‘Physical’ Star Rose Byrne Talks the ‘Breaking Point’ That Leads Sheila to Aerobics
Apple TV+ is stepping into the world of ’80s aerobics in the dark and twisted comedy Physical.
The series starring Rose Byrne follows the smart and quietly tortured Sheila Rubin who discovers the wonders of this exercise form through a seemingly random chance encounter. Led by her curiosity, Sheila notices and one day follows a bleach-blond woman named Bunny (Della Saba) only to be lead to the nearby mall of her San Diego suburb.
There, Sheila’s world is transformed when she sees the hybrid workout for herself in Bunny’s studio. “Sheila’s middle-aged at this point and she’s stuck in the ’70s and Bunny is the future. She’s the ’80s,” Byrne says of Sheila’s fascination with the young woman. It’s a preoccupation that leads to some intense workouts for Byrne’s housewife who pulls double duty in the aerobics studio as she helps her needy husband Danny (Rory Scovel) run for state assembly.
Prepping for her very physical role in the series, Byrne shares the process began “two months in advance [of filming] with Jennifer Hamilton, our choreographer. She and I would meet on Zoom.”
“I owe everything to her. She was really my Sheila,” Byrne continues. “I am not a trained dancer. I don’t have any coordination or rhythm and she figured it out. She had so much patience… When I finally met her on set I nearly burst into tears.” Byrne promises that “aerobics is taken seriously in the show and that’s hard because [it can be] funny and you can’t avoid it.”
Along with her own self-doubts feeding her workout obsession, Sheila’s drive comes from her relationship with her husband Danny who is always complimenting her but also downplaying her strengths at times. “I think that does play a big role in her insecurities,” teases Scovel.
“I do believe that there is some sincerity in Danny when he talks to Sheila and their daughter. But I think he’s just so driven by his own ego that he’s unaware of the role that he needs to play in that household,” he adds. “Even though they’re a progressive family, they’re still very traditional and conservative in their roles.”
The show sees how Sheila, Danny, and everyone is uncomfortably placed in these roles, like square pegs in round holes. Mirroring Sheila in a way is acquaintance Greta (Diedre Friel) who is facing her own mental breakdown. “Sheila is really at this breaking point and her illness is about secrecy, silence, suppression, isolation, lies upon lies,” teases Byrne.
“The opposite of that is connection and relating, and Greta desperately wants that with Sheila and she’s repulsed by it because everything will be exposed,” says Byrne of Sheila’s own personal demons being uncovered. “You can’t get away with that stuff when you’re connecting with people because they see you and it makes my heart break, but the scenes between them are really beautiful and emotional.”
It’s a journey filled with highs, lows, and plenty of ’80s callbacks that shouldn’t be missed. Byrne adds, “As the show goes on you see that connection take place and how you can recover in a way.”
Physical, Series Premiere, Friday, June 18, Apple TV+