Opening in theaters this weekend is James Wan’s Insidious: Chapter 2. The follow-up to the 2011 surprise hit picks up exactly where the first left off. Josh (Patrick Wilson) has returned from the Further feeling not quite himself, and when Renai (Rose Byrne) begins seeing familiar signs of the paranormal the Lambert family is thrust once more into a world of psychics, demons and ghosts. Insidious: Chapter 2 also stars Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, and Ty Simpkins.
During a recent New York press day I hopped on the phone for an interview with Byrne. She talked about what brought her back for an Insidious sequel, working with James Wan, and acting alongside screenwriter Leigh Whannell. She also talked about the diversity of her career, her recent work in comedy, Annie and more. Hit the jump to see what she had to say.
ROSE BYRNE: Making the first one was pretty unique in that it was done for nothing. We had no time. Obviously we had a great pedigree of James Wan and Leigh Whannell, but it was them really back to scratch again with no studio or anything like that. With Jason Blum producing, giving them total control over the film, which obviously can only be done independently. And then the film doing well. It was just very encouraging and obviously inspiring to do another one. Then I did speak to Leigh and James in terms of what they wanted to do and they were like, “We want to make a better film. We want to make a better film than the first one. We want to make it scarier and we really want to go further with the ideas. And we figured out what we think worked best in the first one and really explore that in the second one.” And I got excited. I was like, “I’m on board.” I’m really proud of the first one. I love that it was bold and weird and tried something different. Sure it’s not for everybody or whatever, but for me that was my personal experience of want to be part of the second one.
You’ve been in sequels, but I think this is the first time you have sort of resurrected your own character for a sequel.
BYRNE: Yes, I think you’re right. I mean television I always think of as being sort of a sequel, each season you’re coming back, which is the only thing I could relate it to but yes you’re right.
That’s what I was going to ask, did your experience with Damages make it easier to step back into a character you played two years ago?
BYRNE: It made it easier. I realized on like day two I was like, “Oh, you know what? I’m okay. I know what I’m doing.” Because we were all there. I mean literally. It was like a half an hour had gone by and we all just showed up again to the set. It was quite surreal in terms of from the top of the cast list to the bottom of the cast list to all of the entire crew. It’s really a testament to James. He’s a great director to work for in every aspect of filmmaking.
When you come back to an environment like that where everybody is back did you find it made the process easier than your average film?
BYRNE: Yes because we’d all understood the first one and we understood where we were coming into the second one. You’ve establish relationships, which is half of a first experience of a first shoot getting to know one another and becoming comfortable. Usually by the film I’m like, “Now I could start the movie.” Because the ice is broken and so and so forth, so there was definitely an ease to coming back.
BYRNE: He really has no cynicism about him, James, which is so refreshing. And he has no chip on his shoulder. He’s really happy to be there. He’s really enthusiastic. And he takes the genre really seriously and he just sees its potential not its shortcomings, which sure, every genre has but he chooses to see the potential of it, which is great. So everybody sort of has that attitude. He’d come prepared. He’s the opposite of lazy. He’s actually quite shy, James. He’s almost quiet when he’s directing, but very focused.
How was it for you acting alongside your writer?
BYRNE: Well first of all Leigh Whannell is undoubtedly one of the funniest people I know. He’s known for writing Saw and Insidious these incredibly scary, weird gore and torture films. I think he might have done standup comedy in fact, that might be why, but I feel like he told me that he did that in Melbourne. He’s hilarious so half the time I’ve had to stay away from him because he’s actually- and he’s Australian as well so we share a lot of things in common. I loved it. I did that with damages as well, one of our writers and co-creators was on season 2. I’ve done it a few time with writers or directors who have a role in the movies or the show and sometimes I feel like it’s harder for them because they’re wearing two different hats, but for me I just have to see it as another piece of the story.
You have this really cool career in that you tend not to repeat yourself. You’ve managed not to get pigeon holed or type cast in any way. Even looking at just the last few years, Renai is so different from Ellen Parsons, and she’s so different from Jackie Q, who’s the complete opposite of Helen in Bridesmaids.
BYRNE: [Laughs] Thank you.
It’s an impressive variety. Did you have to sort of fight for that or did you find it happened naturally for you?
BYRNE: I think diversity for most actors is such a blessing. It’s something definitely I’ve strived for. I’ve been really lucky to have opportunities like Get him to The Greek and then Bridesmaids. I’ve had some really great opportunities, which doesn’t always happen. So that’s been incredible. It’s all relative. I feel like I’m still very much under the radar, which can work in your favor as an actor, but also doesn’t work in your favor in that it’s a business so you can’t always green light things and stuff like that. I do feel very much like people can’t place me. Yeah, I feel lucky that I still have that ability in a role to sort of disappear and people not know who I am.
You’ve also really opened up your career to comedy in the last few years is that something you always wanted to do?
BYRNE: Yes. Australians, you know, we’ve got a very healthy sense of humor in us. God forbid we take ourselves too seriously so it’s kind of a cultural trait. As an artist I just think comedic actors are really underrated. I just think it’s incredibly difficult and the people I’ve been lucky enough to work with like Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Russell Brand, and Seth Rogen, they just make it look effortless and that is so hard to do that. So for me it’s been very exciting to be a part of some comedies.
Do you stand by that old saying that comedy is harder than drama?
BYRNE: Yep, I absolutely agree. It’s like doing a drama but on top of that you have to get a laugh. It’s really hard, yeah.
Do you approach the material differently or do you come at it the same way?
BYRNE: I approach it the same, but the comedies I’ve dealt with have been really heavily improve based so that is- you do as much as you can in terms of ideas you can try and all that sort of stuff, but that’s very in the moment because it’s all about the other person. Which is like with every scene, but particularly in improvisation. It’s a very different way of working on set so that’s been my experience with comedy.
I’m a bit of a theater geek so I’m very interested to see what comes of Annie and excited to hear you’re a part of it. Have you seen the script at this point?
BYRNE: Yes. Yeah, it’s excellent. I’m really excited. I’m just kind of dipping my toes in now so it’s all just unfolding, but it’s really exciting to be a part of.
Is there anything you can say about this sort of modern approach they’re taking to the material?
BYRNE: Not yet really because it’s very early stages at the moment, but it’s incredible obviously the people who are involved. So I’m excited to start to be a part of it myself.