Reporting from New York — — Happiness is overrated. At least, that’s what Gabriel Byrne believes. “There’s too much pressure to be happy in this culture,” insists the Irish star of HBO’s therapy drama “In Treatment.” “We’re constantly told that happiness is so accessible, but life isn’t like that. Life is a gradual process of acceptance. Once you understand that, you can find some measure of contentment.”
As he lounges on an old sofa at HBO headquarters in New York — the kind of couch that Freud could’ve read a lot into — there’s a sadness about Byrne, perhaps because he’s led the kind of life that’s primed for psychoanalysis. Born in Dublin, he moved to England at age 11 to study in a seminary where, he admitted earlier this year, he was sexually abused by a priest. In interviews, he’s been open about the struggles with depression and alcoholism that followed.
Now 60, Byrne looks like he’s lived a few hundred more lifetimes than, say, that guy who plays Dr. McDreamy. But then, that’s what makes Paul Weston, the well-intentioned but flawed therapist he plays on “In Treatment,” feel so human.
“We expect our healers to be perfect, but Paul isn’t perfect,” Byrne explains. As the show enters its third season, which premieres Monday, Dr. Weston is back in his signature chair, reckoning with what it means to be, as Byrne puts it, “a man of a certain age.”