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How Being a Mom Helps Scarlett Johansson Be a Better Actor

With two critically acclaimed movies out this year and a big-budget superhero franchise on the way, it’s hard to see where Scarlett Johansson could improve. But she says there’s always room for growth. Johansson said being a mom made her a better actress during her appearance at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival — and it’s easy to understand why.

The actress played a mother in two films coming out this fall, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story and Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit. She told People that her relationship with her five-year-old daughter, Rose, helped her relate to the motherly roles. Specifically, playing a character named Rosie in Jojo Rabbit, she was able to access the complex emotions of being a mother by tapping into her own experience.

“I think for actors, of course, there are ways of getting yourself where you need to go,” Johansson said. “Being a parent myself was just invaluably helpful to me. I had empathy for Rosie … that I may not have had insight on otherwise. She was just a joy to play. She’s a warm, lovable character that felt really comfy to me. And I wanted that to come across, that she’s just comfortable and kind of sugary and warm.”

Johansson, who is currently the highest-paid actress, says she became an “insta-parent” this year, playing the mother of a lonely little boy living in Nazi Germany whose best friend is an imaginary Adolf Hitler in Jojo Rabbit, as well as a modern mom in a crumbling marriage in Marriage Story.

Johansson explains that being a protector helped her understand the role of Rosie better. “It’s a parent’s job to protect their kids. I think that by not involving Roman’s character in the reality of what’s going on at home … I think I’m basically keeping him alive that way.”

Johansson played a very different role in 2020’s Black Widow. It’ll be fascinating to see if any of this applies when she’s taking down baddies for Marvel.

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