Damages doesn’t kick off swan song season until Wednesday (9/8c on DirecTV’s Audience Network), but a recent promo has already revealed the big mystery at the center of the 10-episode endgame: Is Ellen really dead? And, if so, who’s responsible?
The character’s long-suffering portrayer, Rose Byrne, isn’t about to spoil the outcome, but in the following Q&A, the Bridesmaids actress hints at a “haunting” final arc for her alter ego, previews a “satisfying” — and years-in-the-making — courtroom showdown between Ellen and Patty (Glenn Close), and recalls the twist that triggered a frantic call to producers.
TVLINE | Are you getting approached by fans worried about Ellen’s fate? The promos paint an ominous picture.
Yes, a lot of concerned viewers are coming up to me shaking their heads. They’re very worried. It’s a very provocative image.
TVLINE | Of course, this being Damages, nothing is ever as it seems. Is it possible she’s really not dead?
I’m pleading the fifth on this. [Laughs] I’m not going to give you anything.
TVLINE | As a fan of the show, the prospect of Ellen getting killed makes me angry. I know you can’t really speak to that specifically, but can you say whether Season 5 is a satisfying conclusion to the series?
It is. We really go into Ellen’s psychology in terms of her family and in terms of the dynamics of her family and how much that has shaped her and affected her. There’s a lot of stuff with her mother [played by Debra Monk]. We rediscover a lot of things that are going on there. And, obviously, there’s the Ellen-Patty relationship… It’s really haunting stuff. Ellen is very haunted this season — more than ever. We also get to see her grapple with power and the idea of gaining her power and being unapologetic about it. And also, how far is she going to go to win against Patty, who has basically ruined her life? That’s a huge thing this season.
TVLINE | The first two episodes suggest that Ellen is going to be severely outmatched by Patty in the courtroom. Fair to say the playing field levels out a bit as the season progresses?
Yes, it does. I think it’s a very satisfying thing for the fans to see. Early on we always talked about, “Wouldn’t it be great down the line to see them go up against each other over a case?” It’s like the ultimate ending. It all comes full circle. The protégé becomes the opponent.
TVLINE | This season really seems to return to the core of their conflict — which is that Patty tried to have Ellen killed.
Yes. It always comes back to that. It’s a huge thing haunting and hanging over Ellen.
TVLINE | Any twists this season really make your jaw drop?
Oh yes. There are some big things, absolutely. There were a few frantic phone calls to the writers, “What’s happening?! Really?! This is really happening?!” [Laughs]
TVLINE | How has your relationship with Glenn evolved over the five years?
I was very nervous when we started the show. She’s a formidable actress and she has such gravitas and she’s so smart; she’s Glenn Close. It definitely took me a while [to get over that]. I’m pretty shy. But I think it was quite helpful because in the first season Ellen was very [nervous] around Patty as well. Patty was this infamous litigator. It was suitable for what we needed to do. But since then it’s become so different. I consider her a real friend. Our relationship couldn’t really be more different than on the show. [Laughs]
TVLINE | I should hope so.
It’s so complex and loaded. And when we watch the show we just laugh. We’re just laughing. It’s so tense. [Laughs] It’s like a love story.
TVLINE | What was it like shooting your final scene with her?
It’s weird. It’s so bittersweet. I was lucky to get to work with Glenn Close for six months out of the year every year for five years; I was spoiled. Weirdly, by the end of the season, we’re so exhausted because it’s such a grind. You’re sort of in a blur. And in a way it’s good because you get a little less emotional about it. But this season is great. We had some brilliant scenes.
TVLINE | Your feature career obviously has a lot of momentum right now. Would you consider another long-term TV gig?
I would. Absolutely. I love television. It’s nice to have the rest of the year to relax because it’s the hardest work I’ve ever done. It’s a grueling schedule. The hours are hard, so it’s nice to have a breather. But the writing on television is so good. It’s as good as feature films — if not better.