‘Physical’ – Aerobics means salvation for unhappy housewife

Rose Byrne gets 'Physical' in '80s-set dramedy

Rose Byrne stars in “Physical,” which begins streaming Friday on Apple TV+.

Sheila Rubin is a woman with issues.

As played by Rose Byrne (“Mrs. America,” “Bridesmaids”) in the half-hour Apple TV+ dark comedy “Physical,” which begins streaming Friday, June 18, she’s a frustrated housewife in 1980s San Diego who gave up her grad school studies to be a dutiful wife and mother.

Her marriage, however, is no great shakes. Her husband Danny (Rory Scovel, “I Feel Pretty”) is a failed college professor and candidate for state assembly who generally pays her little mind. And this rail-thin waif has a severe self-image problem, flagellating herself for being too fat when she’s not binging and purging.

But this quietly tortured soul manages to find empowerment through aerobics, at first sneaking into a class, then getting hooked on the exercise and eventually turning her burgeoning passion into a successful business making aerobics videos. And along the way, she finds her voice as a lifestyle guru and economic force.

The series was created by Annie Weisman (“The Path,” “Suburgatory”) and also stars Dierdre Friel, Della Saba, Lou Taylor Pucci and Paul Sparks.

“A lot of what we’re exploring in the show is sort of the divide between the external and the internal for so many women,” Weisman explains. “And I think one of the ways that Rose inhabits that so beautifully is that you see that — and this is true for so many women, and not just women in show business — but that no matter how polished and perfect the external gets, there’s a tremendous amount of turmoil under the surface. And there’s so many internalized feelings of self-hatred. And it’s not about what you see in the mirror, but it’s about what you’ve absorbed from the culture, from your family, and from your experience.”

Byrne, who is also an executive producer here, first met with Weisman while filming the FX drama “Mrs. America” and was immediately taken by this damaged character.

“It’s such a preconception of illnesses like this,” the Australian actress says. “So there is no exclusive person, there is no rule of who or who doesn’t feel like this, or has personal demons, no matter who you are, or what you look like, or where you’re from, or anything. So I think that’s a big part of what Sheila is dealing with and what the show deals with really beautifully.”

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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