Rose Byrne – international movie star and FHM Australia’s 16th sexiest woman in the world (2006) – has a terrible internet connection. It takes her two goes to join our Zoom, and from that point on she’ll freeze roughly every four minutes through our hour-long talk, get stuck in a vast range of facial expressions – aghast, amused, evasive, perturbed, shocked, etc – most of which would be deeply unflattering on a less beautiful woman.

This is frustrating, while creating a degree of instant intimacy between us, because that’s all any of us are now, isn’t it? Film stars and journalists and politicians and Pilates instructors and formerly ferocious bosses alike: defined by our internet speeds and connections, similarly reduced by their inadequacies.

“Am I back?” Byrne says, after freezing for a third time. She buries her head in her hands. “Oh shit, Polly! I’m so sorry, it’s this house. It’s like a fortress, and the reception … I’ve tried every corner. It’s a bit shit. We’ll get through it.” She’s zooming from a rented house in Sydney, to which she and her family – her partner, the actor Bobby Cannavale, and their two sons, Rocco, 5, and Rafa, 3 – fled from their home in Brooklyn, New York, in the early stages of the pandemic last year.

“It was scary, trying to figure out how to get out and be safe,” she says. “And no one knew anything, right? We were all in this boat of, ‘What is this?’ It was a very, very weird atmosphere in the city. Bobby and I went to see Girl from the North Country on Broadway, then, two days later, Broadway shut, and by that weekend it was awful. All of a sudden there was this tsunami, tidal wave, of this fearsome thing coming, then it just arrived and it was like, ‘Whoa.’ Then people we knew started to get it. Bobby lost friends.”

Byrne, 41, was born and raised in inner-Sydney’s Balmain, yet many film and TV watchers around the globe have only ever heard an American accent coming out of that face, given how many films she has made in the US in recent years.

Many, in fact, only became aware of Byrne in about 2007, when she started playing the idealistic protégée Ellen Parsons to Glenn Close’s ruthless lawyer boss Patty Hewes in the exceptional TV series Damages. They next saw her as the prissy, perfect, perfectly irritating Helen in Bridesmaids (the 2011 award-winning, box- office-demolishing comedy that made me laugh until my gut ached).

Most recently, I got to know her as activist Gloria Steinem in the extremely classy Mrs America, the TV dramatisation of the feminist battle to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution. On top of which, the day before our Zoom, I’d binged the first three episodes of Physical, in which Byrne plays another American, Sheila Rubin, a depressed, suppressed 1980s housewife who becomes an aerobics sensation.

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