"I was losing my mind trying to conform to something that was not physically possible for me," Lynskey, 38, says of a particularly emotionally and physically draining time in her life. "I was very unwell for a long time. I had eating issues and at a certain point I was like, 'I'm not going to survive' – not like I was on death's door or anything, but I was so unhappy and my hair was falling out.
Eventually, she made peace with her body. "I was like, 'I just need to look the way I'm supposed to look' and have faith that people are going to want to put someone in a film or on a show who looks like this," she says. "I did have to truly become comfortable with myself, because you can't fake it."
Lynskey's career has been flourishing. In addition to her critically acclaimed role as a mom with a frayed marriage on the HBO dramedy Togetherness, the New Zealand-born actress has appeared on TV's Two and a Half Men and in films such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Up in the Air and Ever After.
John P. Johnson
With Togetherness, Lynskey says she loves that her character feels like a real person with real flaws. And as scary as her nude scenes have been, she enjoys the support she's received from women who watch the show.
"For me, as a woman who is a different shape from a lot of women who are on television, that's the thing that keeps me going sometimes," she says. "It's very challenging to put yourself out there and be like, 'You know what, this is what I look like. I am having thyroid issues and I gained 20 lbs. and I still have to be naked on television.' Literally that is a thing that happened to me last season, suddenly I'm 20 lbs. heavier and I feel so fortunate that my bosses are not like, 'Eh, can you try to do something about that?' There's not this weird unrealistic expectation. A lot of women look like me. I will hear on Twitter or sometimes I meet women who are so grateful to see something reflected back at them that reminds them of themselves. People are like, 'Oh my god, you have normal looking boobs! Thank you.'""
Lynskey adds that the most important thing for her is that she and the show never make fun of her shape or size.
"There was one scene where I was supposed to be eating a hamburger and complaining, 'I'm out of shape!'" Lynskey recalls. "I said to them, 'I'm not going to do that because I don't want to put that out there.' It's very important to me that I'm playing a woman who looks like this, but is very in charge of her sexuality. She's somebody who has desire and is desired and is a woman living her life."
Lynskey says she's had to turn down roles that stereotyped her for her size. "I'm like a size 8, so it's not like anything crazy is happening over here, but it gets portrayed like that," she says. "There was a lot of stuff I used to get offered as an actress like the fat friend, that kind of thing, and I just reject it so intensely."
Togetherness airs Sundays on HBO at 10:30 ET/7:30 PT.