Brie Larson’s Room glam team had it easy. “My beauty routine was: Don’t wash your face and don’t wash your hair,” the 26-year-old says of playing Ma, a woman held captive for seven years, in the stirring indie drama (in theaters now). Her raw performance has propelled the costar of films like 21 Jump Street and Trainwreck (she played Amy Schumer’s sister!) to the forefront of the Best Actress Oscar race. Marvels Larson, “It’s one of those roles of a lifetime.” The California native, who dates musician Alex Greenwald, talks exclusively with Us Weekly about her breakthrough.
Us Weekly: You did extensive prep to get into Ma’s headspace. Did you really lock yourself in your house for a month?
Brie Larson: Yeah! I stayed at home for a month and tried to see what would happen to my brain if there’s no stimulation in there. And I went on, with the help of a nutritionist, a very pared-down, no-carb diet. I mean, I was eating probably the healthiest I’ve ever eaten in my life!
Us: What was the biggest challenge while filming?
BL: I live in Los Angeles, and because there was no sunlight in Room, I had to stay out of the sun for the whole summer. A big sun hat, Adidas track pants, and a jacket — that was my uniform every day for three months.
Us: Your onscreen son, Jacob Tremblay, is only 9! How did you two bond?
BL: We had three weeks to hang out before we started shooting, so we built the toys that you see in Room, we did drawings of each other, and we spent a couple hours every day doing that morning routine that you see at the beginning of the movie. And then we’d play Legos at night before we went to bed. We just very quickly became friends.
Us: There’s a scene where Ma voices her anger — and essentially blames her kidnapping — on being raised to always be a “nice” girl. Do you feel like that speaks to a larger problem in society?
BL: I’m glad you picked up on that because that was something that was really important to me. In researching victims, the thing that I kept hearing over and over again was that after the fact, girls said that they felt like they couldn’t say no. They felt like they could almost see what was coming, but they didn’t feel like they had the voice to speak up and say no. I felt so much anger about that. There is this strength that we are not teaching girls as they are growing up to stand up for themselves and to say no. It doesn’t mean you’re a bitch or a mean person. It means that you’re protecting yourself.
Us: You do such a good job of surrounding yourself with strong women like Shailene Woodley and Amy Schumer. What do those relationships mean to you?
BL: Thanks! I think the interesting aspect of life is that you’re always sort of in the middle. You’re never the youngest and you’re never the oldest. So being around people that are seeing the world with fresh eyes — someone like Jacob — is just as valuable as somebody who is 80 years old and has seen it all. And surrounding myself with women of different backgrounds and on different paths and in different stages of their lives has become so valuable to me.
Us: You came off of Trainwreck right before you filmed Room. Do you prefer comedy or drama?
BL: They sort of work together. Like, after you finish a Room, you really want to go to a comedy. And then after you’re done with a comedy you might really want to go back to something that’s darker. They need each other. It’s fun to bounce back and forth.
Us: You’ve done so much of both — my favorite find on your IMDb is that you were a Six Chick in 13 Going on 30!
BL: [laughs] Oh yeah, that’s pretty good! Photos of that have been resurfacing recently. That’s hilarious.
Us: Now Room is getting so much Oscar buzz! How do you feel about all the hype?
BL: I haven’t given much thought to it. To me, it means that perhaps it will make more people go see the movie, and that’s beautiful.