Rose Byrne on ‘Neighbors 2’ and How the Female Cast Intimidated Seth Rogen
Rose Byrne may have started off in dramatic roles on the big and small screen, but with Nick Stoller’s Get Him to the Greek and Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids, the Australian actress quickly established her comedic voice. The first Neighbors gave Byrne her funniest role yet in Kelly, a character who refreshingly challenged stereotypes of wives and mothers in major comedies. And in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Byrne reminds us once again why she should add more comedies to her resume.
In the sequel, Byrne’s Kelly is pregnant with a second child, but that doesn’t stop her from engaging in a prank war with Mac and Kelly’s new neighbors, a house of sorority girls. Stoller’s Neighbors 2 finds Kelly and Mac (Seth Rogen) reuniting with Teddy (Zac Efron) to get rid of the sorority so they can sell their house. The new young female characters help subvert the sexist agenda of raunchy bro movies, making Neighbors 2 one of the best comedies in years.
Congratulation on having your first son Rocco. So far how does motherhood compare with the shenanigans of Kelly’s life in the Neighbors movies?
Thank you. It really does take a long time to get out of the house. That’s an incredibly accurate portrayal of our day-to-day existence with someone small. You’re constantly forgetting things and going back up, and then the weather changes and you’ve got this and that and just really, it’s hysterical. It’s like a whole army of stuff with you.
The sequel is all about how the college girls are smarter and harder to fool than the frat guys. Were you in a sorority, or do you have horror stories with female neighbors or roommates?
Not too bad. I will say we don’t have sororities [in Australia]. It’s all such a foreign thing to me, but I think that kind of plays into the film. For Kelly it’s such a foreign concept, these fraternities and sororities. It kind of adds a whole other alien element to it, which translates so funny.
Kelly acts just as foolish as Mac in the movies, but in this one she also becomes a voice of reason for the girls. Did you have a role in developing her further for the sequel to balance those sides of her?
Nick Stoller is very clever, as is Seth Rogen, and Evan [Goldberg]. So we’re always making it better and funnier and making Kelly as kind of funny and irresponsible as the guys, and as involved as they are with all the shenanigans that go on. That’s been our motto from the start. My favorite part about coming back was being able to work with Seth again and having our improv and having our relationship back on screen. He’s the best and I think we had a great chemistry. We really enjoy just kind of riffing off each other.
What moments did you and Seth improvise in this movie?
I feel like Seth does the heavy lifting. He’s so talented, so I feel like he starts off and I’ll try and come up with things back at him. But he makes it look effortless, you know?
There’s some great cameos in the movie with Abbi Jacobson and Billy Eichner. Was there any improv in your scenes with them?
Billy is amazing. Have you seen his show Billy on the Street?
Yeah, it’s great.
Oh my gosh, he’s another one [where] you really don’t know what’s going to come out of his mouth. And Abbi is very talented, and Liz Cackowski is fantastic. I was so lucky to be in a room with all those people.
Was the culture on set any different this time now that you were surrounded by more female actresses?
I think Seth was definitely more intimidated by the girls. He said that too. I think he found them far more terrifying, which is part of the conceit of the film, that the girls are actually a lot more dangerous.
With this sequel, Spy, and Bridesmaids, you’ve been apart of three big movies that are changing the way women are portrayed in comedy. Is that something that’s been important to find in your roles?
I've been so lucky. Paul Feig is such a champion of women and I’ve been able to work with him twice. So is Nick Stoller, and I’ve worked with him three times now. So I’ve had such incredible company with artists who are really interested in not having kind of stock female characters in these films, which has been the tradition for a little while.
There’s a lot of crazy and hilarious moments in this sequel. Do you have a favorite?
I think the tailgate sequence was very fun.
Is that also a foreign concept for you? Do they have anything like that in Australia?
Everything’s a foreign concept for me! I’m an alien here.
Did you bring an Australian sense of humor to the movie that it wouldn’t have had without you?
Not at all. I don’t have a sense of humor. I’m very serious.
You’re also returning for X-Men: Apocalypse as Moira MacTaggart. What can you say about her perspective in the movie since her memory was wiped at the end of First Class?
I know. I mean, where’s she been?! Poor Moira, she can’t remember anything. She’s like Bourne Supremacy, she comes back and she can’t remember anything. [Laughs] The Jason Bourne of X-Men. She’s not really. We find that she’s working for the CIA and she’s been dedicating her life to following these cults that develop around X-Men and the mutants. Some are very shady and promoting terrible ideas and sort of apocalyptic ideas, if you will. She joins forces with Xavier who finds her and enlists her to help them to get more information about this demonic character Apocalypse. And then the adventure begins.
You’ve jumped between dramatic film roles to television to comedies. Where would you want to go next with the roles you take?
Diversity is so fun, you know? And to be able to do such different things. So if I could continue to do something like X-Men and Neighbors and a tiny movie like The Meddler, I’d feel very grateful.
Do you think a Neighbors 3 could happen?
I mean, it’s got to, right? [...] I think we’d move the parents to Australia and then we’d raise the kids there.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising opens May 20.