Brie Larson Says Having Her Heart Broken Made Her a Better Actor

Brie Larson and Naomi Watts star in The Glass Castle, the film adaptation of Jeannette Walls’s bestselling 2005 memoir, which recounts the author’s unconventional childhood and complicated relationship with her parents.

The tale is an emotional rollercoaster of sorts, and, as such, Larson and Watts had to tap into their own experiences and feelings to accurately bring the story to life. During a discussion in N.Y.C. last week, the actresses said that, contrary to popular belief, having a thin skin is necessary for the job.

“I feel super porous,” Larson explained. “Energies or people or noises—I’m very sensitive to them. Sometimes I can get too serious because I get very worried about what other people are feeling and thinking ... And I can wear myself out very easily. It’s something that I used to beat myself up over—I still beat myself up over it, I’m not immune to it anymore—but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just gooey, and I want to stay gooey. I don’t have any interest in shellacking myself or making myself harder to protect myself from things. I will always be curious; I will always be sensitive, and that’s what makes me good at my job. And it’s what makes me me.”

Perception helps, but Larson ultimately credits her success to personal experience.

“Can you imagine if I was an actor still, but I’d just never experienced heartbreak or pain before? What would happen? What kind of roles would I be playing? It would be weird,” the Oscar-winner said.

Watts agreed with her costar, explaining, “All of the work I do it has to mean something and reflect a piece of my life in a way,” she said, “If it doesn’t move me, how could it move other people?”

“You have to have a thin skin,” Watts continued, “because you have to be able to tap into the truth of these people and be sensitive and absorb what’s going on with the human psyche, and you have to study it and feel it. It’s weird, because when you’re trying to grow in this business and you’re getting rejection after rejection, and it just hurts, it’s just constant wounding, you feel like, ‘Oh, I wish I had a thicker skin,’ because I need to not take it all so personally. When they’re telling me I’m not funny or not sexy, or I’m not intense—you get these feedback reports that just land on your heart. Like ... who do they want? Who should I be? How can I please? And then you’re just so far away from yourself.”

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