Playing a character with a crippling learning disability — as British actor Hugh Dancy does so believably and sympathetically in the new film Adam — is no mean feat.

But, playing his character’s beautiful, sophisticated, and somewhat selfish love interest is equally challenging, as Australian born actress Rose Byrne (Knowing, TV’s Damages) found out.

“This was a difficult role to play,” says Byrne, in Toronto recently with Dancy and writer/director Max Mayer to promote the film, which opens next week.

“Beth is a woman who’s been burned in love and she sees something in this strange young man that she needs, regardless of the consequences it may have for him.”

Adam (which won the Alfred P. Sloan award at the Sundance Film Fesatival) stars Dancy as the titular character; a soft spoken, socially awkward man afflicted with Asperger syndrome, a kind of high functioning autism.

When he meets Beth, the pretty young rich girl living in his NYC apartment building, a strange, sweet but potentially volatile romance evolves.

“I have a family friend who has Asperger,” Byrne admits, “so I know a bit about it and I was very wary on how we were going to sell it. I wanted to make sure that this situation would be feasible in reality and I think Max has done an admirable job.”

Although Byrne has seen her share of roles in major Hollywood productions (she’ll next be seen in the Judd Apatow produced comedy Get Him To The Greek) and her critically admired TV show Damages is currently prepping its third season, she’s still far from being a household name. Adam gives her the rare chance to take center stage with a complex role.

“I can’t greenlight a film yet, I’m not at that level in my career,” she says. “To get a script for a film like Adam sent to me, something this well written and complex … well, it was a gift and I simply couldn’t refuse it.”

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