Why Brie Larson Goes Dangerously Deep Into Her Characters

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Photo Source: Matt Doyle

Whether she’s kicking butt and breaking box office records in “Captain Marvel” or breaking hearts and taking home an Oscar with “Room,” Brie Larson is the kind of actor whose bone-deep (and deeply felt) performances make you wonder when she comes up for air.

Interviewing with Backstage, Larson explains that in order to “prepare to the point that it looks effortless” and to “get the luxury of listening” while performing, an actor has to live with the character she’s tasked with—sometimes until the line between reality and role becomes blurred. “It’s impossible, when you’re playing a character for 12 hours a day, to assume that’s not going to rewire some aspects of your brain,” she says. “It just will. Your brain is so lovely and so willing to please. It wants to help so much. But then you have to spend an equal amount of time undoing those neurons you’re wiring together, to make sure you’re back to yourself.”

Larson doesn’t shy away from the intricate untangling of her emotional self from her character, despite the obvious demands. She emphasizes the importance of bringing herself and her own biography—“my own tragedies, my own pains, my own sufferings, and also my own connections to love, to my mom, to my friends”—to the roles she plays. It’s a process, however, that has proven at times hard to shake.

Recalling her time working on “Room,” in which she played a young woman held hostage for years by her kidnapper and sexual assaulter, Larson says that she would at times need to remind herself that any irrational feelings of weakness when out in the real world could often be attributed to the emotional markers planted for the work. “Any time an emotion comes up that’s, like, ‘I feel so helpless,’ you go, ‘Oh, that’s Ma. That’s actually not me,’ ” she says.

While we can only imagine the kind of emotional landscape “Captain Marvel” constructed within the 29-year-old talent (a superheroic inner strength wouldn’t be too terrible a side effect), Larson does offer actors some advice on how to peel the layers of your character away at the end of the day so you don’t lose yourself within it.

“If there’s any acting advice I could ever give, it would be to have a robust life,” she says, adding, “You can’t live your life being afraid of the goodbye and worried about the hello. It’s all together. It all wraps itself up and becomes a great opportunity to explore, and then hopefully to put it into whatever you’re working on…. There’s all this good and all this bad and all these things that happen in the middle. It’s just life, man.”

Want to have a career like Larson? Check out Backstage’s film audition listings!

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Benjamin Lindsay
Benjamin Lindsay is managing editor at Backstage, where if you’re reading it in our magazine, he’s written or edited it first. He’s also producer and host of a number of our digital interview series, including our inaugural on-camera segment, Backstage Live.
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