Backstage with… Rose Byrne: 'I had to lick Steve Carell's face - I was terrified'

Saturday 27th June 2020 03:00 BST

The Australian actress, who is probably best known for her comedic role as the perfect best friend in Bridesmaids, says her panic was increased by the fact she has a "longstanding acting-crush" on the 57-year-old.

Byrne told Backstage: "That was my first scene. I was so nervous. I'd just met Steve. I was absolutely terrified thinking, 'How am I going to do this?'

"I mean, can you imagine trying to do that scene now [amid the coronavirus pandemic]?"

Despite her worries about "screwing up" the face-licking scene, she says Carell put her at ease, and "could not have been more sweet or professional".

Largely credited with being one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, Bryne's description of Carell as "a truly hardworking guy who's always trying to get home to his family" only adds to his nice guy credentials.

But aside from the lure of Carell, Byrne says she was also attracted to the project thanks to writer and director Jon Stewart.

The former host of political chat show The Daily Show, Stewart is now as well known for his activism as for his TV fame after advocating veterans and 9/11 first responders.

Calling him "a singular voice in politics", Byrne credits Stewart with the ability to make politics accessible to everyone, adding "even a layman like me".

Byrne plays Faith Brewster, a Republican political strategist who is the thorn in the side of democratic strategist Gary Zimmer (played by Carell) who's attempting to win back the heartland from the Republicans.

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When Zimmer happens upon a retired Marine colonel (played by Chris Cooper) who's gone viral on social media, he thinks he's found just the man to run for mayor in a small town in the swing-state of Wisconsin.

But, of course, all is not what it seems.

Byrne clearly relished the role, calling Faith "a political animal who truly lives for the fight and the blood on her hands. A product of Washington and of the Machine".

And the timing couldn't be more perfect for the political satire, as America heads into five months of relentless campaigning before a November election when Donald Trump will stand for re-election.

With Stewart clearly keen to highlight what he considers to be a broken political system in America, the movie depicts a political landscape led by division, and a system which is largely influenced by money.

Shot over a year ago, Byrne says the political messages in the film are needed now more than ever.

"If I'd had a crystal ball to think, 'Oh, we'll be in the middle of a global pandemic and a civil rights uprising…' It's extraordinary what's going on in the world. I just hope people vote."

Irresistible also stars Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace and Natasha Lyonne, and is available now on streaming platforms including Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV. Hear more from the interview and a review of the film on this week's episode of Backstage - Sky News' entertainment podcast

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