Rose Byrne / Mrs America

Rose Byrne is riding a big wave of late. Having once again demonstrated her comic mastery in the female-driven comedy, Like a Boss, Byrne is now back in action in MRS AMERICA, the highly anticipated F/X limited series about the fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. The series, streamed on Hulu, spans the years 1971 to 1980, and explores the evolution of the American feminist movement over the course of nine episodes.

Byrne play pioneering feminist Gloria Steinem who led the battle to pass the ERA in the face of virulent conservative opposition led by right-wing gadfly Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett). Steinem, who founded Ms. magazine, was the most glamorous and identifiable figure in the women’s movement and much of the narrative revolves around her. Playing Steinem is arguably the high point of Byrne’s career, and she delivers a masterful performance as the highly articulate Steinem, one of the pioneers of the American feminist movement whose razor-sharp intellect was matched by her striking beauty.

“It’s easily the most intimidating role I’ve played,” Byrne said. “At first I told [the producers] that there was no way I was going to take on such an important figure in history. Everybody has an opinion on Gloria Steinem, and it would be too easy to screw it up…There is so much projected onto Gloria already, how do we really look at the more personal side of her?

“So I tried to find every reason to turn it down until I decided that it was such an important moment in history that most people have forgotten and that the story, including Gloria’s part in all of it, needs to be told.”

Another important factor in persuading Byrne to take the part of Steinem was the opportunity to work with an outstanding and largely female cast which apart from Blanchett includes Tracey Ullman (Betty Friedan), Elizabeth Banks (Jill Ruckelshaus), Margo Martindale (Bella Abzug), Uzo Aduba (Shirley Chisholm), and John Slattery (Fred Schlafly).

Added Byrne:  “It meant so much to me, getting to work with these incredible actresses, and to be a part of this story about how hard women fought to get reproductive rights and healthcare rights, what they achieved and didn’t achieve, and how it led to feminism now. I’m gushing, but only because it’s deserved”…

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