Woes of plus-sized actress in Hollywood: 'The way I look can often be the point of me being there'

Hollywood’s latest trend is diversity and from strong female characters to disabled superheroes to Asian representation and even gay romantic comedies, it’s clear that showbiz is attempting to showcase stories beyond that of the white male perspective.

However, one area in which they might probably be lacking is creating a space for plus-sized people.

It’s an open secret that showbiz panders to a certain type of beauty and conventionally attractive people. Even a huge cinematic franchise like Marvel isn’t above that as Eternals star Brian Tyree Henry thought he needed to lose weight for his role.

While celebrities like Rihanna, Lizzo, Sam Smith and Chris Pratt have spoken up about beauty standards and body positivity in the industry, it seems that there’s still a ways to go.

During an interview with AsiaOne for the second season of the Apple TV+ dramedy series Physical last week, actress Deirdre Friel admitted it’s challenging to be a plus-sized actress in Hollywood.

“I’ve said this a couple of times, but as a plus-sized woman in the industry, it can be challenging. The way I look can often be the point of me being there and not always in a positive light. So it’s challenging, it wears on you after a while and it’s hard. Even if you try to leave your work at work, it can seep in, you know,” she shared.

Deirdre added: “But I love this show for the fact… that I’m grateful [for] the way we’re talking about it. We’re talking about eating disorders in a very open way that I’ve never seen talked about before. And we’re celebrating people who look, you know, all sorts of different ways.”

Rose Byrne, who plays housewife Sheila Rubin on the showalso pointed out to AsiaOne: “I feel like there is a general movement to try to have more variety and diversity — body diversity, gender diversity — in our field… I think it’s usually important to try to represent that. And then finally, I feel like there is that conversation all the time. There should be.”


The second season of Physical follows tortured 1980s housewife Sheila Rubin (Rose) as she tries to build her aerobics empire. With her husband Danny (Rory Scovel) taking a backseat at home, Sheila starts a new and sexy affair with a real estate mogul and strengthens her relationship with Greta (Deirdre), while tensions grow with her former aerobics instructor Bunny (Della Saba).

Sheila also finds a new rival in Vincent “Vinnie” Green (Murray Bartlett), an LA fitness guru whose success she hopes to replicate. In her journey to expanding her business, Sheila experiences many setbacks but comes to realise the biggest obstacle that she needs to overcome is herself.

Drawing on personal experience with an eating disorder

Physical is the brainchild of Annie Weisman and the creator has drawn extensively on her personal experiences for the show — including her battle with bulimia — and season two is no different as Sheila goes on her recovery journey.

In a separate interview with AsiaOne, Annie shared: “One of our goals this season was to really authentically demonstrate how eating disorders are actually often misunderstood as really being about the disordered eating behaviour itself, and not about the core issues.

“So one of the ways we demonstrated that was in showing how she gets control of her eating habits, but that doesn’t solve the core problem. She hops from one addiction to another.”


As Physical takes place in the 80s, Annie emphasised that it was a time period where there was “still so much stigma surrounding therapy, so much stigma around even naming mental illness and women in particular”.

She said: “It really does take a long time for her to have the strength to come forward and reveal her struggles, and then to seek any kind of help for them.

“And it was really still a very new area of understanding and study in mental health at the time, and so when we do depict her in a season finally seeking out and getting help, we also show how kind of radical and out of the mainstream those sources of help were.”

ALSO READ: From dealing with teenage life to working with a Hollywood icon: Tidbits from Stranger Things season 4 press conference

Physical premieres on Apple TV+ on June 3.



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