Rose Byrne has been stuck in the past for her last two major television projects. She got to deal with life in the ‘60s and ‘70s playing writer and feminist organizer Gloria Steinem in the short-run series “Mrs. America.” Now, she’s dealing with the ‘80s as the star of the new Apple TV+ offering “Physical.”
The new 10-episode series created by Annie Weisman (“About a Boy”) is set in the idyllic but fragile beach paradise of sunny 1980s San Diego. Sheila Rubin (Byrne), a dutiful housewife supporting her husband’s bid for state assembly. She’s also battling a complicated collection of personal demons that have to do with her self-image.
Talk of Byrne starring in “Physical” started while she was making “Mrs. America.”
Byrne says, “In a funny way, ‘Physical’ felt like such a great companion piece because Sheila is a young woman but definitely has come up through the ’60s and ’70s so she’s sort of a child of that movement and yet she’s become quite disillusioned by it, I think under the surface.
“This is really following sort of a feminist from that time and discovering her real source of empowerment is to have financial independence, to have economic independence and so on and so forth, but she has no agency and she has no way to do that.”
The Aussie actor, who was born in 1979, finds that time period to be fascinating. It comes after decades of women battling for equal rights but the struggles for independence continued in the ‘80s.
The search for a personal for Sheila starts with her finding a passion for exercise. But that slowly changes as she discovers a way to merge her newfound passion with the new technology of videotape to start a revolutionary business. This was a time when Olivia Newton-John wanted us to “Get Physical” and Jane Fonda built an empire on workout tapes.
The series tracks the journey of Sheila as she goes from a stifled, overlooked enabler to becoming a powerful, confident economic force. That trek is filled with plenty of times when she feels the burn.
Weisman’s approach with the series is to explore the divide between the external and the internal battles so many women fight. She found Byre to be the perfect choice because while she looks perfect on the inside, she shows the turmoil her character is facing inside.
“There’s so many internalized feelings of self-hatred,” Weisman adds. “It’s not about what you see in the mirror, but it’s about what you’ve absorbed from the culture, from your family, and from your experience. And that’s a lot of what we’re exploring in the show is that divide.”
Body image is certainly something Byrne has had to deal with as an actor. Byrne had to spend hours in skin-tight and revealing outfits while making “Physical.” She stresses that her profession doesn’t have a lock on the issue as the struggle with body issues is something almost anyone can face. That’s why she is so happy that a major part of “Physical” is looking at how Shelia deals with the issue.
In addition to Byrne, “Physical” stars Rory Scovel, Dierdre Friel, Della Saba, Lou Taylor Pucci, Paul Sparks and Ashley Liao. Three episodes will be available June 18 with one new episode weekly each following Friday on Apple TV+.
“Secrets of a Marine’s Wife,” 8 p.m. June 19
The next offering in Lifetime’s “Summer of Secrets” is based on the true story of 19-year-old Erin Corwin (Sadie Calvano), who was married to U.S. Marine Corporal Jon Corwin (Evan Roderick). Erin was pregnant when she suddenly went missing.
Her disappearance sparked a search led by family, friends and local law enforcement in the extreme conditions of the Joshua Tree National Park. Her body was found two months later at the bottom of an abandoned mineshaft.
The investigation reveals an illicit relationship between Erin and her neighbor, Marine Christopher Lee (Andre Anthony), which consumed them both and called into question the paternity of Erin’s baby. Calvano doesn’t want Erin’s sexual history to be what people remember most about the project.
“This isn’t a story that talks about how – because she has an affair – she got murdered,” Calvano says. “This is a story that is about complex relationships about a young girl who was looking for love and connection and who was going through a really tough time in her life and looking for support and fell in the hands of someone who brutally murdered her.
“I really hope that people are able to see the story of love and seeking and are able to fall in love with her and wonder.”
Calvano was eager to take on a role based on a true crime story because she considers herself to be a bit of a crime junkie. She laughs and says that she has a little too much love for watching murder shows.