Melanie Lynskey's Sundance success

By Helen Barlow

Sundance prize winner Melanie Lynskey talks to Helen Barlow about her latest moves.
Actress Melanie Lynskey. Photo / AP
Actress Melanie Lynskey. Photo / AP

Every time Melanie Lynskey came on screen in The Intervention the Sundance audience laughed. Her deadpan is a skill the 38-year-old Los Angeles-based New Zealand actress has crafted over the years.

Her performance won a special acting award at the festival at Sundance - where acting awards are not part of the agenda.

So describe your Intervention character.

I play an uptight control freak who's avoiding all of her issues by holding an intervention for two friends who are married but she thinks they should get divorced. She ropes a bunch of other people into it and they go to a beautiful house in Savannah where they hold a marriage intervention. It's a comedy!

How was it being directed by your best friend, Clea DuVall?

I was so nervous. Clea said, "I wrote a movie for you," and I was like, "Oh God, what if I don't like it!" It was so funny and so great. But I can be quite feisty and before we started working I was worried that she might have some different ideas as I don't have any training.

So the only thing I go with is my instinct and I protect it very carefully. I didn't want to get into a fight with her. So I talked to my therapist about it ... of course when I got there I was like, "Oh we're best friends and I've read every draft of the script and we have the exact same sensibility". So there weren't any clashes.

Ultimately it's your heavy-drinking character who needs the intervention. How was playing drunk?

It's one of my favourite things. Drunk people are just so funny to me. But I can't even have one sip of alcohol and play drunk. I have to be completely sober. I always pretend do that just for fun and Clea loves it and thinks it's funny so she put that in the movie.

This movie has a big ensemble of women. How many of those kind of movies do you get to do?

Not that many. It's wonderful. There were a lot of women involved at every level, behind the scenes and in front of the camera.

Actress Melanie Lynskey attends the The Intervention Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Photo / AP
Actress Melanie Lynskey attends the The Intervention Premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Photo / AP

Generally how has the career been going after Two and a Half Men?

It's been good. The last few years I was on the show so infrequently that I've had to remind myself that it's all gone.

You have completed six other movies.

Oh yeah, I've been working a lot. And I'm on a new HBO show Togetherness, which is nice. It's the greatest job I've ever had.

It's a lot more intense than Two and a Half Men.

Yes. I was only ever a regular on Two and a Half Men for two years. I get very panicky when I'm tied into something and it got to a point where the show became massively popular and I thought I was only ever going to be known as the wacky neighbour on a sitcom. So I changed my contract so I was able to come and go, so for the next 11 years I was doing movies and other things as well and it was very relaxed for me. Financially it was wonderful to have the consistent thing and doing a sitcom was the easiest job of all time, because the hours are so easy. Togetherness is so different because it's 12-hour days and a lot more is packed into it. Emotionally there's a lot of stuff to do.

How do you choose your parts? You don't seem to mind if they are big or small.

In terms of choosing things I did a movie [The Informant] with an actor named Matt Damon. Maybe you've heard of him? He's very talented and has had such a great career. I was trying to get advice from him and he said people look at your filmography and they just see the titles of the movies and the thing they think about is whether it was a good movie. They don't remember that you played some crazy heroin addict or something you regret. So it hasn't mattered to me if I'm in two scenes or a lot of the movie.

Who: Melanie Lynskey, former Heavenly Creature and recovering sitcom star
What: The Intervention (no NZ release date yet) and Togetherness series two (SoHo from February 25)

- TimeOut

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