SXSW Interview with Brie Larson - Star of Short Term 12

Interviews
by Kerensa Cadenas
March 26, 2013 12:30 PM
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WaH: How did you prepare for the role?

BL: I worked and shadowed a foster care facility. I spent a lot of time talking with people who worked in foster care facilities. I followed a lot of threads on Reddit.  I spent time getting the sea legs of having that strong voice that Grace can have when she's dealing with the kids that I just don't have. I had just gotten into the film, so I needed a little extra boost there. It felt really natural and fluid. I was just mostly listening, which I think was the best thing. My favorite part of my job is getting to do a scene where these kids talk and I just listen. 

I planned out certain things. I kept a log. I don't plan anything out before I shoot something. I just memorize it and see what happens. When I was done, I had my big script and I would kind of write in what had happened so that three weeks from now when I'm shooting the thing directly before it or directly after it, I would have an idea of where I am so that everything matches up. 

WaH: The other thing I really liked was the relationship between your character and Jayden. Had you previously worked with Kaitlyn Dever?

BL: Yes.  On The Spectacular Now.

WaH: You have some really intense scenes together. How did you come at those scenes together?

BL: We had met during The Spectacular Now. We didn't have any scenes together, but we spent a lot of hanging out. In the same way that Grace meets Jayden, she sees herself in Jayden and that's kind of the catalyst for her understanding herself better. There was a very similar thing going on on the set. There was so much about Kaitlyn that reminded me of me at that age and we just got each other. And, she is just a true actor. I just have to give her so much credit. She's so ambitious, so hardworking. She's just so vulnerable in those moments that she needs to be and willing to just let it all go. And so excited about getting into things too.

I think a lot of kids would be tentative or nervous about doing something where they are slamming a door and thrashing. But, she did that scene eight times and wanted to keep doing it. She would wipe her tears and then restart the hysteria every single time. I was like "Man, I should start taking my cues from her." She is absolutely the real deal and I think that she really helped my performance be as good as it could possibly be. Most of my performance or my outlook on Grace was to get everything going in my head, but never saying anything. So, I would spend a lot of time working myself up and then throwing myself into a scene. 

WaH: Why do you think it's so important to tell Grace's story?  Why do you think it's special?

BL: I think it's a really important aspect of our lives to realize that life is constantly happening. Sometimes you get tossed a bad hand.  I feel like when you can let things go you can actually appreciate something that's happened to you.  I think that this movie is all about that the cure to everything is love. 

WaH:  Do you want to talk about your experience directing the short Weighting?

BL: I love it. I just love it. I feel like it has been such a great learning experience and has made me a better actor in many ways. I feel much more comfortable choosing my freedoms. Short Term 12 was hard work, but it's not my movie. It's Destin's movie and I'm just an instrument in his orchestra. I feel very comfortable in that and I don't feel anything beyond that. I can do that because I know I'm writing something at the same time that I can create and have complete control over.

WaH: The entertainment industry isn't an easy one for women. Do you have women you look up to or female mentors that have helped you in your career?

BL: I've been really fortunate that I've worked with a lot of strong women who are also mothers. I feel like it's like a game changer for most people, especially actresses. They are stripped down of everything and they have something that matters more than being on camera.

Toni Collette has been a huge influence. She was my absolute number one idol, and then I got United States of Tara. I was pinching myself. I couldn't believe the first day I was on set and I got pages of dialogue of real stuff to do with her. And, she actually liked what I was doing and she became my friend and has opened up her home to me. She is so, so awesome. And, she's a true talent. She's a chameleon and moves into other things and I've taken a lot from that.

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