Set in the 80s, Apple TV+’s ‘Physical’ follows Sheila Rubin, a housewife disillusioned with her life and her husband while battling an eating disorder and a toxic voice in her head, who finds an escape in the world of aerobics and fitness. It starts as something that gives her a sense of control and purpose, helping her escape the dredge she seems to be stuck in. Soon, however, she builds her entire life around aerobics by becoming a trainer.
While Sheila’s career takes off, her personal life gets increasingly complicated. With all the ups and downs in her life, the eating disorder gets worse, pushing her more and more into exercising. People think aerobics has given her the lean body everyone aspires to, but the truth is much darker. Sheila barely eats but then goes on a binge and then purges herself of all that she ate.
Her inner voice constantly berates her for being fat, making Sheila more conscious of her weight. Playing a role where a character is so deeply invested in their weight and appearance requires an actor to adapt themselves to it emotionally and physically. If you are wondering whether Rose Byrne lost weight to play Sheila, here’s what you should know. SPOILERS AHEAD
Did Rose Byrne Lose Weight to Play Sheila Rubin?
In ‘Physical,’ Sheila’s physical form becomes one of the reasons people follow her and buy her fitness videos. In one scene, when Sheila’s friend Greta finds out that Sheila’s weight loss is due to her eating disorder, she chastises her for selling a lie. Through this and many other things, the show focuses on the conversation around weight loss and exercise. Rose Byrne had to fit herself into Sheila’s mold to bring that on the screen. From her appearance on the show, we can say that Byrne might have lost some weight to play Sheila, but she has refrained from talking about it in the interviews.
The show focuses on Sheila’s struggle with bulimia, and in preparation for the role, Byrne talked to people who could shed more light on this experience. “I did a lot of research. I spoke to people in recovery. I spoke to a wonderful young woman who worked in an ED recovery center who was every day with people in recovery and all of the behaviors,” she said. The fact that the show is partially based on writer-creator Annie Weisman’s battle with bulimia also helped Byrne get the character in perspective. She and Weisman discussed it at length and how it factors into Sheila’s story.
Another part that Byrne needed to work on was the aerobics routine. She worked with the show’s choreographer to present Sheila’s evolution as an aerobics trainer and how it reflects in her routine. “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,” Byrne added.
Learning the physically exhausting routines was one thing, but wearing the tight leotards with quite another challenge. “Our costume designer, she just fit me within an inch of my life. It was every millimeter specific to my body shape,” she said. Still, she loved the whole process. She found the character’s emotional aspect more challenging than the physical. “What was more challenging was finding the teacher in Sheila because she becomes this fitness leader, and like any great fitness personal guru, they have a way to cultivate a following, and figuring that out was challenging,” she said.
Byrne was so invested in her character and found Sheila’s inner voice and struggles so draining that they started reflecting on her real life. “By the end, I was having bad dreams, and I needed to get off the set. It was starting to seep into my subconscious in a way that was not good. It was dark. I love Rory. He’s a stand-up comedian, and he would be bringing joy to the set every day and making everybody laugh, thank God. But by the end, I did feel like I had to get out of that house,” she said. With all this in mind, it’s clear that Byrne put a lot of work into bringing Sheila on the screen, be it her physical appearance or her constant emotional turmoil.