Brie Larson attends a community screening for the film "Just Mercy" in Los Angeles, California. Picture: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Brie Larson attends a community screening for the film "Just Mercy" in Los Angeles, California. Picture: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Brie Larson marvels over her role in 'Just Mercy'

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Feb 22, 2020

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Brie Larson is more well-known for her lead role as Carol Danvers in "Captain Marvel".

In fact, last year Madame Tussauds New York museum installed a wax sculpture of her in character. And, in the same year, the actress-cum-filmmaker made Time magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People in the World. 

At 30, she has managed to build an impressive résumé while also attracting high-praise for her acting prowess. And her role as Eva Ansley in Just Mercy supports this fact.

The movie is based on Bryan Stevenson’s novel of the same title.

Larson recalls, “It was a couple of years ago, and Destin (Daniel Cretton, the director) brought it up to me and told me to read Bryan’s book.  

So I immediately got it and it really impacted me, to say the least. It really gutted me and sparked a fire inside me of wanting to do more. And years later, when it came around that this film was going to be made, and I was asked to participate in it, I was thrilled.”

This isn’t the first time Larson is working with Destin. 

She shares, “I’m super-biased because Destin is like my brother and as long as he keeps asking me to be there, I will be there. And it’s also the department heads who have been with him since Short Term 12, so they’re like my family. 

They’re people I feel very comfortable being vulnerable with and trying new things because there is so much love. Destin just brings so much love and compassion and humanity to his work and stands for the things Bryan is advocating. And I think that’s really clear when you watch the film.”

On how relatable the story will be to audiences outside of the US, Larson points out, “I don’t see Just Mercy as only an American story. 

What we are talking about is the death penalty, but really, underneath all of that, we’re talking about bias, we’re talking about a marginalized community, we’re talking about poverty.  We’re talking about a broken system and I think that that’s incredibly relatable, unfortunately.”

Brie Larson, left, and Jamie Foxx attend a press conference to promote the movie "Just Mercy" during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto., on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. Picture: AP

Before slipping into the skin of Eva Ansley, Larson got to chat with the person in question. 

She confirms, “She ended up coming to set a few times, but, before that, we spoke on the phone. She’s an incredible individual and is somebody who always has hope. 

And that was something that really stuck with me because I asked her questions like: ‘How much success are you experiencing at EJI (Equal Justice Initiative)?’ and ‘Have you noticed a lot of change with all this work you’re doing?’  She said, ‘Oh no, I feel like it’s getting worse,’ so I asked, ‘Well, what makes you keep doing this work then?’ 

She told me, ‘If I can just give a little bit of hope then that’s all that matters to me. Whether it’s success or failure, that’s not what’s important; it’s about that human-to-human connection.’  

So bringing that into "Just Mercy" feels like such a huge part of what we’re trying to say with this film - of it being about the humanity and about a system that is failing so many people, but it can be solved with a change of mind and a change of heart by individuals.”

She shares a lot of screen-time with Michael B Jordan, who plays Bryan Stevenson, an idealistic young Harvard law graduate.

She says, “Well, Michael has always felt a little like family, because, when we were releasing Short Term 12, his film Fruitvale Station was coming out at that same time, so we were paired a lot together and were super-supportive of each other’s projects. So it wasn’t very hard to have that type of rapport.

 I’m so privileged to have had the opportunity to share this experience with him, also because of who Michael is.  He stands in real life for these issues that we’re depicting on-screen, and he is an incredibly compassionate and caring person who wanted to do things that had never been done before with this film, in particular with diversity behind the camera. 

Michael B. Jordan, left, and Brie Larson in a scene from "Just Mercy." Picture: Warner Bros via AP

There are moments that become uncomfortable in the movie, especially with the repugnant behaviour of some of the characters. 

But it is a story that needs to be told and a conversation that needs to be had. 

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