Q&A: Damages' Rose Byrne

Rose Byrne may be just cracking American television for the first time, but the 28-year-old actress isn't new to show business. The comely Australian has been on a fast track to success, first appearing in several television shows in her homeland before going Hollywood with a part in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.

Her star rose even more in 2004, when she played Briseis in Troy opposite Brad Pitt, garnering critical acclaim as the next big thing. Three more high-profile roles in three very different movies--Marie Antoinette, 28 Weeks Later, Sunshine--later, Byrne is debuting on American television as the pivotal character in FX's Damages with Glenn Close and Ted Danson.

Byrne plays Ellen Parsons, a promising young lawyer who lands a gig at one of New York City's most prestigious law firms. Close plays her ruthless boss Patty Hewes, who both takes Parsons under her wing and throws her from the tree to crash into the ground. However, as all good dramas must, things take an unexpected turn for Parsons as she learns being in the business isn't as glamorous as it appears on TV...or at least on other TV shows.

Byrne is more than happy to talk about Damages and her part in the legal drama, and was eager to listen. Her charming Australian accent? A wonderful bonus. Could you summarize the show in your own words and tell us how you got involved in the project?

Rose Byrne: I would say its sort of a legal thriller really...more of anything else in terms of genre, kind of cloak and dagger, similar to The Firm. As far as getting onto the show, I just auditioned. It came around first when I was doing 28 Weeks Later, so I was unavailable. But it came up again, so I went in, auditioned, and got the role. Did they peg you specifically for the role?

Rose Byrne: I don't know. I know there was a big look. I know they found the role quite hard to cast. I really don't know how many people it was down to. Recently, you've done a lot of movies internationally. Why make the jump to American television?

Rose Byrne: I was watching a lot of American television at the time [the opportunity to audition came to me]. I watch a lot of Big Love, Rescue Me, and The Sopranos. And I thought I'd like to do something like that one day. And obviously, Glenn Close was attached to the show, so it was a no-brainer. It was a very prestigious project for me. Damages airs on FX, a network known for "spicing things up" within typical genres. Is this also the case with Damages?

Rose Byrne: As far as the legal genre goes, I'd say so. There are no scenes in the courtroom, it's a lot of drama. And it focuses on a very high level of power. It takes a very innovative look at law in America. I understand it's just one case that plays out over the season, instead of one case per week as in most legal dramas.

Rose Byrne: Right, it's not one case contained for each episode. It's a series influenced by the Enron case, and a lot of the characters were based on that. The show feels very unusual with the structure of it. The opening scene was quite a shocker. Could you discuss it from an actor's point of view? You are walking the streets of New York City in a trench coat covered in blood with nothing but your underwear on underneath.

Rose Byrne: First off, it was winter and minus 20 degrees. I'm Australian, and so I think in Celsius. It was freezing, and I'm not wearing anything and in this horrendous situation. It was a very traumatic day for me. It was very hard. How was the experience working with Glenn Close and Ted Danson?

Rose Byrne: I actually haven't worked with Ted at all, though I have worked with his wife [actress] Mary [Steenburgen] in a film. Working with Glenn Close is fantastic, and it makes you a better actor. And you have to know what you're doing and what you want from the character. Glenn Close's character on the show is so terrifying. It almost seems you wouldn't have to actually act scared, you just are.

Rose Byrne: It's funny, she has a natural presence, and she is very sweet and lovely. Her roles have given her a certain false sense of herself. Sort of like Robert Deniro and his roles. She's not really like that and is a marvelous actor. In the pilot, a large part of the story is told through flashbacks. How will that work out through the season?

Rose Byrne: The two storylines will run for the all of the 12 episodes, and in the final, will end up meeting. Solving this mystery will be the story through the first season. So the two storylines will meet at the end?

Rose Byrne: Exactly, yep. You were also in one of the Star Wars movies as one of Princess Amidala's handmaidens.

Rose Byrne: Yes...blink and you'll miss me. Shooting it was really fun. It was like only 10 days work. Basically, I was just standing behind Natalie Portman looking serious. I've never actually seen the film, so I don't know much about the whole Star Wars thing. You're also in Sunshine from one of my favorite directors--and a person you've worked with a few times--Danny Boyle.

Rose Byrne: Yeah it just came out. I would love to work with Danny again; I would adore to work with him. He's endless enthusiasm, and he's smart and he's one of the say his name and...he's brilliant. You've done sci-fi and period pieces, and now, a legal drama with Damages. How was it different for you as an actress?

Rose Byrne: I really like the idea [of] playing a young modern girl. I often get cast as victims, and I sort of look like I'm from another time, so that's probably why. It was great to play someone contemporary and very fun to do. Thank you very much for speaking with us.

Rose Byrne: You're very welcome!

Damages airs Tuesday nights on FX. For more information, check out's previous coverage.

Comments (3)
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Aug 16, 2007
Rose Byrne is perfect for the role. i didn't know her before but i am glad to know that great actress through a great series. and damages is an addictive show...
Aug 16, 2007
C'mon Aussie C'mon!
Aug 15, 2007
Damages is a great show! It's totally got me hooked at this point and now I look forward to it every week. Rose is terrific as Ellen.