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Amy Ryan finds new challenge on HBO's 'In Treatment'

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It is a landmark combination — the ultimate actor featured in the ultimate actor's showcase.

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For Amy Ryan, joining the cast of HBO's In Treatment for its third season — trading lines in a small room with star Gabriel Byrne as his character's new therapist — was a serious acting challenge and a great change of pace.

But Ryan — whose Oscar- and Tony-nominated work includes roles in The Office, The Wire, Gone Baby Gone, Capote and I'll Fly Away — downplays all the lofty acting talk. For her, it's all about finding new challenges in a career that now spans nearly 25 years.

"I'd done a movie right before this where some of my co-stars were young children who hadn't acted before. I'm talking, like, 2 years old," said Ryan, 40, laughing. "The next thing I was approached with was to sit in a chair across from Gabriel Byrne. I'm just trying to keep up."

Ryan's coolly incisive take on therapist Adele proves a deliberate contrast to Dianne Wiest's Dr. Gina Toll, the original therapist for Gabriel Byrne's Dr. Paul Weston. Where Wiest was a respected mentor, Byrne's Weston sees Ryan's character as young and a bit impertinent, even as she helps him confront troubling fears about his health, divorce and longtime relationship with Toll.

It's all set against In Treatment's unique format, in which four half-hour episodes air every week, each centered on Weston's sessions with a different patient and with his own therapist, now played by Ryan. The show debuts at 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; here are a few questions and answers:

Almost all of these episodes are focused on two actors in a room trading lines. And you're doing it with an intense guy like Gabriel Byrne. Was it intimidating? Exciting? Both?

That was quite a challenge sitting there 12 hours a day across from each other; it's an extraordinary amount of material to get through. One of the keys is to try and make it sound as if the words are your own; Gabriel does that in a heartbeat . . . If anything, playing this role is about playing poker, you're not showing your cards.

Have you been in therapy before?

I've done it. Sometimes, you have to break through what's blocking you. But it was such a different experience, I would just say it wasn't something to use on this show. You know, we spend so much money going to the gym to maintain our bodies, or we go to the mechanic to maintain our cars. It's just as vital to maintain your mental balance.

You're on The Office again this year playing Michael Scott's sometimes girlfriend Holly Flax. What can we expect?

I get brought back to the Scranton office, Toby's on jury duty, I still have a boyfriend and it's not Michael Scott. I started yesterday and that's all I know.

In reading up for this interview, I saw lots of stories calling you a "journeyman actor" or an "actor's actor." Is that a lot to live up to?

Those are nice labels; there's a lot worse things they could call me, for sure. I always get excited by where the best script is. So I was extremely thrilled to do something like In Treatment; just go one on one with another actor. I like shifting things around. Definitely keeps things from getting boring.

Dirty job in the Sunshine State

The first time Mike Rowe came to Florida to film an episode of his Discovery Channel series Dirty Jobs, he hung out with guys who snuck into swanky golf courses after hours and used scuba gear to fish golf balls out of the water features, which they would then sell online.

"That, to me, is Florida," he said. "It's recreational, it's dangerous, it's just left of legal, it's risky and it's profitable."

At 9 p.m. on Tuesday, viewers will see him return to Florida, hanging with workers in Boynton Beach paid through federal stimulus funds to eradicate melaleuca, an invasive plant in the Everglades. Rowe's love for Florida has returned. Here are a few choice quotes:

"It's always tricky filming in a swamp. We have helicopters flying around — we actually have a budget this year — and fundamentally, this is a dangerous job. You're out in a swamp surrounded by alligators with various kinds of flamethrowers and machetes."

"After 300 episodes, virtually every job is a version of what we've done and we've been everywhere. So now I look for people. Dirty Jobs isn't about jobs so much as it's about people and work."

"When the BP spill happened, I thought about going down there and really taking a different approach; when the blame game is going on, you go down there and say, 'I'm Mike Rowe and it's my fault . . . because I'm completely disconnected from where my energy comes from.' But then I would have been lecturing people . . . and I didn't want to be that guy."

Amy Ryan finds new challenge on HBO's 'In Treatment' 10/23/10 [Last modified: Saturday, October 23, 2010 4:31am]
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