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Rose Byrne: First 'Damages,' now 'Knowing'
Cable TV has become a great refuge for actresses, especially those past the first blush of youth. But it's also an attractive option to younger players testing the waters for that day when the movie roles dry up.
"It's a Renaissance for actresses," says Rose Byrne, one of the stars of the FX series Damages, the legal drama that gave Glenn Close a mid-life career boost. "You get a series like this and you see what's going on for Mary Louise Parker, Holly Hunter, the women of Big Love, what happened with Sex and the City, and you just pray it's still there when you need it."
Byrne, a 29 year-old Australian beauty known for such films as Troy, Marie Antoinette and 28 Weeks Later, opted to test the cable waters despite a film career that seems on the rise. She appears in the indie drama Adam, the "it" film of this year's Sundance Film Festival with Variety's Justin Chang, among others, praising Byrne's "winsome openness." And Byrne co-stars with Nicolas Cage in the supernatural thriller Knowing, which opens in theaters Friday3/20.
"Having the series really frees me up to try things," Byrne says. "I can take a role purely for the love of the character, or a great scene."
Knowing gave her the chance to play Diana, a woman with a dark, complicated past, and a character with that "great scene." Diana has just met a nice single dad. Their kids are hitting it off. But as the children play off camera, the single dad (Cage) reveals that they didn't meet by chance, that he knows who her mother was, that he thinks he knows things about the future thanks to that troubled mom, a woman who had clues about the future.
"Here she is, thinking she's about to have some nice, maybe promising social moment with a man," she says. "He pulls the rug right out from underneath her feet. It's like he knows her deepest, darkest secrets, some deep personal thing that you would never ever tell anyone, much less want mentioned over lunch! This complete stranger hits her with this. How would you respond to a situation like that? What's your first reaction? Is it shock, rage, fear?"
Byrne plays that confusion and relished the scene that, in many ways, made the movie worth making. But she's hedging her career bets. The third season of Damages begins shooting later in the year. And she takes inspiration from the players a generation older than she who are able to practice their trade at an age when Hollywood has, in prior eras, put them out to pasture.
"The actresses who get film work in their 50s, there are, like, three, right?" Byrne says, laughing. "Cable changes that. Why shouldn't we be playing strong, challenging women in our 40s, 50s and onward? That's the age when we're really ready for it!"
Roger Moore can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5369.