Interview: Rose Byrne is glad her ‘Neighbors’ character isn’t a stock wife

Rose Byrne has added comedy to her repertoire, including the film "Neighbors." Credit: Getty Images
Rose Byrne has added comedy to her repertoire, including the film “Neighbors.”
Credit: Getty Images

Frats aren’t much of a thing in Australia, where the actress Rose Byrne hails from. But that wasn’t the hard part about doing “Neighbors,” in which she and Seth Rogen play suburban parents whose lives are upended when a frat moves in next door. For Byrne it continues her move into comedy, after a long stint doing mainly drama, like TV’s “Damages,” as well as the occasional horror film (“28 Weeks Later,” “Insidious”). In fact, she’s been doing films like “Get Him to the Greek” and “Bridesmaids” for so long, she might have forgotten how to be serious.

It’s nice that you get to do your natural Australian accent for a change.

Initially, I thought it would be too jarring. Then I thought it could work for the character, because Australians tend to have a wild streak. It’s a big drinking culture. There’s Irish and Scottish and English descent. And [her character] is so irresponsible. She’s not willing to grow up and thinks she can get away with the things she’s doing.

She’s also not the usual stereotype of the killjoy wife with a manchild husband.

We really wanted to not make her the stock nagging wife. “Don’t go out to the party!” They even have a scene where they reference that, and he says, “You’ve got to be responsible, you’re the woman” and that misogyny. I think it made for a funnier film, making them a comedy duo rather than have them against each other.

This is a pretty guy-heavy film, too.

I was the only woman on the set other than Lisa [Kudrow], our designer and our script supervisor. It was a lot of male energy. Listen, there’s usually only one female role anyway. So it’s not that weird.

This is a comedy, but like a lot of these Apatow universe comedies, it’s about a real anxiety, and it doesn’t pick sides between the couple and the frat.

I have friends, homeowners, who’ve seen it who find it really anxiety-inducing. Then again, kids who are 18 or 19 would probably find our characters really annoying. It represents both points of view. But I really see Teddy [the frat leader, played by Zac Efron] as quite villainous, because he’s so manipulative and vain. And stupid as well. He’s defining himself so greatly around this ridiculous role in this fraternity. Our characters are more bumbling.

Rose Byrne parties down at a frat party in "Neighbors." Credit: Glen Wilson
Rose Byrne parties down at a frat in “Neighbors.”
Credit: Glen Wilson

Before “Get Him to the Greek,” you were primarily known for doing serious work — and also horror films or thrillers. What has that shift been like, especially since the comedy you do is this improv-heavy style?

I’m still learning. I’m lucky to have been paired with Seth Rogen and Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph and Russell Brand — people who are brilliant and effortless at that. Comedy is a lot of watching someone doing something ridiculous. But it’s pretty technical. They have writers who are pitching you all the time — “say this, say this, say this.” So it sounds haphazard, but it’s structured within the method of it.

The cliche is that comedy is harder than drama.

I think so. It’s very hard. It’s just as difficult to tap into that side of your brain than it is to tap into a dramatic side.

You’ve been doing a lot of comedies lately, too.

It would be good to do something dramatic. I haven’t done something dramatic for awhile. I don’t know if I even can anymore. [Laughs.]

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge


Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking


K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.


Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.


Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.


Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.


Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…


Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…


2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…


NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…


Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.


Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.


Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.


Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.


Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.