Multitasking Martha

Former soap opera star Martha Byrne, a Mahwah resident, will appear in the NBC drama "Crisis," premiering March 16.

Martha Byrne will star in the NBC drama "Crisis" this March.
Courtesy of Public Relations

“I like to be a busy person,” says former soap opera actress Martha Byrne by cell phone from her car parked outside a Bergen County gym, pre-workout, on a freezing December morning.

It’s safe to say that Byrne, 44, is enjoying her current schedule. This month marks the premiere of the Mahwah resident’s new NBC show, Crisis, a 24-like drama that centers on students kidnapped from an elite Washington, D.C., school. Byrne plays Marie Wirth, the mother of a victim; Gillian Anderson and Dermot Mulroney star.

Byrne was among the leads in Preying for Mercy, a thriller that saw limited release in January. And thanks to the popularity of Gotham, the Internet-based soap opera she wrote, starred in, produced and directed in 2009, she’s sifting through offers to executive produce additional web-only programs.

Add to that a pair of businesses based in Paramus. In 2011, with her childhood friend Mario Costabile, a musician who owns the Paramus-based label the Vine Records, she launched ShowBiz Bootcamp, an academy-like program for aspiring performers ages 10 to 25. The boot camp is an offshoot of Full Circle Talent Group, a management company founded by Byrne and Costabile in 2010 to represent actors and musicians.
Then there are the rigors of family life. Byrne, who grew up in Waldwick, is married to Mike McMahon, a private investigator. They have three kids: Michael, 15; Max, 11; and Ann Marie, 7.

Still, focus isn’t a problem for the actress. She’s been acting since age 10, when she played an orphan in Annie on Broadway. She says show business has been “more like a hobby…than a career. You just put your attention wherever it needs to be on any given day.”

For 20 years, Byrne’s attention was on the long-running soap As the World Turns. She played the character Lily from 1985 to 2009 (also playing Lily’s twin sister for four years). Now Crisis, which she filmed in Chicago in September, is absorbing the bulk of her energy.

“I’m most excited about that role because it gives me the opportunity to show a broad spectrum of emotions. The whole premise is, what would you do to save your child?” As a soap opera actress, she says, “I got used to kidnappings and all these horrible things happening.”

Crisis is different. “They don’t tell you what’s coming story-wise,” she says. “They keep everything secret. You can’t even take pictures on the set.”

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