Rose Byrne in her Shape June 2021 Cover Shoot

The Lifelong Wellness Practices Rose Byrne Will Never Quit

She tackles "daunting" new roles and accepts the ways her body's changing into her 40s. Here, actor Rose Byrne breaks down the rules she lives by, including seeing whatever lies ahead as an opportunity.
By Pamela O'Brien
May 10, 2021

As the months of quarantine crawled by, Rose Byrne learned a fun new skill: crafting cocktails. "I got into being an artisanal cocktail waitress," she says, laughing. "But I'm really slow at it. For me, it's time consuming and labor intensive. My husband [actor Bobby Cannavale] will be like, 'I've been waiting for 25 minutes.'" For the record, she and Bobby aren't actually married, but they call each other husband and wife. (Because after nine years together and two kids, why not?) They are currently living on the West Coast (Rose has been working there) with their young sons, Rafa and Rocco. At this point, the glamour of the Hollywood red carpet seems like something from another planet. "All my beauty routines have gone out the window," says Rose, 41. "I spend my days covered in markers, Play-Doh, and flour."

But not today. As we chat, the Australian actor has just finished wrapping Physical, her new series for Apple TV+ (to be released on June 18) about an unhappy 1980s housewife who discovers aerobics, uses it as a path to power, and becomes a wellness guru. And Rose, known to audiences for her roles in Damages, Bridesmaids, and Neighbors, is definitely feeling the endorphin rush.

"When I read the first script, I was so moved," she says. "It felt like a story I hadn't seen before, and it's incredibly human and relatable. For me as an artist, it was very challenging and daunting, which is good. I especially loved how doing all the physical [routines] take you out of being so self-conscious as a performer."

Those aerobic scenes required some pretty intense training and coordination. A few months before filming started, Rose began working with Jennifer Hamilton, the show's choreographer, via Zoom. "We did online classes, building the choreography," says Rose. "This show is a journey for Sheila, the character I play, so the routines have to look rough in the beginning, and then she slowly gains her confidence and strength. I hadn't been doing a lot of cardio personally, so that was very hard. But it was fun. I really loved the training. I can see how it becomes addictive."

For Rose, Physical also feels like a natural progression from her role as Gloria Steinem in Mrs. America, about the battle for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. "It was a beautiful companion piece," she says. "Playing Gloria was an eye-opening experience in many ways. Then to be able to step into Sheila — it felt like picking up where the previous era left off. It linked all those ideals that so many people were fighting for."

Throwing herself into such a deeply satisfying role helped the star get through quarantine, along with mixing up those custom cocktails. Although she did get a chance to go home to Australia for a bit ("my husband was working there," she says), Rose, like all of us, dearly misses spending time with her family and friends, including the ones nearby she still hasn't been able to see. "I just want to give them all big kisses and hugs," she says. "I can't wait for that."

In the meantime, she shares her secrets for staying upbeat, healthy, and energized.

Rose Byrne on the Shape June 2021 issue cover
Credit: Carter Smith

Work Out Where You Can, When You Can

"Exercise is a juggling thing with small kids. I've been taking a lot of long walks and hikes. All that cliché stuff. And doing yoga, which I started when I was 15 and rediscovered during quarantine. I try to do it every day for 15 to 20 minutes. It's a great way to quiet the mind.

I have gone through stages where I've had trainers. I really enjoy doing strength training when I have the time to work with someone. When I'm back home in Australia, I love to swim. There, we have great 50-meter Olympic-size swimming pools that are often fresh water. I'm a big swimmer.

I do notice that now as I'm getting older, it takes a little longer to get my fitness back. But exercise does help you feel better. It's a great stress reliever." (Related: Here's How Working Out Can Make You More Resilient to Stress)

Rose Byrne in her Shape June 2021 Cover Shoot
Credit: Carter Smith

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Remember: Rituals Are Restorative

"I'm really good at the sleep thing. I'm not particularly a night owl, so I'm in bed early. I try to get seven to eight hours. I always drink warm water with lemon first thing in the morning. I've done that for 20 years. Overall, I drink a lot of water all day. I just got one of those ridiculous gallon water bottles that I carry around. I've been apologizing to everyone for just how obnoxious it is.

And it's very nourishing, especially after a long day, to just sit quietly and meditate even for five or 10 minutes. I've been trying to do that rather than look at my phone."

Rose Byrne in her Shape June 2021 Cover Shoot
Credit: Carter Smith

Love Your Skin

"When I was growing up in Australia, 'Stay out of the sun' was drummed into us from an early age. They told us, 'Wear sunscreen, wear a hat, wear sunglasses. Otherwise, you're going to get skin cancer. You have to protect yourself. There's a hole in the ozone layer. The sun's rays are really harsh, even if it's overcast.' That was absolutely drilled into me, as it is any Aussie kid, and I do it.

Aside from that, I've definitely gotten into cleaner beauty as I've gotten older. And I'm embracing the changes as they come along, because in my 40s, I definitely see things changing."

Rose Byrne in her Shape June 2021 Cover Shoot
Credit: Carter Smith

Feed Your Cravings

"I grew up with foodie parents. They always instilled in us the idea of real food. I have that as my baseline, and I follow in the footsteps of my mom and dad. But wrangling two small boys is challenging. I have my moments of looking at a million recipes and trying to be creative and find new ideas. Then I just end up making the same things for three weeks.

We do try to eat lots of fruit. I'll have fruit and yogurt in the morning, and some greens at lunch on set or maybe a sandwich. At night, we usually all have dinner together. It might be grilled chicken, meat loaf, fish, or a meat pasta. And we'll do pizza night once a week.

I certainly believe a little bit of everything is good, and I let myself have it. Everything in moderation. I enjoy food, so I don't want to deprive myself of anything I really like. My all-time favorite food is spaghetti Bolognese. Also, my mom does a really great spinach pie. And I love Mexican food — oh, my gosh! I love all of it: chips, guacamole, margaritas. I could eat that all the time."

Rose Byrne in her Shape June 2021 Cover Shoot
Credit: Carter Smith

Choose Your Own Path

"Motherhood is such a profound change — from the physical experience of it to raising the kids. It's so different for everybody, and I think it's really hard for women to talk about it. There's so much expectation and shame around it; it's very complicated. But it's also the greatest thing that's ever happened to me.

It did change my career ambition. It streamlined things in a clear way. But there's the struggle of trying to prioritize both: Am I doing enough at home at the moment? Am I staying fulfilled at work? The balance of work and home life is such a personal experience. I don't judge anyone." (Related: Olympic Runner Alysia Montaño Is Helping Women Choose Motherhood *and* Their Career)

Rose Byrne in her Shape June 2021 Cover Shoot
Credit: Carter Smith

Photography: Carter Smith, @carterbedloesmith // Styling: Brit & Kara Elkin, @ELKIN // Hair: Mara Roszak/A-Frame Agency, @mararoszak // Makeup: Mai Quynh/The Wall Group for Armani Beauty, @storyofmailife // Manicure: Kim Truong/Star Touch Agency using CHANEL Le Vernis, @kimkimnails // Creative Director: Noah Dreier, @noahdreier // Photo Director: Toni Paciello Loggia, @toniloggia