For those who read my last interview with Brie Larson, good news! The actress, who is amazing in Short Term 12, was able to secure herself a copy of The Super Cops on DVD. She and John Gallagher Jr. were there to talk about the movie and this was obviously a labor of love, which was obvious in their answers.
What was it about reading the script that resonated?
Brie Larson: I think it’s the reason why the movie makes you feel so much. It’s these people these characters, you just love them, you love the little bits of them, and all of the flawed parts, too. It was just a very special opportunity as a female to play in depth and such a well written female character. It’s a combination of vulnerability and strength, and I just related to it so much. I wanted to tell the story. I saw the short film, and I felt it was a part of world that hasn’t been spoken about and I believe that (director) Destin (Cretton) has a completely unbiased opinion, he’s so non-judgemental I believed that it would be told in an accurate way.
Did this story open your eyes to this world?
John Gallagher Jr.: It was really eye opening in reading the script and Brie and I both got an opportunity to shadow people that actually do this for a living, Brie naturally followed a woman and I followed a man around, and we got to spend time with kids in a place that’s very much like the place portrayed in the film, and the day-to-day ins and outs was really inspiring to see people devote so much of their life to this. The guy I was talking to had been doing it for ten plus years and from my perspective it was pretty intense, and I could imagine having his patience. And he said, I hope I’m here for a long time, cause compared to other places I’ve been this is a cakewalk, and I said “what do you mean?” And he said “I was on a line staff at a different facility and we would pretty much average one suicide attempt a night. It’s not like that here. It’s not that extreme and the kids are a little bit better adjusted.” And I couldn’t even imagine that. It was a crash course, though I didn’t feel like an expert.
Can you talk about your chemistry?
Brie Larson: The backstory for some of that is we had one dinner before we started shooting, but Destin did a magical and sneaky thing. Ass I was about to meet John for dinner there was an envelope outside and it said “Don’t open until you get to dinner.” And I went and was like “I got this weird thing…” and we sat down and opened it, and it was a sweet little note from Destin wishing us well and hoping that this note would help, and inside of it was another envelope that had all these bits of paper with conversation starters and they had tons of little strange things – some I had thought of some I hadn’t – personal stories, our happiest childhood memory, hopes and fears of becoming parents, and then things specific to Grace and Mason, what was their first date like, and then we started talking about other things, even things like income, find out how many hours we were working, and how we would afford our lifestyle because of that became really informative. And the things we shot in the apartment were the last things we shot so we had already had two and a half weeks spending all day together.
John Gallagher Jr.:There’s already so many intense moments that happens in the facility, and that’s a lot of group stuff, bonding, and there’s not a ton of one on one stuff that happens there, so that dinner helped, it didn’t feel like work and we followed these leads and clues from our director which gave us a rich history and take that into the group scenes, it was kind of perfect timing, after all that it felt we’d already done so much. And then the kids left, and Rami, and we took two days to shoot the apartment scenes, and I think that was wise in terms of scheduling to save that stuff for last because we had this rhythm going and we had eased into it. But the chemistry, that relationship is in the script, it’s on the page, it’s so crystal clear that these people look after each other and love and care for each other. So I just took that from the script and brought it to the process.
You worked with Kaitlyn on The Spectacular Now, did that come before or after this?
Brie Larson: It had come before, but we didn’t have that many scenes together in The Spectacular Now, but we had both arrived on the same day, about a week before we started production, so had to arrange many, many cast dinners, and the girls would go to dinner, and the boys would go to baseball games, so I had spent some time with her and met her mother, so the ice was broken. But we didn’t know each other that well, We really got to know each other through the making of the film.
I was struck by how authentic the film was, you mentioned doing research, I was wonder how much research you did?
Brie Larson: I spent time, I don’t really feel comfortable saying how much time I spent, especially since I think I might get in trouble as I don’t think it was necessarily legal. It wasn’t just that I spent time on the floor, I also spent time waiting for this woman to have her very brief smoke breaks, things like that, I’m a sponge. And you realize the reason Mason smokes, it’s their only time they have, and you don’t really think about it otherwise. If they didn’t smoke, they wouldn’t think to take those moments for themselves. The addiction becomes an alarm to take a second to breathe, even though…
It’s the small things that informed me, and I was able to pick her brain. She was so incredibly inspiring to me, not just in informing Grace, but it helped me a lot. And I still live by the philosophies she gave me, and I feel like I got through the film because of the things I learned from her. She came to the set with her supervisor about halfway through shooting and she was so moved, and that gave me the clue I was on the right path. And that Destin had been in a similar facility for almost two years, I trusted that, and him, that I wouldn’t go too far in any one direction. It’s a very specific environment, and it didn’t take me too long to figure out how that works. That strength.
Brie Larson: She’s a control freak. Another aspect is she’s pregnant. There was a moment where she might have a wine glass on the table because maybe Mason has no idea, and maybe she does drink wine at the end of the week, and maybe they do have a date night, but for whatever reason this time the glass is still full. Those are things I thought about, but the thing I was so struck by in shadowing, the woman told me the way she got through it was by letting go.
She spends her workday focusing on these kids, but when she gets home she decompresses and doesn’t fight any more. And I thought that was a huge part of the film, that’s what Grace was doing before, but a lot of things were coming up and she couldn’t get away and didn’t know how to release or relax any more, and that’s just every day a little bit more and a little bit more, we all know what it’s like to not take a break.
Is that something you felt as actors working on a film like this, is it hard to cool down and detach?
Brie Larson: It wasn’t that it was hard to do, it was that it was important to do. It’s something I couldn’t skip on and it had to be a specific kind of relaxation that reminded me of myself. Not just mindless watching television, but reminding myself who I was so there was a distinction between grace and her world and me and my world.
What did you learn from making the film?
John Gallagher Jr.: A lot, probably things I haven’t totally figured out yet. I learned a lot from the character, but that’s the great thing about being an actor. Sometimes you learn a skill, sometimes you learn about a person, but here I learned the about the virtues of patience and selflessness and being aware of that need. It was great to play a sensitive person, and I try to lead my life more like my character since doing it. “That’s an admirable person, maybe I can take some those traits on with me.”
Brie Larson: This started when I was in the facility with the kids going through this, but I was so impressed by the strength of a human being, how we can actually overcome things and how far love can take you.
John Gallagher Jr.: Yeah it was an unemployment beard for the first couple months of the summer. I had a couple months off for the first time in a while and then I got the script and having a beard and gaining weight was something I was just naturally doing. I started reading the script, and when it had the character description of Mason, it said he was a teddy bear. Not that he had a bard or was shaggy, but that he was a teddy bear, and I looked in the mirror, and thought “hey, this is working.” Then I skyped with the director, Destin, and I remember there was a point in the conversation where he said “cool beard. Don’t cut it, keep it growing.” And I was told me when they were looking for actors for the part the producer told me that Destin would always want actors who had beards, so for whatever reason he got obsessed, even before I came into the fray, he was obsessed with Mason being bearded. And fortunately I had been unemployed so I was able to go months without shaving.
With the toast scene, that’s sort of your guitar solo, it’s so emotionally effective, how do you approach that scene?
John Gallagher Jr.: that one in particular I was nervous about, and we did a couple little things. One was that Destin wanted to make sure the first time I said it the cameras were on me, but we did have to get the reactions from everyone for the toast, so I think I improvised something that wasn’t in the script, so I told everyone about me growing up and becoming an actor, and how dreams come true, and meeting people and all this stuff, and for whatever reason people were moved by me telling a true story and they turned around and did three takes of the toast. And before Destin came up and said “just say this like you’re talking to your own parents.” And that was all it took. And it was the last night of shooting, so I was already getting emotional about saying goodbye, so it’s different for every big emotional moment, but those are two things that helped me a lot. It was an emotionally overwhelming day.
Short Term 12 opens August 23.