The Apple TV+ streaming series Physical explores the additions and the serious trauma behind them.
When it comes to channeling your trauma through addictions, Rose Byrne’s spiky drama The Physical knows a thing or two.
Last year, during its first season, the Apple TV+ streaming series garnered attention for its invigorating and raw portrayal of the protagonist’s eating disorder, framed by the story of Sheila, a deeply unhappy 1980s housewife who decides to take control of her life after like her aerobics class.
In the just-released second season, Sheila dreams of a fitness empire with her aerobics videos, and while the pace of her workouts is adrenaline-pumping, the road to business success is icy.
The unresolved problems that had tormented her since childhood remained unresolved. No matter how hard she works. And while she no longer devours four hamburgers and fries, Sheila has picked up some other dangerous habits.
“Our goal for this season was to really credibly showcase how eating disorders really are often misunderstood,” Physical said creator Annie Weissman. “Eating disorders are not the main problem.
“This year she is gaining control over her eating habits, but that does not solve the underlying problem. She really jumps from one addiction to another.
“I think we are right in that period of time when there was still so much stigma associated with therapy, and so much stigma even around mental illness, especially in women.
“So, it really takes a long time for her to gain the strength to come forward and talk about her problems and then ask for help.
“Season 2 tracks her growing success, as well as her ongoing personal struggles, until she really hits rock bottom and recovers.
“She starts talking and her inner voice comes out. The more she grows in stature, it becomes more and more difficult for her to hide her true feelings.”
Weisman has been candid about drawing on her personal experiences while writing the series, and that sympathy extends to Sheila, a character who can be prickly and obnoxious as she swings from one devastating choice to the next.
“As a storyteller, the task of redeeming someone is incredibly difficult, but at the same time overwhelming,” Weisman said. “I love climbing this mountain. It’s harder and more interesting.
“And it’s really about those great performances that have an onion that you can peel and find that depth. I want to create such a character, as well as a woman, shamelessly feminine in tone, in the world, in cares and interests.”
Given how close the series is to Weisman, Byrne said she really relied on the writer: “It’s a deeply personal story for her, and so she’s always been a touchstone for me in terms of just setting the tone.”
For Byrne, the second season was an opportunity to take a little break from Sheila’s story and learn more about the dazzling world of the ’80s. Physical.
“I love that it’s not so much Sheila’s internal battle as her external battle, whether it’s in her marriage, business or finding herself, and her ‘recovery’ and there is recovery and then real recovery.
“And a journey where she saw her face the challenges of starting her own business and lugging around her cardboard cutout and little folding table.”
Australian actor Murray Bartlett has joined the new cast, playing Winnie Green, a fitness guru who competes with Sheila. Bartlett who stole every scene in White Lotuswas drawn to the project due to the complexity of the characters and dark sides.
And Sheila and Vinnie have a lot in common, besides their penchant for lycra and upbeat tunes.
“He’s fun and charismatic, but you can also explore what’s underneath and he has a rich inner life that’s full of darkness and he carries the same traumas as Sheila.
“Both Sheila and Vinnie are driven by a certain obsession that gives them extra charisma in what they do. I think it’s recognizable in the fitness industry or people who are obsessed with it.
“They’re fighting demons, and it’s very interesting to spur their ambition and their connection to this job.”
The second physical season is currently streaming on Apple TV+ with new episodes available on Fridays.