TheWrap Screening Series: How Brie Larson’s Roulette Career Landed on ‘Short Term 12’ (Video)

The hard-to-pin-down actress says “certain things that make sense to me when they’re on the page”

From “The United States of Tara” to “21 Jump Street,” “Scott Pilgrim” to “Rampart,” Brie Larson seems impossible to pin down as an actress. But despite the outward schizophrenia of her choices, the actress insists that she knows immediately when she finds something she connects with, as she did to profound effect with the acclaimed independent film “Short Term 12.”

“I read so many scripts, and it’s just certain things that make sense to me when they’re on the page,” Larson explained Wednesday night at TheWrap’s awards-season screening of the film. “And Grace was that for me – there was never a moment when I didn’t know how to approach a given scene. (Writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton) put these things on the page, it made so much sense to me.”

Larson plays Grace, a supervisor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers who as an adult is still dealing with her own traumatic adolescence. As enthusiastic as she was about playing the role, Cretton revealed that he was equally certain that she had the qualities that were most important for audiences to see in Grace.

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“I think there’s something about (Brie) that’s extremely strong, very, very strong,” Cretton said. “And strong enough to also be vulnerable, which I think is pretty difficult, and requires quite a bit of maturity. And that was a balance for Grace I think she did as well.

When Cretton adapted his own short film of the same name into a feature, the central character was a man. When he decided to transform the character into what would become Grace, Cretton admitted it took him a while to understand that writing for a female character was not as daunting a task as it initially seemed.

“I initially felt very underqualified to write from a female voice,” Cretton said. “But this process has kind of made me see how in a lot of cases, there’s not much difference. All humans go through the same emotions, and I completely relate to everything that Grace goes through in this movie.

“I didn’t feel like I was writing from a foreign point of view. But I also have three sisters to check things on,” he added, laughing.

Meanwhile, Larson underwent her own preparation in order to fully inhabit Grace, not just as a single role but as a vocation, and further, a disposition, that demands much from those who choose it. “I was trying to get of understanding how someone gets through a day at the job, and what brings them back to that job every day,” Larson said.

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“The woman that I got to shadow was so incredible, and I learned so much, so many valuable things from her, not just that I brought to Grace, but to my own life.”

Having released the film to widespread critical acclaim, not to mention a Gotham award for Larson’s performance, Cretton and Larson earned the right to celebrate their achievement. But Larson said that the greatest thing she hopes to accomplish with the film is sharing its optimism and positivity with audiences.

“I believe in film so much, and I believe in it as being an experience that’s more than myself,” she explained.

“This script was everything – it’s so surprising and unexpected, and it takes you to these places that are really emotionally devastating. But there’s always hope at the end,” she observed. “And I love the fact that this movie had the potential when I read the script that as much love as we put into it, it can kind of be sent off.”