‘Physical’ Star Rose Byrne Breaks Down Her ‘Bittersweet’ and ‘Life-Changing’ Final Season

After three seasons, Apple TV+’s dark comedy from Annie Weisman is coming to an end

Rose Byrne in Physical (Photo Credit: Apple TV+)
Rose Byrne in "Physical" (Credit: Apple TV+)

“Physical” on Apple TV+ was always going to end after Season 3. But even with that plan in place, star and executive producer Rose Byrne felt bringing the series to a close felt “insurmountable.”

She told TheWrap it’s because of the love she has for both the series and creator Annie Weisman’s storytelling that she feels “bittersweet” about this final outing, which began its 10-episode run Wednesday. The series finale is scheduled to premiere Sept. 27.

“It’s an incredible role and an incredible part,” Byrne said in an interview conducted ahead of the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. “I’ve never read anything like this. It’s been a really creatively life-changing experience. I feel very protective of the show and Sheila.”

From the first meeting for Season 3, Byrne and Weisman were already discussing how they wanted to “close out” the story of Shelia Rubin, an ’80s housewife-turned-fitness idol. It was the finality of this last batch of episodes that made creating them so difficult. “It’s sort of impossible to end something,” Byrne said. “On any show, it’s just sort of insurmountable.”

Making that ending more difficult is how “Physical” changes in its final season. Since its first episode, the dark comedy has revolved around Shelia’s battle with her own low self-worth and her eating disorder, which emerges in the form of Shelia’s self-talk. This self-inflicted war is portrayed by an aggressively negative voiceover from Byrne. But in this new season (and after a round of therapy), Shelia has gone from yelling at herself to imagining her newfound rival yelling at her — Zooey Deschanel’s fitness star, Kelly. The result episode after episode is Shelia arguing with someone who isn’t even there.

“Annie just throws the most wonderful, terrifying stuff at us as actors with her writing. I relished it,” Byrne said. “You just hope you don’t screw it up.”

Zooey Deschanel in Physical (Photo Credit: Apple TV+)
Zooey Deschanel in Physical (Photo Credit: Apple TV+)

True to form for Shelia’s historically awful self-talk, much of the season involves Deschanel leveling heinous insults at her costar. Rather than finding the experience demoralizing or upsetting, Byrne found it “hysterical.”

“Look, you have to laugh,” Byrne said. “Zooey was always really game. She’s such a unique performer, and her cadence and delivery is always incredibly unexpected. To be honest, I found it delightful. I loved it. It was wonderful to have somebody there to play off of rather than in my head.”

The only challenge this shift presented was a technical one. Before, Byrne could record Shelia’s voiceover away from a scene so that the audio could be added in later. With Shelia reacting to her imagined version of Kelly, several scenes required Byrne to play the same conversation both with and without Deschanel, thus mirroring what it’s like to be in Shelia’s head as well as what it’s like for others to witness her various meltdowns.

Byrne knows that her aggressively internal show can be “challenging” and “polarizing to people.” Those very reasons are why the series may be distancing to some and why Byrne was “drawn” to the series from the start.

“I would have been drawn to it as an audience member. That dialogue that we have — men and women, particularly women with low self-esteem and self-worth and how it can control every choice and aspect of your existence when it’s really an illness — I’ve always been so drawn to presenting that in a story in a way I’ve never seen before,” Byrne said.

New episodes of “Physical” premiere on Apple TV+ Wednesdays.