'Adult Beginners' Rose Byrne & Bobby Cannavale (INTERVIEW)

What does it really mean to become a true adult? Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale explore that question and share their own personal stories.
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Paulette Cohn
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What does it really mean to become a true adult? Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale explore that question and share their own personal stories.
Adult Beginners Photo

Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, and Nick Kroll in 'Adult Beginners.' (Photo: Radius)

Real-life couple Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale play a reel couple in Radius' Adult Beginners, in theaters on April 24th. And it isn't their first time working together, rather it's their third. Their two previous projects include last winter's Annie and the upcoming Spy, starring Melissa McCarthy, which will be released on June 5th.

"They're so different, all three of them which was really fun," Byrne tells Bio. "And honestly, I feel like we probably would have ended up doing some of them together even if we weren't in a relationship."

"Rose and I, we've never really looked for things to do together, and if the project weren't things that we genuinely wanted to be a part of, then we wouldn't have done them," Cannavale adds. "It's just serendipitous, and why wouldn't I want to work with her? She's a great actress, she makes me laugh, she surprises me all the time with her work, and I like being around her."

In Adult Beginners, Byrne and Cannavale's relationship is one step further than in real life. They play a husband and wife, whose relationship is put to the test when her brother (Nick Kroll as Jake), an entrepreneur who crashes and burns on the eve of his company's big launch, moves in with them and, instead of paying rent, becomes their manny.

Adult Beginners Nick Kroll Photo

Nick Kroll as Jake, the manny. (Photo: Radius)

While Adult Beginners is literally the name of a swim class for grownups who never learned how, it works figuratively as the title for the movie, which is a story about growing up and beginning again, even as an adult. And even though Jake is the one who has to start all over, Justine (Byrne) and Danny (Cannavale), who have a second child on the way, have their own issues to deal with.

"What I really responded to in the script was this idea of people, who on paper, should really be considered adults, but they're fighting it all the way. [Adult Beginners] looks at how hard it is to really take that step into adulthood," Cannavale says. "Just because you have the kid, you're married and you have a mortgage, does that mean that you are officially an adult? … I think in the beginning of the film, they're lost at sea a little bit on that, and I like the way that by the end of the film, they've taken a step closer to that because, I think, it's a hard thing to navigate for a lot of people today."

In one way, the movie was very real to Byrne, who actually had a cousin move in with her while she was living in London, and stayed for six months. She calls the experience "interesting," but adds, in an effort to be fair, that he did pay rent after the third month.

"It's hard, right?" Cannavale agrees. "Because you can't really kick your family out. It's just not done, is it? I remember my brother came up to live with me in New York from Florida. He was aimless and he was like, 'Can I come up and live with you and see if I can figure this out?' And I said, 'Yeah, absolutely, come on up.' I hadn't really thought it all the way through, but it's my brother, and he came up and he never left the apartment."

Adult Beginners Rose Byrne Bobby Cannavale Photo

Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale expecting baby #2 in 'Adult Beginners.'  (Photo: Radius) 

But Cannavale was luckier than Byrne because his brother only camped out with him for three weeks before deciding New York wasn't for him.

Adult Beginners also looks at failed expectations and the road not taken, especially for Justine, who had had her sights set on becoming an attorney, but quit school to care for her mother. She never returned to follow through on her original goal and instead, married, had a son, and became a teacher.

"It's amazing when you look back at all the things that have added up to where you are now," says Byrne, who never had a Plan B for her life. Acting was it. "It's so arbitrary and random, and I don't know … what's that great quote by Oscar Wilde: 'Youth is wasted on the young.' It's never been said better; it's so true."

In Cannavale's case, he admits that he did have a moment after his son was born that he thought about chucking acting and getting a "real" job. Especially because he was raised by parents, who came from the generation of: Go to college and get a career.

"I was a 26-year-old with a 2-year-old, and I hadn't done either of those things," he recalls. "I realized that sure, providing for my child was important, but at the end of the day my happiness was going to reflect on my child's happiness. I had to re-think what it meant to be an adult, and, luckily, I stuck to acting. I think that was probably the only time that I had second thoughts."

Adult Beginners, directed by Ross Katz and also starring Nick Kroll, Paula Garces, Jane Krakowski, Joel McHale, and Josh Charles, is in theaters, On Demand and iTunes on April 24th.