Despite having more than 30 films and TV shows to her credit, Rose Byrne is still the type of actress who can walk anonymously through New York’s West Village. The youngest of four siblings, she started acting as a child in her native Australia, and moved to Hollywood when she was 22. Byrne gained notice Stateside with parts in “Wicker Park,” opposite Josh Hartnett, and “Troy,” in which she played the seductive Briseis. She since has appeared in Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette,” Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine” and “28 Weeks Later.” Now Byrne has taken to the small screen in the critically acclaimed Fox series “Damages,” opposite Glenn Close, Tate Donovan and Ted Danson. As Ellen Parsons, an ambitious young lawyer who gets sucked into a dark underbelly of New York crime, she gets to show her vulnerable side and flex her dramatic muscles. Watch for her FBI-informant plotline in the second season, which premieres in January.
This story first appeared in the December 15, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
TOUGH LOVE: Though she’s been acting professionally for 16 years, Byrne continues to grapple with Hollywood’s brutal side. “I’m still at a point where I’m very much fighting for roles and auditioning, so I feel very lucky that I can pay my rent and all that, but I’m still at the bottom of the big mountain because I would obviously love to work with [certain] directors,” she says. “Of course, I’m plagued with self-doubt because you take a lot of hard knocks, so you can become a bit broken. It’s just the nature of acting and rejections. But I think I’m probably tougher about it now.”
GAINING NOTICE: Byrne has always admired compatriots like Toni Collette and Nicole Kidman for putting Australian acting on the map. “Someone was saying to me that Australian actors are the flavor of the moment. It was British actors, and now it’s Australian actors who are having a real flourish.”
IN THE PIPELINE: In addition to the second and third seasons of “Damages,” Byrne also has been busy shooting films. In “Knowing,” a supernatural thriller, she plays a single mother who joins forces with Nicolas Cage when he uncovers a time capsule whose contents predict natural disasters. And she scored the romantic lead in the indie “Adam,” opposite Hugh Dancy, who plays a man afflicted with Asperger’s syndrome.
ON THE TOWN: Television series often call for rough hours — a 16-hour day is not an anomaly — but Byrne has found time to enjoy the New York nightlife, too, and not of the 27th Street club variety. This past fall, the actress has donned the likes of Burberry Prorsum, The Row and Calvin Klein Collection for the Whitney Art Gala, a film event at MoMA honoring fellow Aussie Baz Luhrmann, a book party for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and the Fashion Group International awards. “I love that about New York: it’s a real social scene,” says Byrne, who has quickly learned the ropes. “It’s fun to go, look at the outfits, talk bulls–t with people and then go home.”