It's kind of shocking talking with
Melanie Lynskey, after watching her ascend on TV and film for over a
decade now. Over the years, she has been building a sterling
reputation for playing the perfect American everywoman, a cute and
funny but often surprisingly soulful girl next door.
Therefore, it took me a bit off guard when she called us recently, introducing herself with a noticeable vocal accent of her
native New Zealand.
Now, I knew that Lynskey had been
born in New Plymouth, New Zealand. I remember the raves she
received when she was cast at only 16 to star in the acclaimed film
Heavenly Creatures by fellow New Zealander, director Peter
Jackson – yeah, that guy who went on to make the Lord of the
That was a long time ago, though,
and for years I've been watching Lynskey become one of the
go-to supporting actresses in Hollywood, always with a flawless
American accent. Lynskey has gotten a reputation for stealing
films from her more famous co-stars, doing stunning turns as Matt
Damon's patient wife in The Informant!, a melancholy
house-wife in Away We Go, George Clooney's engaged sister in
Up in the Air and an absentee mother in Win Win.
Beyond that, perhaps her greatest notice has come for playing Rose,
Charlie Sheen's stalker neighbor, for several years on the
smash sitcom Two and a Half Men.
Recently, Lynskey got her first
starring role in quite some time in the new indie drama Hello I
Must Be Going. In the film, Lynskey plays Amy, a manic
depressive in her thirties who has to move back home with her
parents when her husband leaves her. After taking this big
step backward, Amy must find a way to finally move her life forward
A couple of weeks before the film
was released, Lynskey gave me a call, speaking au naturel, to
tell me a bit about her career and her new movie.
You were born and
grew up in New Zealand. Did you always want to be an actress and
could you have ever imagined early on that you’d be working in TV
and film on an international basis?
Oh, my God. I always, always wanted to be an actor. That
was my dream growing up. But I'm from not a very big town in New
Zealand, so I was always told that it was a crazy dream to have.
So, I imagined myself living in Wellington and doing plays. That
was my dream life. I was very excited with the thought of doing
that. So [film stardom] always seemed to be beyond, to be honest.
Your big break
happened when you were just 16 and Peter Jackson cast you in
Creatures. As such a young actress, what was it like to get such
a substantial role?
It was crazy. I think I didn't even really process it for
a long time. I just tried to do the job and be as good as I could
possibly be and not get too nervous. It was weird, but while we
were filming, I didn't even really think about the fact that the
movie would be released. It was too crazy for me. So everything
that ended up happening with that, I was just like: what?
People are watching it? It felt so crazy.
When did you
decide to move to the US to pursue your career?
It took me a long time to get the courage up. I moved here
for good in 2000 – 12 years ago.
You almost always
play American roles now. Would
you ever like to do a role using your native accent again?
I just did a movie with David Wain – who directed
Wanderlust and Role Models – where I did. He
said, "I want you to use your own accent." That was kind of a
challenge. I'm so used to doing an American accent that it feels
funny. I can talk like myself and feel like I'm not even
interesting, kind of. But it was fun, it was quite liberating.
Now the first
time I really remember seeing you – although I realized later I’d
seen you in
Rose Red and
– was playing Rose on
and a Half Men. How did you get that role and what was the
experience of being part of such a huge show like?
It was funny. I got my green card, finally, so I was able
to audition for television. Before that, I'd been dependent on
getting a Visa and making a movie. I went out on pilot season and I
got this guest star role. It was just supposed to be one episode of
the show. I was like, well, that seems like fun. I'll see what a
sitcom is like. When the show got picked up, they asked my if I
wanted to be a regular. I was a little bit terrified, because I
didn't want to be typecast. But, it was so fun shooting the pilot
that I agreed to do it. It was crazy. (laughs) It was
crazy how popular it became.
In recent years
you have become really well known for a bunch of great supporting
roles – I thought you were terrific in
Away We Go. Up
in the Air
and also recently
you were good in
Friend for the End of the World. As a supporting character in a film, do you approach it a little
differently than a lead like
Hello, I Must Be
The difference is in the energy that you need. When you
are playing a supporting part, you have a lot of time between scenes
to regroup. You're not carrying the movie on your shoulders. So,
it's a lot easier. You just sort of show up and have fun with it.
It's a different pressure, especially when you are doing a tiny
Like I said, you
also just did
Friend at the End of the World. I recently interviewed Steve Carell and Keira Knightley and asked them this: what do
you think you would do if you found out the world only thirty days
Oh, man. Gosh, I think I would eat a lot of delicious
foods. I would try to hang out with my family and my friends as
much as possible. I don't know, gosh. I'd just try to be around
people I love and eat a lot and drink a lot of wine.
Also, like Keira
with her records, what would you want to keep with you at all times?
I loved that in the movie. (laughs) Umm, my dog.
My dog would be it. I think they have a dog in the movie, too.
After doing so
many supporting roles lately, what is it like to get such a strong
lead role with
Hello, I Must
It was very exciting, especially because it is in a movie
that I really love and believe in. I've never wanted to do a lead
role just for the sake of doing a lead role. So, I'm glad that it
felt right and it's a movie that I can really get behind. It was
good, it was a real challenge. It was nice to be so busy every
day. I loved it.
What was it about
the script for
Hello, I Must
that appealed to you?
I felt like the character was so fully formed, was so
interesting. She was such a disaster in the beginning. It felt to
me like I had the opportunity to create a character as the movie was
running. She was that down and she was sort of a shapeless entity.
She doesn't have a lot going for her. She becomes a human being.
That was interesting.
particularly in the early phases of the film, Amy was quite deeply
depressed. Did you do any research on depression and how it affects
people for the role?
I've gone through times in my life where I've been
depressed and I've known a lot of people who suffered with real
depression. It's something that is familiar to me. I have music
that I can listen to that will put me back in a place remembering
what that feels like. So, it wasn't too hard to access,
I was thinking
watching, how depressed do you have to be to cry during a Marx
Yeah! (laughs harder) That's true.
As someone who
has been out on your own for many years, how hard was it to imagine
being at a state in your 30s where you had to move back home and
have to return to all the things you thought you had left behind?
That is something that is very difficult for me to
imagine. I don't know. So, for me, I put myself in that situation
and tried to understand crazy she felt. Nobody wants to have to do
that. Everybody wants to be independent and have their life
together and be proud of themselves. So, that's a horrible feeling
to be back at square one.
There was a
really touching scene you had with your father in which he talks
about how as a parent the most important thing was just being sure
your kids are safe and happy. As an adult – I’m sorry, I don’t know
if you have children – but how did that scene affect you?
I don't have children, no. But I thought that scene was
heartbreaking. It's a really good way to put that. Parents just
want to know... I know from my dad, certainly, that is always a big
fear. He is always like (laughs) "Are you okay?" "Can you
pay the mortgage?" That was his great fear when I became an actor,
that I wouldn't be okay.
Blythe Danner is
such a great actress. Your character and hers had sort of a brittle
mother-daughter relationship. What was she like to work with?
She was totally different [in real life]. She's such a
sweet lady. She had a very difficult time being mean. She's such
an amazing actress and so good in the movie, but it was really hard
for her. I kept saying to her: Amy is really annoying. (laughs)
She's driving you crazy. It's fine. You're allowed to... [be
mad]. But she is such a sweet lady. She doesn't want to hurt
anybody's feelings. She is such a warm [person]. You can tell she
is a great mother and a great grandmother. It was very tough for
Todd Louiso is an
actor as well, what was he like to work with as a director?
He was great. Because he's an actor, he has a great
understanding of the stuff you have to put yourself through. He was
wonderful. He's very open, but very confident as a director. It
was a good situation.
At one point Amy
screams up to the skies, asking if she will ever hit rock bottom.
Do you think people ever really do? How do you think people know
it's time they have to pull themselves up?
God, that's a very deep question.
It's a deep
I don't know. I guess you just get to a point where you
are like: if it gets any worse than this, I am not going to be
okay. So, I guess your rock bottom is wherever you are like, okay,
it needs to go up from here, because this is about as much as I can
handle. I think that is the point that she is at there.
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