Rose Byrne walked into our interview at the Waldorf-Astoria with very little makeup. Her long brown hair framed the delicate bones of her face. As with many actresses and actors, she appeared tiny compared to how she looks on screen.
Byrne is without pretension or attitude and intoxicating to be around, though it’s odd to hear her natural Australian accent after watching her play so many Americans.
Byrne is best known for her role as Ellen Parsons in the cable TV series Damages. Her character began as a law school grad and became the protégé of the cut-throat Patty Hewes (Glenn Close). Other roles include Renai Lambert in 2010’s Insidious, Moira MacTaggert in X-Men: First Class and Helen in Bridesmaids.
Her career is now exploding. In September you’ll see her in Insidious: Chapter 2, which was directed by James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring), written by Leigh Whannell (Saw) and produced by Jason Blum. The story picks up where the first left off. There’s a haunted house with creaking doors, make-you-jump frights, plus the added suspense of a murder mystery.
Townies is due out in May 2014 and stars Byrne, along with Zac Efron and Seth Rogen. Byrne is also currently starring in the remake of Annie with Cameron Diaz, Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx, with a release date set for Christmas 2014.
Are you a fan of the horror genre?
Rose Byrne: Yes! It’s fun to watch something so jarring.
What attracts you to a particular horror script?
Getting really scared while reading it.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Well, I’ve never seen one. They’ve never come over for a cup of tea. I’d be ready for them, but they’re not showing up. [Smiles]
How was it working on Insidious: Chapter 2?
Fun! We hit the ground running, which was exalting. There weren’t any scenes of domestic bliss, that’s for sure. There was a lot of action and everybody came back [for this sequel], which is a great testament to the director, James [Wan]. You just want to be around him. He’s authentic. It was a harmonious set and it only took 25 days to shoot it.
Was it difficult to get back into your character?
Nah. Once I got in costume, I was there. I thought, “Okay, I’m back and I’ve got my bearings.”
Is it hard to switch back to reality when the camera is off?
During a movie I suppose you hold onto it a bit, but when you finish the film you let go of the role. I’m pretty good at that, I think. But we were staying in a house in L.A. that was very rattly. Sometimes that would worry me at night. There were a few times that my imagination got the best of me. I always feel a little bit scared in L.A. anyway because of the weird atmosphere there.
Was it stressful making a movie in less than a month?
No, I’m used to doing television because I was in a series [Damages] for a few years, so I was used to that pace. There’s less downtime and you’re working hard all day, which I like. On the other hand, you get less takes, so there are shortcomings. It can be taxing. I’m usually burnt out by the end of the shoot, but it’s fun.
Have you stayed in touch with the cast from Damages?
Yes! They’re dear friends and I miss them now that I don’t get to see them all the time. When you do a series it becomes like your family.
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I miss them too.
What is your favorite type of role?
It’s all fun. I feel heightened when it’s campy, then buttoned up and stiff like Ellen Parsons, and comedy is great fun, like in Bridesmaids when I was playing highly strung and emotional.
Could you see doing another X-Men?
Yeah, why? Are you ready to give me the part? Sign me up. [Laughs]
Do you enjoy shooting on location in New York?
Yeah, New Yorkers are great. They don’t care what you’re doing. But the ADs [assistant directors] have the hardest time. They say, “Excuse me, ma’am, can you walk this way,” and the reply is, “Don’t touch me! I’m walking here.” But I love shooting in New York, and working here has been really fun and kind of surreal.
Insidious: Chapter 2 opens in September on Friday the 13th. Check out the spooky website. Rated PG-13. 105 minutes.