Brie Larson
Photo by Christopher Patey

Brie Larson: “I hope my work makes people feel less alone”

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Short Profile

Name: Brianne Sidonie Desaulniers
DOB: October 1 1989
Place of Birth: Sacramento, California, USA
Occupation: Actor

Ms. Larson, what is your ‘coming of age’ story?

It’s an ever-changing, life-long process to continue to break away from the shackles that bind us and the things that we are born with. We are born with a connection to our family and being brought up a certain way and a certain community that we live in and certain part of the world that we live in. It takes our sense of curiosity to continue to push forward and break away from those things. I still have moments when I close myself in, but I wouldn’t be on the path that I am with the career that I’ve had if I didn’t have a deep understanding of the sense of my inner freedom.

Because acting requires making yourself vulnerable?

Yes and it’s a huge peace to allow yourself to be that vulnerable in front of so many people. You gain a sense of freedom and understanding and forgiveness for being human. You realize how difficult being an adult can be. Instead of trying to control things and make it the way I want them, you have to be more open to what it is and be curious about what it is and curious about the time when we feel that rub, when we feel frustration. There is great Ramdev quote when he says “That thing that you are feeling is your life.”

You don’t need to be in control as an actor?

It’s very rare when we are in control of everything. Sure I can learn my lines, I can know my character really well, but there are so many factors going on throughout the day. There are weather issues, there are technical issues, any number of things can happen during the day and the actor’s job is at the mercy of everybody else — of the focus puller, that the lighting is right, that the camera is turned on, that everybody is having a good attitude and moving quickly. I still have moments of doubts and I still get scared and I still wish sometimes that I was back at home with my parents, and they were making lunch and I would go to school and life was simpler…

“We have so many opportunities and options — it’s a huge burden, but it’s also the most freeing part of our lives.”

But there is no going back to that reality.

And there is so much to be gained from adulthood! Feelings just become so much deeper. The feeling of sadness and loss is much deeper than when you were a kid, but the feelings of love and happiness have also so much more dimension when you get older… That is what’s so hard and exciting about being a human being. We have to choose every day to be active participants. To wake up in the morning and choose this life and make something of it is an incredible thing. Not many living creatures have that option. We have so many opportunities and options — it’s a huge burden, but it’s also the most freeing part of our lives.

How long did it take you to come to that realization?

I don’t know. I think I was just born seeing things differently and not accepting the way that things were. Luckily I had a mom who was really supportive of the differences that I wanted to live, so when I graduated at 15, I was able to study whatever I wanted. I immediately started diving deeper into philosophy, mythology, and art history, and I quickly realized that there are these through-lines that have people have experienced since the beginning of time, these metaphors, the way we know how to explain things, there are deeper things happening below the surface for everyone.

Brie Larson won the the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Ma in Room (2015)

Did acting help you find your way?

A couple of years ago I looked at my mom and I went, “Oh my gosh, you have just been you your whole life.” I’ve had to be so many different types of people and learn to see the world from many different angles. I’ve had the rare experience of living life as many different people. I get in touch with many different things that are so surprising, that I didn’t know about until I started seeing the world through different eyes. For example, Room has taught me so much about myself and the human experience and the human condition. Between making the movie and it coming out I have learned so much and my relationship to it has changed as I have grown and I am watching other people get in touch with aspects of themselves.

Why do you think that is?

Because the movie begs for discussion and is open for interpretation. Everyone has their own idea of what the movie is about. And it’s a safe way of discussing deeper issues that are really hard to talk about. If you made a documentary about a woman that is being held captive in a room, it’s very difficult to watch and would also mean that you are invading someone’s privacy. But if you make it in an artistic film, it becomes a very relatable universal expression. You connect with something, but you don’t have to take it home.

“I hope that my work does that. I hope that when people go to the theater, they don’t feel left alone.”

Is it important to you that your work is universal?

When art is at its best, it’s universal. It can be re-watched and taken in at many different parts of your life and it means something different to you as you grow. It grows with you in a way. I grew up feeling really different and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like that I felt different. It’s very hard to feel that you are not like the other kids at school. And I felt very lonely and depressed about it. It’s my dream to learn more about what it’s like for other people to live.

And give that to other people as well?

Yes! As I have gotten older and I have had the courage to speak out, I realized that the things that are inside of me, the things I am most afraid of, everyone is and I feel a sense of inner freedom by expressing it. By relating to people like yourself, you can go, “Yeah. You are also crazy. I felt that, too.” What I am looking for in this world is a sense of not feeling alone, and that’s one of the greatest gifts you can give to another person. I hope that my work does that. I hope that when people leave the theater they feel less alone.