Alison Brie is Finally Creating Roles for Herself—and Wants to Do the Same for People of Color
'The Rental' actress tells HelloGiggles about her new movie, owning up to mistakes, and using her Hollywood power for good.
Since launching to fame in the early 2000s with simultaneous roles as an overzealous college student in Community and a '60s housewife in Mad Men, Alison Brie hasn't showed down. But despite her success (she also plays a struggling actress-turned-performative-wrestler on Netflix's dramedy series GLOW, lest you forget), Brie thought her diverse acting career was mostly the result of "pure luck." However, after recently co-writing, producing, and starring in the psychological drama Horse Girl and venturing into the thriller genre in her husband Dave Franco's new film The Rental, the 37-year-old is starting to imagine herself more in the driver's seat.
"Only recently have I felt more in control of my career trajectory, if that's even possible, by getting to work on this film that Dave wrote and directed and writing and producing Horse Girl," Brie tells HelloGiggles, speaking over the phone in July. With The Rental, "clearly, both of us were itching to explore a different side of ourselves in a different genre, and we sort of gave ourselves that opportunity," Brie says of herself and Franco. "So, I hope in the future that I can kind of continue this trajectory and just kind of splash around."
Since making her screenwriting debut with February's Horse Girl, the doors have opened even wider for the actress. "I've been feeling very grateful that I finally got over my fear of putting my ideas out into the world and have tapped into this new creative outlet," she says. "The more that I start writing and producing, that is enabling me to literally create the roles for myself to play and then sort of say, 'Oh, well, what would I want to do now?'"
But Brie isn't only thinking about securing her own seat at the table. In a time of much needed, heightened conversations surrounding racial injustice in America, the star says she's been thinking critically about the power she has as an actor and creator, and how she can make more room for underrepresented people in Hollywood.
"I feel like I have representation more at the forefront of my mind," Brie explains. "As I take some time to think about my own white privilege, it does sort of change the way that I look at the world and the way that I want to create projects and create opportunities for people of color, and just kind of expand my knowledge—and that comes with accepting responsibility, realizing when you've been wrong, realizing your own shortcomings."
That last part is something Brie did publicly just last month. Following similar statements made by Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell, Brie took to Instagram to apologize for voicing the Vietnamese-American character of Diane Ngyuen on Netflix's Bojack Horseman, which ended in late January. "I now understand that people of color should always voice people of color," she wrote. "We missed a great opportunity to represent the Vietnamese-American community accurately and respectfully, and for that I am truly sorry."
Brie says now that the past few months have been a time of "learning and personal growth" for her and that acknowledging her wrongdoings was part of moving forward. "I just felt like it was important to be held accountable and accept responsibility for my past actions," she admits. "That's the best way for me to learn from them and be able to grow and make better decisions in the future."
"If one good thing that comes out of this crazy time and this quarantine is that kind of personal growth, then I think that would be a positive thing," she adds.
Brie's recent film roles have been part of that growth journey in a different way, pushing her outside her comfort zone. In The Rental, two couples (Brie, Dan Stevens, Sheila Vand, and Jeremy Allen White) on a weekend getaway grow suspicious that the host of their rental home may be spying on them—and the foursome uncover painful secrets about their relationships along the way. "[Shooting a thriller is] a very high energy job for an actor, emotionally," Brie says. "You really have to go to some dark places and then you really have to kind of maintain a certain intensity for a period of weeks or however long you're shooting."
And in Horse Girl, which was shot after The Rental but released first, Brie explored a "much more personal story," basing the role of a woman battling a mental illness on her own grandmother's experiences. "It was nice to kind of dig into some darker places inside myself that I am not always tapping into in the comedy world," she reflects.
Currently, Brie is writing another project (no details given, sadly) with her Horse Girl go-writer Jeff Baena, and she reveals that she and Franco have also been working on a romantic comedy script while in quarantine together. So stay tuned, because there's clearly a lot more in store for Brie.