With each role, Dierdre Friel aims to create change.
Friel’s last role is in the Apple TV + series, “Physical”, where she plays Greta.
“She’s a pretty crazy character and she’s one of the most eventful in the series,” says Friel.
“Physical” centers on Sheila Rubin, played by Rose Bryne, who is a seemingly dedicated, albeit quietly tortured, housewife living in the idyllic but fragile beach paradise of 1980s San Diego.
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Publicly, Rubin supports her intelligent but controversial husband as he makes an offer for the state assembly.
But behind closed doors, she has her own dark, comical take on life that she rarely lets the world see. She eventually finds an unconventional path to power through an unlikely source: the world of aerobics.
The series follows his transformation from a stifled and neglected facilitator into a confident and powerful lifestyle guru – someone we take for granted today, who was quite radical in his day. Greta is Rubin’s friend and client who is going through her own personal struggles with her weight and marital issues.
Friel says she was careful before playing Greta.
“As a plus-size woman, how we talk about people’s bodies matters,” she says. “At first I was a little careful playing a character described that way. When I read the pilot script and how the character of Rose is so hard on herself. At first glance, we think Rose is perfect, but she has flaws. As the journey continues, there is a level of self-acceptance that I loved. At the end of the day, none of us are perfect. It is important that we support each other. This is what Sheila and Greta experience throughout the show.
Filming for the series took place during the pandemic and Friel says it’s a whole new world when it comes to filmmaking.
“We all had that respect for each other to keep everyone safe,” she says. “When we got on set everyone was very welcoming and we were thrilled to be doing this series.”
Production was quick and thoughtful with scenes taking place with bulk shots meaning multiple episodes were shot in one location.
“Usually the shows are done on an episode basis and you deal with one topic for a day,” she says. “The day I met the guy playing my husband, we shot our first scene and it was a love scene. It was really interesting to dive into these scenes. We laughed a lot and found joy in making the series.
Friel has been working in the film and television industry for quite some time now and often finds a way to turn his roles into exceptional performances.
With “Physical”, her most recent television series appeared in “New
Amsterdam. She also starred alongside Jennifer Lopez in “Second Act” and recently completed a project with Ray Romano.
“From my perspective, the characters I played weren’t strong from the start,” she says. “They meet up in the process. Ella (in New Amsterdam) was very shy and careful not to step on anyone’s feet. She found herself after being diagnosed with illness. His career has given him a very important backbone. It’s very similar to playing Greta. In the middle of the season, she finds a way to be stronger. It’s a great trip.
The theater has always been at the forefront of Friel’s life.
Her parents met at the theater and her grandfather was tap dancing for the USO.
“Acting was a normal thing in my family,” she says. “I didn’t do it professionally until after college.”
Friel’s younger sister went to school at Santa Fe College, so she experienced New Mexico.
“Being from the East Coast, I never knew Santa Fe was an art hotspot,” she says. “By visiting my sister, I was able to see the natural wonders. The art galleries were exceptional and the scenery is beautiful. I went to 10,000 waves and had the time of my life. I would definitely be up for a project in New Mexico. So much for hope.