‘All the Light We Cannot See’ Breakout Star Aria Mia Loberti Originally Auditioned for Her ‘Own Healing’

TheWrap magazine: “As much as I loved studying and reading about how the world can change because of the words we use, I wasn’t out in the real world doing those things,” she shares

Aria Mia Loberti as Marie-Laure LeBlanc in "All the Light We Cannot See" (Netflix)

Aria Mia Loberti did not intend for her “All the Light We Cannot See” audition to lead to a career change. The Rhode Island native and Fulbright Scholar was just three weeks into the first semester of her PhD program in ancient rhetoric at Penn State when she got a text from a former teacher. That’s how she found out about a casting call for Netflix’s adaptation of Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, telling the story of a young woman in Nazi-occupied France who is blind and sends out messages of resistance through her radio broadcast.

Loberti had always wanted to be an actor and wasn’t particularly happy at school — she described this period of her life as a “really bad mental health week, or really … year.” And so she decided to audition for the lead role in the limited series, directed by Shawn Levy.  

“As much as I loved studying and reading about how the world can change because of the words we use, I wasn’t out in the real world doing those things,” Loberti said. “I really wanted to be a storyteller. I thought I was going on the audition for fun and for my own healing, and I didn’t realize that I would find the career that I had always been looking for. That’s the power of storytelling — the power to bring people together to create commonalities where we may not find any.”

In case you haven’t guessed, she got the job, beating out thousands of hopefuls to land the part of Marie-Laure Leblanc. Critics have praised Loberti for her warm and nuanced performance — the result, she said, of lots of hard work during pre-production.

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” Loberti told TheWrap. “You can’t just pick up a paintbrush and become Van Gogh in two minutes. And in the same way, you can’t just put yourself in front of a camera and act. I had to really develop that craft.” 

Aria Mia Loberti as Marie-Laure LeBlanc in “All the Light We Cannot See” (Netflix)

Loberti is herself a woman with low vision, and it was paramount to her that Marie-Laure feel authentic. She worked closely with Levy on that as well.

“Our relationship developed so that this could be portrayed authentically, even though that may not be what much of the audience expects a blind character to look like, or how they expect them to perform,” she said. “But this population is very diverse and my experience as a person with low vision is remarkably different from this character’s. I can bring my lived experience to that. We were teaching each other every single day — I was learning how to be an actor, and he was learning that we’re really not that different.”

It was critical to her to dispel clichés about how a person with vision impairment might hold themselves physically.

“Everyone has these misconceptions about blindness and about disability in general, because 100 years of films and generations, even millennia, of media have enforced these stereotypes,” Loberti said. “So even within beautiful pieces of art, some inappropriate stigmas have been enforced unknowingly. The experience of blindness can’t be portrayed as, say, a difference in eye contact or movement or expression. Even though we’ve seen blindness be portrayed by vacant expressions — you know, eye contact off into the distance, palms out — none of those things are true. That’s the conception of a sighted person putting on a sleep shade, really.”

Having trained as a ballerina for more than a decade and practiced martial arts, Loberti was also keen to do all her own stunts. These included shooting a 1917 Colt revolver, nearly drowning in a cave and surviving a grenade explosion.

“I find that that physicality in general is really valuable, but especially with a character like this,” Loberti said. “There is this misconception that people are not capable, and that is so wrong. For anybody who has turned on the Paralympics, there are athletes who are blind and athletes with disabilities. I can’t control the misconception, but I can do something to change it.”  

Additional reporting by Tomris Laffly.

A version of this story about Aria Mia Loberti and “All the Light We Cannot See” first appeared in the SAG Awards Preview issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.

Read more from the SAG Awards Preview issue here.

Lily Gladstone Wrap cover
Photo by Jeff Vespa for TheWrap

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.