COVER STORY 04 SISTER ACT AN EDUCATION ROSE BYRNE HAD AN EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE PLAYING FEMINIST ICON GLORIA STEINEM IN WRITES Trailblazer: Rose Byrne plays feminist icon Gloria Steinem in MrsAmerica. MRSAMERICA, MICHELE MANELIS P LAYING one of the most revered feminists in recent history, Gloria Steinem, in the powerful biographical drama was an education in the sisterhood for Rose Byrne. With fellow Australian actor Cate Blanchett taking the lead as anti-feminist conservative Phyllis Schlafly against the backdrop of the 1970s battle over women’s rights, Byrne walked away from the nine-part series with more than just a history lesson – leaning into the power of working and learning alongside some of best female actors of a generation. Created by Davhi Waller, the powerhouse cast includes Uzo Aduba (as Shirley Chisholm), Elizabeth Banks (as Jill Ruckelshaus), Margo Martindale (as Bella Abzug), John Slattery (Fred Schlafly), Tracey Ullman (Betty Friedan), and Sarah Paulson, who plays a composite character on Team Schlafly. Arguably, without Steinem and her partners in crime – including fellow ‘rebels’ Friedan, Chisholm, Ruckelshaus, and Abzug, known as the second wave of feminism – today’s #metoo movement would probably never have come into being. Byrne agrees, telling “Without the movement, spearheaded by those women chronicled in there would be no third-wave feminism, there would be no #metoo or # timesup movement. It was a complex, broad, huge achievement of those women during that time. “So I was tickled to be part of this show, and to play this woman who was a true force of nature.” Byrne admits she came late to Mrs America, Orange Is the New Black’s “She was very savvy that way. But I would see Cate on set, which was lovely. I was always trying to sneak in by the monitor and have a look at her scenes. And she did the lion’s share, of course, she shouldered such a heavy load on the show.” Byrne and her actor husband Bobby Cannavale (who starred with Blanchett in did manage to spend “a few great days [with Blanchett and her playwright husband Andrew Upton] at our house at the beach. I previously worked with Andrew. He directed me in a play at the Sydney Theatre Company a few years ago [ in 2016].” Growing up in an estrogen-laden household, Byrne, 40, the youngest of three daughters, was greatly influenced by the women closest to her. “Yes, coming from a house full of women, my mum obviously, and with my sisters, who are seven and six years older than I, they were my role models and were hugely influential. I went through all the stages of learning from them, [which include] trusting them and the party in terms of discovering the feminist movement: “Yes, it wasn’t until my early 20s when I fi rst read the Betty Friedan book, which really opened my eyes to the second-wave feminist movement,” she says. “That was my introduction to some of Gloria Steinem’s writings. So the experience of making was very educational for me, especially since I wasn’t familiar with Phyllis Schlafly, [whose journey] is obviously what the show is about. It was extraordinary what she did, singlehandedly and along with her movement, in stopping the ERA [Equal Rights Amendment].” Schlafly was one of the most prominent activists in the conservative movement from the 1970s until her death in 2016, championing pro-life and protraditional American values. Interestingly, Schlafly can be seen in footage at the tail- end of Trump’s presidential campaign. “I don’t think there would be Trump without a Phyllis Schlafly,” Byrne offers. Pitch IS A VERY CLEVER UNRAVELING OF HISTORY. IT INFORMS EVERYTHING, AND REALLY TRIES TO GIVE A NUANCED PORTRAIT OF WHAT WAS GOING ON AT THE TIME MRSAMERICA Perfect’s The Americans’ The Feminine Mystique, Mad Men’s American Horror Story’s Blue Jasmine) Mrs America which was necessary for her to survive in that world. She was so picked- on by both men and women, and dealt with those insane doublestandards of gender. I was very immersed in everything about her. It was quite a thing to shake off at the end.” Steinem and Schlafly also never met in person, meaning audiences miss out on two of Australia’s highly esteemed actresses together in a scene playing these formidable political titans. “I wish I’d had a scene with Cate, but Gloria had always refused to debate Phyllis because she knew it would bring Phyllis more press,” she laughs. “is a very clever unraveling of history. It informs everything, and really tries to give a nuanced portrait of what was going on at the time. Through watching the series you can see the roots of this third wave of feminism, as well as the [ genesis of the] right-wing personalities who now dominate and give the majority of people in America their news, like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.” Clearly, she was enamoured with Steinem (though they never met) and this role in Byrne’s impressive litany of work will remain close to her heart. “She was so impressive, and there was a toughness to her, too, Mrs America Speedthe- Screen: Mrs America, EDITORS REVIEWS COVER IMAGE COVER DESIGN PICTURE EDITOR Holly Byrnes and James Wigney Amanda Wynne-Williams 1300 398 151 Leigh Paatsch, Cameron Adams, Lisa Woolford, Siobhan Duck, Kathy McCabe Brad Trent/Redux/Headpress Christopher Roseby ADVERTISING PRODUCTION PROGRAM INFORMATION: Pagemasters. Published by News Limited, 26 Hume Hwy, Chullora NSW 2190, for News Corp Australia. Is correct at the time of printing, but may be subject to late change. 04 Sunday, May 24, 2020 MHSE01Z01TV - V1 PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PRESSREADER PressReader.com +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW
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