Joan Allen on Playing the Mother of a Kidnapped Child in ‘Room’

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Whether she has the lead in a movie or is just playing a supporting role, you can always count on Joan Allen to give a compelling performance. In ‘Room’ she plays Nancy, a mother reunited with her daughter, Joy (Brie Larson), who was kidnapped years before. She also discovers Joy is now a mother herself to five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay), a product of the abuse she suffered while in captivity. As thrilled as she is to have her daughter back in her life, Nancy now has to face the immense struggle of acclimating Joy back into the life she was taken away from and forging a relationship with her surprise grandson. It’s a journey full of awkwardness, but also one which comes to be filled with hope.

Allen appeared at the “Room” press day held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, California and talked about her experience making the movie which was one of the most acclaimed movies of 2015. While it deals with such dark themes as kidnapping, abuse and captivity, she also feels “Room” examines the many truths of parenthood. I asked her what kind of research she did to better understand her character and the nightmarish situation she is forced to endure.

Joan Allen: “I just did some reading about abductions and parents. I looked up in particular Terry Probyn who is Jaycee Dugard’s mother. I was hoping to speak with her but I wasn’t able to make that happen, but she had some YouTube footage of what it was like to be reunified. She said one thing that was very helpful to me, that it was a very difficult thing to reunify and you need a lot of help in order to do it. In fact, she and her daughter have created a foundation that helps people and families in this situation unify not only from abduction cases but veterans who had long periods away in the war zone where they’ve been traumatized. It’s very difficult for families to find a way when they’ve had such radically different experiences for extended periods of time and are sad and traumatized by them. And I’m a mother of a 21-year-old and have been sufficiently scared enough by various choices she’s made in life (laughs) to understand what that’s like, to feel that scared for your child and how it’s a ripple effect. It’s certainly not an ouch contest. If it were, the mom would have the biggest ouch. But everybody has huge ouches and that’s just the way it is, and what I’m so moved about by all the characters including Jack is that everybody is trying to move forward and they don’t really know how. They are just not really a throw in the towel kind of people. There is that forward movement, no matter how hard it is, to try and figure it out and to be loving and to try and understand the best way to move forward and get closer to a whole family life back because it’s a tremendous loss. It’s a tremendous devastation to not have that. But they are characters that do try and that do move forward and there’s a tremendous amount of love there, and that’s why I think that the story really reflects that.”

“Room” is now available to own and rent on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital.

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Brie Larson on preparing for her role in ‘Room’

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Brie Larson is best known for her performances in movies like “Short Term 12,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” “21 Jump Street” and “Trainwreck,” and she also has a singing career and released an album entitled “Finally Out of P.E.” But if you’re not familiar with whom she is, that’s alright because you won’t be able to forget her after watching her emotionally exhausting performance in Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room.” She plays Joy (a.k.a. Ma), a young woman who was kidnapped several years ago by a man who tricked her into helping him find his lost dog. Joy has since been imprisoned in that man’s garden shed located in his backyard, and she occupies it with her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). But as time flies by, Joy becomes increasingly determined to escape the prison she and her son have been forced to grow up in, but the outside world provides them with even more challenges than they could ever have expected to endure.

Larson was at the “Room” press day held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, California where she was lauded by many reporters for her brave acting. I read how, when she accepted the role of Joy, she decided to lead a more reclusive life and reduce her social interaction with others in order to better understand her character’s mindset. I asked her what that preparation specifically entailed, and her answer proved to be endlessly fascinating.

Brie Larson: “I really love the myth about my reclusive life (laughs). The words that have been used today have been so interesting. How it started was in trying to understand those two years of basic silence of being alone in this place, and I meditate so I was little familiar with trying to get to mental silence and how hard that is. And then I had some friends who had been on silent retreats and I was fascinated by the reactions because some of them could go 10 days and they do it every year and it’s just this time that they absolutely love. You’re not allowed to speak and you’re not allowed to look at anybody because that’s also seen as a form of communication. There’s no connection to the outside world. But I had other friends who couldn’t last 24 hours. They just panicked and left and so there was this sense of just sitting with yourself and imagining Ma at 17, 18 and 19 years old sitting with herself in the way most teenagers don’t. That’s a period of time where it’s all fleeting. It’s all just getting away from everything and wanting to move out and pushing away a parent. In some ways I felt that period of time to be this bizarrely mature experience and set in a horrible setting, but in a way that she has to come to terms with who she is now and this new individual that she’s become that is completely separate from her friends, from her home and from her parents, and it’s the time right before she has a child which becomes her next identity as being a mother. So for myself, it was just seeing what that mental chatter felt like and if it was something to feel that painful moments of it, to feel eureka moments. They were moments that I remembered from my childhood that I had forgotten that were so beautiful and other moments that I completely had forgotten that were more painful. And so having that time to just very simply reflect I felt became a huge part of getting to know her better. But it wasn’t like painful. I found it kind of fun to be honest. I didn’t mind it.”

Larson later won, and deservedly so, the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance, and it has since opened up a number of opportunities I can’t wait to see her take on. “Room” is now available to own and rent on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital.

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