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Brie Larson Dials Up the Bass for ‘Lessons in Chemistry’

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Vogue: You’re an executive producer and the star of Lessons in Chemistry. What do you look for in a story from the perspective of an actor, versus as a producer?

Brie Larson: With a character as rich as Elizabeth, I felt like it needed deep investigation and understanding. Getting to be in it from the very beginning means that I understand why we’ve made these choices we’ve made with the script. It doesn’t mean that I’m the sole decision-maker, but it means that I’m here, and I’m listening to the conversations, I’m participating in those discussions. By the time we get to set, I know the crew, I know our cast, I know our sets, I know all of it, and I don’t have this first day of school [feeling], going around introducing myself and trying to figure out what I’m doing. It creates a very cohesive working environment. Making these things is a team sport and it requires a lot of different people with a lot of different skill sets all working on the same art project with the same vision at the same time. That’s really profound. So for me, producing is about bringing all these people together so that [we have] the necessary communication, and by the time we get on set, we can have fun and we know what we’re doing.

As an actor, what drew you to Elizabeth?

I just love her. I love her honesty—that like she can’t not say what is true—that she’s a literal listener, that she just really can’t be pulled from herself. Her intelligence, her humor, her capacity to love—there’s just so many things in her that I think are worthy of exploring and worthy of sharing.

How do you tap into her as a character?

I don’t leave myself to play these characters. I imagine it like dials—like, if you were listening to music, you turn the bass up or turn it down. That’s what it is for me with these characters. Everything lives in me, it’s just changing the volume of certain things. There’s things that Elizabeth is that I am not, there’s things that we are similar in, there’s things that she taught me. There were times that I felt frustrated with her, there are definitely times where I was like, Just cry, Elizabeth, just show your emotions. That was hard for me because I’m a very emotive and expressive person, and so to be in constant restraint was hard. But I just loved getting to know her.


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