Rose Byrne and the Physical Cast Go 'Dukes Up' in Season 2

Mutual assured disfunction powers a new season that sees Byrne's '80s fitness industry upstart still contending with bulimia and facing a new rival in White Lotus standout Murray Bartlett, who plays fitness guru Vinnie Green.

by | June 4, 2022 | Comments

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It’s time to get Physical, again. The ’80s-themed dramedy, which was created, written, executive produced, and show-run by Annie Weisman, explores the transformation of Sheila (Rose Byrne), an unhappy housewife who discovers a passion for aerobics and cultivates a career as a fitness instructor.

Co-starring alongside Byrne is Rory Scovel as her husband Danny, Dierdre Friel as best friend Greta, Paul Sparks as rival John Breem, and new to season 2 is White Lotus standout Murray Bartlett, who plays fitness guru Vinnie Green.

At the end of season 1, Sheila’s dream began taking shape as she signed with a talent agent and began formulating a strategy to spread the fitness word to the masses, even if her strategy left fitness peer Bunny (Della Saba) out in the cold. Her professional life may be on the rise, but her marriage to Danny – whose political aspirations took a massive hit in the season 2 finale – is still hanging in the balance.

Rotten Tomatoes spoke with Weisman, Byrne, and select members of the cast about Sheila and Danny’s relationship status, Sheila’s unsustainable secret life, and the introduction of fitness disrupter Vinnie Green.

Here are seven things to know about Physical season 2.

1. The show and its characters toughen up a bit in the new season

Sheila’s focus throughout season 1 was that of gaining agency and power in her life – and maintaining that control, at any cost. Now, though, her fitness career is building up steam. And it’s where she’s finding her voice. According to Weisman, her mission to prove herself this season informs a tougher aesthetic all around.

“I like the dukes up feeling of it,” Weisman said. “Season 1 was so much about Sheila trying to find an escape from her own internal struggles. Season 2 is so much about her taking on the world and her saying, basically, Don’t underestimate me and don’t think I won’t come at you. There’s just a toughness to it that kind of speaks to the spirit of our character, this season, kind of targeting that in the world.”

2. Sheila and Danny’s relationship goes through changes

Rose Byrne in Physical season 2

(Photo by Apple TV+)

On the home front, Sheila and Danny’s marriage existed under the guise of stereotypical societal norms. Danny was the breadwinner while Sheila stayed at home to raise their child and tend to domestic responsibilities. But as the season progressed and a segment of Sheila’s secret life away from Danny blossomed into a potential money-making venture, his political aspirations crashed and burned, and the dynamic between the two began to become frayed.

“From my experience growing up in this time period, in a family that was in every way politically liberal, the expectations in the gender roles in the household were so rigidly in the past,” Weisman told Rotten Tomatoes. “And I think that’s the situation Danny finds himself in, even though he’s very progressive with it.”

Scovel confirmed that sentiment, acknowledging a readiness in Danny to let Sheila take the reins while he stays back and tends to things at home.

“She’s building a business that’s on a rocket ship to the moon,” he said. “The journey he takes to try to be a better husband … I think he does that because he really actually does want to save the marriage. I think season two is all about Danny’s eyes finally opening up to realize who Sheila is and what she’s doing and what he’s been missing the whole time by only focusing on himself.”

With Sheila done with the relationship and Danny working to salvage it, the show is quickly moving towards a game-changing tipping point for the two. And for Byrne, it’s a detail about the story she’s continually drawn to.

“That’s the difficult position that she finds herself in,” she said. “She sort of finally decided to leave and now she can’t. She owes him to try, and he’s trying. I love that. I think it’s far more interesting to watch a character who’s failed to try to give it another chance and to see if it can be saved.”

3. Danny embraces the whole stay-at-home dad thing

Physical season 2

(Photo by Apple TV+)

One of the bigger dynamic shifts to happen in their relationship is Danny’s move to take care of their daughter Maya at home while Sheila pounds the pavement to make this fitness thing work. It’s an important change for the series, as it lets Sheila spread her wings while Danny, for probably the first time, really connects with his daughter.

“I think the element of being a stay-at-home dad and wanting to sort of step up and be that guy at home … I think Danny kind of relishes it,” Scovel revealed. “He’s aware he’s going against the grain a little bit. And he almost wants to be like, Hey, everybody, look at me. I’m the more enlightened father. But then I think when he’s actually doing it, it does kind of change him a little bit. I think he goes, Oh, I actually do have this relationship with my daughter, and I actually do care about the activities I’m taking her to do or the people that are around. I think it starts from, Hey look at me, I’m different. He kind of prides himself on being a different kind of dad.”

4. Sheila doubles down on her destructive secrets

Physical season 2 on Apple TV+

(Photo by Apple TV+)

Throughout season 1, audiences were given a look into a personal aspect of Sheila’s life no one else got to see: She suffered from an eating disorder that found her, time and again, binging and purging in a nondescript hotel room. This was how she grappled for agency, power, and control. In season 2, her restrictiveness takes on a new shape as she jumps from one unhealthy choice to another.

“She’s had a whole private life that she’s kept from him,” Weisman said. “That’s been her mental illness. It is expressed with this eating disorder that she’s been really trying to hide. This season, we see that take shape, not just as this disordered eating, but also with her acting out sexually, because, that sort of replaces one compulsion with another. But they’re equally secretive. And they’re equally destructive.”

5. Greta becomes Sheila’s strongest support system

Physical season 2 on Apple TV+

(Photo by Apple TV+)

Their relationship may have started on rocky terms, but the bond between Sheila and Greta is now stronger than ever. Sheila’s intimidation of Greta has evolved into inspiration and now, through all of Sheila’s unhappiness in her marriage, Greta shows up as her strongest support system. You could call them best friends, even if it feels a bit one-sided.

“This season, the friendship definitely builds, opens up, and grows a lot,” Friel explained. “They really empower each other. They challenge each other a lot this season. But they really, really grow together. I think Greta is certainly very inspired by Sheila and what she was just able to accomplish on her own because it’s the ’80s and women are not doing that yet.”

6. Danny’s political future is up in the air

Physical season 2 on Apple TV+

(Photo by Apple TV+)

Danny’s mission to “Save the Wave” in his run for political office crashed and burned last season, and according to Scovel, he’s feeling a bit rudderless. But from the sounds of things, Danny’s passion for environmental activism still burns in season 2.

“I think he’s in a position of wondering how much he can commit to it because it does seem like something that hasn’t worked,” Scovel revealed. “It didn’t work in season 1; the election didn’t work. And I think now the activism he’s trying early on in season 2 … I think he’s having to reconcile where his motivation for that activism is coming from. Is it self-centered? Is it, sort of self-serving? Or does he really want to try to make this change?”

7. Sheila turns to a new mentor to take her career to the next level

Physical season 2 on Apple TV+

(Photo by Apple TV+)

Vinnie Green is about to shake up Sheila’s life. As Weisman explains it, the fitness celebrity will be both a mentor to Sheila and her opponent.
“This season, we really wanted to have a worthy adversary for Sheila,” she said. “This phenomenon of the fitness guru and the fitness entrepreneur is starting to happen. And it’s a train that started to leave the station, so she better get on it fast.”

Byrne describes Vinnie as “an established personality who is really that cult of like, self-help, and connecting with your audience.” As quaint as it comes off in the series, compared to where we are now with social media and brand influencers, Green’s a symbol of the fitness phenomenon that would eventually take the ’80s by storm.

“It was really revolutionary,” the actress continued. “Really accessing people, and viewers, and money, and sales, and Sheila can see that. She has to kind of pivot to achieve what she wants.”

His magnetism is the bait that lures Sheila in, but Weisman warns things aren’t all sunshine and roses in the world of Vinnie Green.

“Once she gets very close to him, she starts to see all this real dysfunction under the surface that’s making the engine run,” she explained. “It’s not the same as her dysfunction, but it’s equally dysfunctional.”

92% Physical: Season 2 (2022) premieres on Friday, June 3 on Apple TV+. .

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