Though she’s been acting since she was 16, Liv Tyler doesn’t revel in the limelight.
The star of the “Lord of the Rings” trio, “The Incredible Hulk,” “Jersey Girl” and “That Thing You Do” says, “I never wanted to be an ‘actor,’ to be the superstar, to be the center of attention.
“I always wanted to be working with groups of people that would teach me and elevate me and inspire me so I always sort of thrive in the company of other people.”
She fulfills that wish on Sunday when she stars in HBO’s new series, “The Leftovers,” a mysterious tale about the unexplained disappearance of 2 percent of the population and a cultish group that tries to gain control.
Tyler plays one of the “leftovers” who’s being cultivated by the cult. Just before the script arrived, she was considering quitting.
“I started praying to the universe: ‘Tell me now, am I meant to keep going, keep focusing on being an actress or am I meant to pursue my other passions and dreams?’ I think being second generation to the entertainment industry and being bitten by the bug, that happens when you’re a performer in some kind of way,” says Tyler.
“It’s made me a little bit head shy about the whole experience of fame and attention. I’m kind of shy in a lot of ways and don’t like a lot of attention, which is strange.”
Born to model-singer Bebe Buell, she is the biological daughter of Steven Tyler of Aerosmith; her mother lived with musician Todd Rundgren at the time of her birth. She thought Rundgren was her father until she was 8.
“I think I’ve always wanted to have some kind of a normal life just growing up in the household of entertainers and seeing that experience, because it’s very extreme,” she says.
“There’s big emotions and big feelings and one minute you’re being home and you’re totally normal and everything’s in order and the next thing everything’s chaotic and crazy and nuts and full of mystery and new people – and it’s sort of back and forth. So I’ve tried very hard in my life to keep something sacred for myself and sort of private.”
She aims to foster that balance for her son, Milo, 9. “I actually just bought a country house; I found a place that I felt good about so that’s our next adventure to sort of incorporate that into our life I’m always dreaming of moving to the country on a farm with Milo where he can be totally free and I can be totally dedicated to being his mom. That’s my secret fantasy.”
Tyler, 36, is divorced from British musician Royston Langdon.
“When Roy and I got divorced I went through that whole period – I really had to retreat for a couple of years to sort of heal that and make sure that I was OK and that he was OK and Milo was OK,” she says. “My dad always said when I was a little girl, I never forgot it: ‘There’s no way out but through.’ ”
“The Leftovers” is her first venture into television, an adjustment from film work.
“With this we get the script five days before an episode, so we’re all waiting. At first that was tricky for me being comfortable with being uncomfortable. But now I love it because it’s an incredible challenge, and I don’t have that much time to think about it. The truth is that’s how we are as people. We don’t really know what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week.”
Because of her gentle demeanor, people often overlook her resilient core. “People think I’m timid,” she says.
“I remember feeling that at such a young age just in the way I grew up and having this job at such a young age, you have to be very, very strong in order to be around all these different kinds of people and in those situations.
“It’s not for the timid at all,” she laughs, “or you can’t survive it.”