‘Physical’ Creator on Sheila’s Inner Monologue & Tapping Into Insecurities

Rose Byrne in Physical - Apple TV+
Apple TV+

Apple TV+’s edgy dark comedy Physical really immerses viewers into the ’80s world that Rose Byrne‘s Sheila Rubin inhabits.

Yet it’s anything but bright and cheery as the stay-at-home mom navigates a brutal eating disorder while also navigating the annoyances attached to her husband Danny’s (Rory Scovel) run for state assembly. And although Sheila becomes entranced with aerobics, it’s going to take a lot more than just a few sessions at Bunny’s (Della Saba) studio to work out her problems.

Below, series creator Annie Weisman offers a glimpse at the rest of Season 1 including the role Sheila’s inner monologue plays, where her self-image struggles come from, and more about her bonds with Danny and acquaintance Greta (Diedre Friel). Plus, catch an exclusive sneak peek at the latest episode (streaming June 25) in the clip, below.

Body image is a big factor in Sheila’s story and even the show’s title. How will that play out as the season continues?

Annie Weisman: It is about aerobics on the surface, but aerobics is really just sort of the unexpected terrain in which she starts to explore just a deeper connection to her physical self. We’re meeting a woman who is in the throes of a pretty aggressive eating disorder, a mental illness that’s really telling her lies about her self-worth.

It’s telling her to suppress these instincts and parts of herself that are considered unappealing in the world she’s in, like anger or strength or any kind of aggression or ambition. And then she stumbles across aerobics and it’s a safe space to do all those things; to be strong, to be loud, to punch, to kick, and tap into rage to connect with other women.

Physical Apple TV+ Rose Byrne

(Credit: Apple TV+)

Sheila’s inner monologue has a strong presence in the series. What kinds of challenges did you face when approaching those moments in the script?

Well, that was really the impulse for the creation of the show and what was different about this script, to me, was telling the truth about how I felt inside versus how I express myself in the world. So it was the most fun part and the challenge was to be honest and [un]afraid to tell uncomfortable truths about what this character is really thinking.

It’s really a symptom of her illness and the challenge came just in having the courage to say what I was afraid to say. And most of the time, if there was something I was ashamed of or scared to say it was the thing that people most gravitated to. It’s just funny how the thing you’re afraid will alienate people is the thing that brings them closer to you because they recognize themselves in it.

Diedre Friel Physical Apple TV+

(Credit: Apple TV+)

Then the challenge of shooting it was just a really fun process of shooting the external world and then building the voiceover in the studio with Rose. She brought so much to it. It was just a really creative, gratifying process.

One of the show’s standout relationships is the bond between Sheila and Greta. It feels like their struggles mirror each other. Was that the intention?

Yeah, I think one of the reasons that her illness is so persistent is that she doesn’t let anybody in, right? And so here comes this really open-hearted caring friend, and it’s kind of terrifying to her because she doesn’t want to let her in. She doesn’t want to be open. So it was wonderful through this great performance by Deidre Friel in this role of Greta, you see her melt some of the harder edges of Sheila.

She sort of starts to open up, but it’s challenging for her. It’s difficult for her to do that. They have a very hard-earned sort of connection. I was just really interested in exploring how this self-hatred she’s turning on herself also turns on other women in a lot of ways. And part of her journey to healing is to start to let people in, even though it feels frightening.

Physical Season 1 Rory Scovel Rose Byrne

(Credit: Apple TV+)

Speaking of self-hatred, will we see where Sheila’s illness comes from?

In Episode 8, we meet her parents and we learn a little bit about some of the traumatic circumstances that kind of shaped her in that really critical adolescent period that lands her where she is today. It’s kind of a journey back in time for all the characters in that episode. We learn a lot of backstory about various characters, Greta and Sheila included. So there’s definitely more story to come there.

The show also taps into insecurities. When it comes to Sheila and Danny’s marriage, who is more insecure?

I think he can feel that he’s becoming less and less relevant by the day. And his insecurity [over] the culture moving away from him and towards her is very dangerous and destabilizing. So in many ways, his insecurity is more dangerous because he projects it out and she uses hers to beat herself up. So it’s a toss-up who is more insecure. But I think in terms of its danger, I think his insecurity has more potential to do harm outside of himself.

Physical, New Episodes, Fridays, Apple TV+

Physical - Apple TV+

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