In the new drama, Short Term 12, Brie Larson plays a young woman who juggles working in a care facility for abused children with trying to grapple with her own traumatic past.
Actor Brie Larson hadn’t even finished reading Destin Daniel Cretton’s screenplay for Short Term 12 before she knew she desperately wanted to be a part of it.
“I was shooting The Spectacular Now,” she recalls. “And was sent the script and was told that I should read this as soon as possible because I was going to love it and it was absolutely true. 50 pages in I had to call my agent and say, ‘I have to meet with this person. I don’t care if he doesn’t want me for this role, I just need to know who did this.’ and we had a Skype call while I was in Georgia.”
Larson, who has made an impression in a series of supporting roles in everything from Scott Pilgrim Vs The World to Community, was drawn to the role of Grace, the embattled lead counsellor who strives to care for others while being seemingly incapable of managing her own pain. “I think we all know to a certain degree what that feels like,” she reflects. “I think there’s an element of that to the movie, where she’s trying to escape something from her past, something inside of her that she doesn’t want to deal with and so she thinks that, if she becomes more of a selfless person, then it’ll combat that. She can fix these kids; she might think in her head that she is broken, but these kids are fixable. But every time she throws herself into these kids and tries to give to them instead of giving to herself, something horrible happens and they just kind of become a mirror reflecting herself.”
Assuming the role of foster carer demanded a lot of preparation and research from the get-go. “I was completely convinced I wasn’t going to get the role because I was of no importance and so I spent a lot of time researching the subject matter and learning as much as I could about it,” Larson says. “First I started with just reading what I could on the internet and learning about the rules of those facilities – what kind of hours they’re like, what you would know about the kids, what the day to day feels like, how you deal with it, what you do when you go home to deal with this stuff, how long people usually stay in this field and why. From there I ended up shadowing at a facility. I got the be on the floor with some kids and got to observe firsthand what it’s like to be line staff. Then I had the opportunity to sit down with a few different people in the field and ask them questions about it and kind of piece it together for myself.”
Unsurprisingly, actually being present in a working facility was the most challenging part of the process – but also the most rewarding. “You say the word ‘shadow’ as though it’s very easy to make yourself invisible, but it’s just not possible. I was kind of a mix of emotions by the end of it, feeling anger and hurt but also feeling so inspired by these line staff and these kids. It makes you realise how resilient the human spirit is. It wants to live and it wants to do well and it wants to flourish in spite of all these horrible things that can happen to anybody.”