So far, I've been impressed with "Damages," the FX show starring Glenn Close as a ruthless attorney and Rose Byrne as her innocent, corruptible protegee. After the show's premiere episode, I joined several other bloggers for a phone interview with Byrne about where her character, Ellen Parsons, is headed. Here are some excerpts:
How did you originally become involved with the project?
It was around for a while. I’d heard about it, and then I was unavailable. I did 28 Weeks Later, and then we finished that and it was still around. So I kind of went in and auditioned. I’d been watching a lot of American TV at the time. I’m a big fan of “Rescue Me” and “Big Love” and “The Sopranos,” so I had wanted to do a series if it was good, you know. I was totally up for it. And then this kind of came around again. So it was kind of serendipitous.
It seems like [Ellen]'s not a total innocent, but she’s also pretty new to this whole world. I wanted to get your read on who you think she is.
Yeah, I think, in a way, she’s still kind of getting formed in a lot of ways. But she’s very instinctive. I think she’s really smart. I think she’s kind of a little naive. You know, I mean, she graduates from law school and she’s applying all this stuff she’s learned into the real world. And it’s exhilarating, and the adrenaline is fantastic and amazing. But I don’t think she really realizes the sacrifices she’s going to have to make, and the world that she’s in now. I don’t think she’s — I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet. And so it’s going to be really interesting to see, you know, where she goes during the season.
Which character is more intimidating, the zombies in 28 Weeks Later or Patty Hewes?
I’d say — and those zombies were scary; they were really very scary. [laughs] They were crazy. They had no power. Patty — she may be mercurial and a little intimidating, but she’s actually — you know, she’s not insane. She isn’t risen from the dead.
More from Rose, so
A lot of shows — "Rescue Me," "Big Love," "The Wire," "Sopranos" — they’re kind of attacking certain institutions. Do you see any of that in “Damages”?
I think, in a way, it’s a real comment on capitalism and power, and the power of big businesses and big companies, that there’s this huge case involving Frobisher – very much a reflection on the huge mentality of how America is run by big businesses and men in suits. And that’s really it. And what exactly is the American Dream, really at the end of the day? And what are you going to sacrifice to get it?
When you read this script, was there a particular thing that really hooked you?
I really liked playing a contemporary role. You know, I’m often cast in period pieces, or women under massive amounts of stress, or victimized, or something. And, I mean, Ellen does obviously go through that toward the end of the series. But I really was attracted to her — a confident, assertive, smart, bright, intelligent, instinctive young woman, at the age of 27, which was really interesting. ... And she is really self-sufficient, which is something that really appealed to me. And it’s really different from me. I’m quite timid and shy, and I’m not the most confident of people. And Ellen is not like that at all. So I really liked that idea, of playing someone who is really quite different to who I am.
Can you give us any indication of the moral dilemmas that she goes through on the show? And how soon will we really start to see the transition from innocent to corrupt?
I'd say about episodes five and six, I think Ellen is going to – her behavior is going to start changing little by little, and very subtly. It’s not going to be like, you know, a hammer in your face. But, I think, just little things that she starts to do that I’m not even sure she knows. Subconsciously, she starts to change in little ways. And it’s going to be really interesting to see exactly who she is by the end.
Photo courtesy of FX