The BAFTA-winning actress and soon-to-be Captain Marvel talks improv and overcoming insecurity.
Young Brie, this is just the beginning. It’s gunna be just fine.
Think on your feet. I guess I learned improv pretty quickly. I was a background voice in an explosion of a bridge scene in Pearl Harbor and you just walk around in a circle in front of a microphone and have conversations. They’ll throw out stuff like, “this next scene you’re at a carnival and I want you to talk with this guy who’s playing your dad about all the things you want to do.” And you just have to go “oh hey Dad, really love the ferris wheel” so I you got to really think on your feet!
Don’t torture yourself. I started out thinking I needed to work really hard to get a dramatic performance across. Shooting Short Term 12 I was so nervous that the director would think I couldn’t handle the emotional depth of the character. We had to do a crying scene and I did one take and he was like, “great, we got it.” I thought he thought that I couldn’t do it, so I was like, “no no, I can do better.” And he said, “I don’t need to watch you torture yourself.” That’s become my mantra now.
Relax, you’re funny. I’m not a stand-up comedian. For my whole audition process for Trainwreck, I didn’t know I was auditioning. I thought I was just hanging out with them and one day they were like, “you should be in this movie!” I used to have these panic attacks all the time because I was like, I’m not a comedian, I can’t do this. Amy Schumer would say “but that’s funny, the fact that you’re even saying that is really funny.”
Your first job is scary. Tanner Hall, which I did with Rooney Mara, was the first film I did without my parents - you have to have a guardian with you until you’re 18. I remember the car coming to pick me up and I was just sobbing and sobbing, and being so absolutely terrified.
If William H. Macy thinks you can do it – you can do it. On my way to my first set William H. Macy came and sat in the aeroplane seat next to me. He had a stack of magazines and I had a stack of DVDs for this flight and instead I just ended up sobbing to him and telling him my story, that it was my first job away from home and I didn’t have my mum and I was super scared. And he was like “you’re gonna be great, I can tell. You’re gonna be just fine.” We had this great chat and he walked me through the airport, made sure I got my suitcases, wished me the best of luck. It completely turned everything around for me. Like, if Bill Macy thinks I can do it, well gosh darn it, I can do it! I ended up having the time of my life. So when he was cast as my father in Room it was an incredible moment; I waited until he was wrapped and then said, “I don’t know if you remember this, but I cried to you on a plane.” And he was like, “that was YOU? I totally remember that girl.” So Bill Macy was a big turning point for me.