Brie Larson is known for playing characters who are basically open books, from Room's escape-dreaming Joy to The Glass Castle's memoir-writing Jeanette. But in real life, the actor is a bit more guarded — and for good reason. Speaking at a Glass Castle event at New York's Whitby Hotel recently, Larson says that she's learned she has to put up some walls when it comes to opening up with fans and audiences, which, naturally, is pretty damn hard for someone who prides herself on being empathetic and eager to please.
"My empathy is the thing that has brought me closer to people, [and] has brought me all over the world and in crazy situations and beautiful situations. It’s also the thing that can leave me feeling kind of raw and vulnerable at the end of it," Larson tells reporters during the luncheon.
"And so as I’m 27 and starting to learn more about myself and how to take care of myself," she continues, "It’s figuring out how to do that and feel strong in that, and feeling strong and knowing when a boundary has been crossed or I’ve reached a certain limit and not beating myself up over it when I don’t find perfect balance."
Like the journalist-turned-memoirist she plays in The Glass Castle (out Aug. 11), Larson prides herself on being a "porous" person who's more sensitive than many people to the feelings of others. But that empathy has a downside — namely, the actor getting overwhelmed by the expectations people have of her, and of being taken advantage of by the people she interacts with in her life.
"Sometimes I can get too serious because I get very worried about how other people are feeling and what they’re thinking," Larson explains. "And then it just gets even crazier with my job where I’m just around a lot of people [who] think of me a certain way and maybe expect a certain thing. And I can wear myself out very easily, and it’s something that I used to beat myself up over. I still beat myself up over it."
But while pleasing others may be something Larson still grapples with regularly, she's OK with the way she's learned to handle the issue. "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," she says. "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."
"Throwing that away would mean throwing away all of the inner workings that make me who I am," she continues. "And that just seems kind of bizarre."
As Larson says, her people-pleasing and empathy are what makes her a stronger actor — and as anyone who's seen her performances in movies like The Glass Castle and Room can attest, it'd certainly be a shame if those parts of her suddenly disappeared.