is one of the best things I’ve read in a really long time. It’s a quieter comedy then, you know, say, Neighbors or Bridesmaids or something.
You and Bobby Cannavale are together in real life. What’s it like working with your partner on set?
It’s fun. We’ve done three jobs together now and they’re all so different. I think it’s really just an economic choice for the producers because they only have to get one car [Laughs].
Was Nick a third wheel at all like in the film?
Nick was wearing a lot of hats. He was producing, he had created the story, so he was too busy to be worried about that. We were in small quarters, so luckily we all got along.
This year’s winter was absolutely brutal and you guys were filming in upstate New York. Did you face any challenges with that?
That was intense. It was hard because they were trying to transition from winter to spring and it was just impossible, because this winter was the worst one in 20 years. The snow was relentless, and we had to shovel things around. There’s a sequence in the pool that was difficult because the pool wasn’t heated, and it was freezing, and it was freezing outside, so that was brutal.
You have a very diverse, very impressive resume of roles that you’ve taken on. Do you have a favorite to watch, and do you have a favorite to shoot?
I just watch them all constantly around my walls; they’re just projecting me in all of my various roles. [Laughs] But I just finished watching Transparent and I really loved it. I just finished watching The Slap on NBC, which is based on an Australian novel, and I really enjoyed that. I suppose I’ve been watching more series lately, yeah.
When it comes to acting, do you have a preference?
I loved doing Damages, because it’s like you’re in a novel, you know? You get to know the characters so well. It’s such an intimate relationship that you have with the character on television that you really can’t get in a theater.
Who’s your dream artist to collaborate with?
I’ve always been a long-standing fan of David Lynch. I think he’s brilliant. I love Twin Peaks, and I love Mulholland Drive.
Recently, you also started your own production company with all of these great, fantastic, talented women. What inspired you to take on this project?
I’ve wanted to develop stuff for a while, and it happened very organically with a group of friends from Australia who are all super talented and diverse, and we were talking one day and were kind of like like, you know what, let’s just do it.
What’s the ultimate goal?
It’s a great thing to develop stuff that focuses more on women because we are underrepresented. That’s definitely a priority.
Why aren’t there more women filmmakers in Hollywood?
Why aren’t there? I know, it’s very underrepresented. The statistics are pretty scary.
Why do you think this is the case?
Like anything, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I think these things take time, and it’s just been a field very dominated with men, unfortunately.
Who are some current women directors we should be keeping our eyes out for?
There’s so many: Lisa Cholodenko, Nicole Holofcener. I love Sofia Coppola. Jill Soloway is amazing—the writer of Transparent.
Are there any other particular causes or charity you’re currently involved with?
I’m the ambassador for the Australian Theatre for Young People, which is a great theater program for young kids that I went to growing up, and just loved. And I’ve been working with the Public Foundation a bit the last year. I did a campaign in conjunction with The White House called “It’s On Us,” about ending sexual assaults on campuses across America, which is really, really great to work on.
It’s especially relevant, especially nowadays, when the media’s actually talking about it.
It’s brilliant, yeah, and I think they did a really clever campaign about changing what’s around it, and what’s enabling it, the quiet tolerance of it. The statistics around it are a really terrifying kind of thing. It’s such a hot button, and incendiary—it’s a really important thing to be talking about globally. There are incidences all over the world, so that’s been something really important for me to work on.