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'Damages': Rose Byrne on the evolution of Ellen

February 1, 2010 |  2:27 pm

When we join Ellen Parsons in the third-season premiere of "Damages," she has a very different feel about her. In the time since Season 2’s bloody end, Ellen has somehow pieced her life together.

“Ellen was really a child in the first season,” says Rose Byrne, the actress behind Ellen Parsons. “A teenager in the second, and I think she’s really a woman now when we meet her in the third season. It has been a real evolution.”

In Season 3, Ellen is working at the district attorney’s office and hasn’t spoken to Patty Hewes in about a year. Working on a low-level case on drug dealers, it seemed as if there would be no reason to cross paths with Hewes and Associates again. Of course, this is “Damages,” and what we thought to be true one moment changed when a bloody bag appeared at the same time as Tom’s dead body.

Byrne recently spoke to the press about the evolution of Ellen and what we can expect from her in Season 3. (Beware: Semi-spoilerish)

Why were you attracted to the role in the first place, and what keeps you around now?
I had said to my agent, I guess three years ago now, that I was working a lot of series, “Rescue Me” and “The Sopranos,” and I said if there’s anything good out there, I would love to audition. They sent me “Damages.” And obviously Glenn Close was attached and I was immediately intrigued. I came in late in the casting process. I was also at a point when I wasn’t in my early 20s anymore and I wasn’t into my 30s yet. I was at a funny age for an actor, and the character was exactly that age too. We had a lot of similarities in some ways. That’s kind of how I got involved initially.

Can you talk about your love life this season?
Ellen does have somewhat of a personal life, but it’s very much about her work this season, I think, more than anything and her family. We get to see that side of Ellen a little bit more and where she comes from and how different she is from her family.

[Executive Producer Todd Kessler has said that while family is a huge theme for Ellen this season, we shouldn't count out a guest appearance from Ellen's beau from last season, Timothy Olyphant.]

This season, you’re working at the district attorney’s office. What kind of research did you do, and could you do that in real life?

Goodness, no. I went to university, but I didn’t study law. I obviously couldn’t do what they do. But yes, I did. I went down to the district attorney here in New York and met with some great young women down there, who are working for the D.A. They took me around with two of the other writers. We spent a half a day wandering around and asking lots of questions and being in their office. They were extremely helpful, and it was fascinating to see the world down there compared to something like Hewes and Associates, which is very glamorous and prestigious. Not that the D.A. is not prestigious, but it’s a completely different work environment. And the people that are coming in and out, there were all sorts. It was very interesting. Part of the fun of being an actor is the research.

It seems your character, Ellen, has found some kind of peace this season, compared to the end of last season. What do you imagine it took to get Ellen to this new place?

I think the time away from Patty and Hewes and Associates and probably spending time with her family and her friends and getting her life together piece by piece. I would say she’d just be putting one foot in front of another, really. When we first started talking about Season 3, Ellen is in a much more contented place in a way and has quite truly moved on. When [Patty and Ellen] do get back together, it’s much more on Ellen’s terms. Ellen says later in the season that she must have distance from Patty or she’ll get consumed by her again. She’s very much a different person when we meet her in Season 3 compared to, obviously, the drama and the trauma of Season 2.

On next week's Show Tracker: Tate Donovan will be joining the exec producers for a conference call after the episode. If you have questions, leave a comment below.

– Jethro Nededog (Follow me on Twitter @TheRealJethro)

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Photo: Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons on “Damages.” Credit: Timothy White / FX