Martha Byrne has the weight of the (acting) world on her shoulders. As the lead actress in the dramedy Weight, Martha learns how life changes after her character loses 100 pounds. We spoke exclusively with Martha at her home about losing weight (it’s not fun!), how her husband always brings the zen to their life, and why, like Annie, she believes that there’s always hope tomorrow.
Martha, let’s talk about your acting background.
I got started in Annie as a child actor when I was 10. I went to an open audition and got the part; I played July. I was also the understudy for Allison Smith, who is one of my dearest friends to this day. I got on As the World Turns when I was 15 and stayed there until I was 19. I was in Los Angeles, but never got the part that kept me there. I wanted to come back to NY, and the head writer from As the World Turns called me and asked me if I wanted to come back, and I did.
Were you ever concerned about being labeled a soap opera actress?
I never thought about it until people told me that I should be. When I was doing Crisis, the producers looked me up and saw the glam soap opera shots. People perceive you in one way and might not hire you. I am known as that soap character but that’s fine. The reason why there’s identification is because people enjoyed you in that character. Even I do it as a soap opera fan. Since I left the show, I’ve done plays and other independent projects, which I think has helped people see me in a new light.
Speaking of a new light, let’s talk about your current project.
I’m currently doing a pilot called Weight that we’re shooting in July. It’s about a woman who loses 100 pounds on a weight loss how and it’s not what she expects it to be. It’s relevant; it’s every thought, every bite, every second. Being in the public eye, it’s a struggle. It’s a commitment but there are a lot of people who can’t help it, who have physical issues or thyroid problems. It’s a dramedy, so there’s a lot of darkness to the comedy.
In my own life, I would like to lose more weight for this project, but it has to be a part of my daily routine. Losing weight is definitely not fun; I don’t think about getting down to 1200 calories and am happy about it. But I do Jenny Craig and I love it. Sometimes, though, I go off the wagon, and believe me, I can really go off the wagon!
What’s your go-to treat?
I am a pretzel and a cheese person. I’m a salty person. I can stand in front of my pantry and think about what I want now. I try to justify it, but really, you can’t. You have to know what’s best for you, though, and what’s best for your body.
So this role resonates with you then.
When I read the script, I laughed because I’ve been there. I have three kids; things are not where they should be! [laughs] It resonated with me because people’s reactions when you lose weight is fascinating. Sometimes everyone is happy for you, but to a point. After awhile, when you start looking too good, they want you to stop.
You also do a lot of volunteer work with foster children.
Yes, I’m working with CASA for Children of Bergen County. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for years. Having three kids and not having a lot of time is difficult. I’ve been on the Advisory Board for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital since 2005, so I’m an advocate for children overall. When life is good, you need to share it with people. That’s why you’re given these opportunities…to help.
Let’s talk about your three kids, one of who very graciously went airborne for one of the shots![laughs] My oldest, Michael, is 16. He’s taking a nap right now, because apparently high school is very grueling. He’s a character, hysterically funny. Max is 11 and he’s going into middle school next year. He reads because he actually likes it. They fight all the time and then I’ll hear them talking like normal people and I think, “Oh, they actually do talk to each other. There is hope yet!” Annemarie is 8 years old and is my ball of energy. She was in the NICU for two weeks after she was born and was a fighter from the beginning. I find that how kids are at birth is how they really are; they don’t change very much.
How do you balance it all?
My husband is really great. He’s so zen. He was a police sergeant. He’s seen it all, so nothing is as bad as what he’s experienced. He keeps everything in check, including me. My mother is moving in with us, so he really gets the halo now! But my mother is amazing; she retaught herself chemistry so she could help tutor son. She also helped manage my career; she’s a great woman. As for balance, though, it’s one of those things that you might beat yourself up about at the end of the day, but there’s always tomorrow. [laughs] I guess that Annie girl knew what she was talking about!