Ciara Bravo recounts her modest start and playing an addict in Apple TV’s Cherry
Anaïs & Dax/Apostrophe
Petra Flannery/Two Management
A few weeks before her 24th Birthday, Ciara Bravo is breaking through as Emily in Cherry. Acting alongside screen favorite Tom Holland, Bravo and the British actor bring Nico Walker’s gritty story to life. Cherry is an adaptation of Walker’s 2018 debut of the same name. The film sees Bravo directed by powerhouses Anthony & Joe Russo, in what is undoubtedly her best and rawest performance yet. The young actress opens up about humble beginnings, playing an addict and the nature of making good art.
I actually read Nico’s book shortly after it was released, like a couple of years ago. I was wondering, what was your approach to the material when you knew the part was yours? How did you find that balance between your character on paper and on screen?
That’s a great question. I read the book before I was attached to the movie. So, I was very familiar with the story. And the first thing I realized upon reading the script was that the book is one step away from Nico’s life. The movie is certainly one step away from the book. I was speaking with Joe and Anthony about that. We made it clear very, very early on that, you know, these characters in the script are different versions of the characters from the book, and to not confuse these different versions of these different characters.
I just tried to focus more on the Emily that I saw in the script and less of the Emily that I had read about in the book. In terms of process and how I break down and build a character, I very much so like to go through and treat it almost like a puzzle. Find all of the little different pieces that are hidden within the dialogue, and within the screen direction, and try to build a person out of that.
One of the favorite themes for me in the film is how we see how heavily one person can drag another person down with them. I was wondering playing this character, did it teach you anything that you may not have been in touch with before?
Absolutely. I certainly learned the negative effects of a truly codependent relationship. I learned what can happen to a person if you allow yourself to get too lost in someone else for too long.
I love that. I’m learning that for an actor, the process is oftentimes more important than the result, the result being, what we just end up seeing on screen. Given the nature of the role, what’re you taking away from that experience?
I took away so much from this experience. I felt like I grew a lot as both an actor and a person in making this movie. Of course, it definitely depends on the person, but I very much so prefer the process of making a film versus watching the finished product. It’s all about the process of making it for me, and especially the research. Building those relationships to help bring these characters to life. I feel like I learned so much in my research for this film too. Particularly in regards to Emily’s battle with addiction. I had the chance to go to a rehab facility in Cleveland, and speak with a couple of recovering addicts there. Many of their employees had also went through the program themselves, and it just completely opened up my worldview. I mean, there are things that you don’t know unless you’ve gone through them yourself and hearing them explain these things to me, it really turned my world upside down. I found it to be such an extraordinarily humbling experience. I’m so grateful to them for being so open with me, because I knew I wouldn’t have been able to do the job that I did without their help and their vulnerability.
“I certainly learned the negative effects of a truly codependent relationship. I learned what can happen to a person if you allow yourself to get too lost in someone else for too long.”
That’s incredible. Speaking more on that… I read that you and Tom (Holland) had consultants on set to assist with the specific stages of the addiction. Can you speak to that a little? When watching a film that involves a consultant of some short, It’s interesting to think of what that relationship is like.
For me personally, Brian, our consultant was one of the most valuable people on that set. Just because, like I mentioned before, there’s so many things that you don’t know unless you’ve gone through the experience yourself. To know that he was there watching the scenes and could step in and be like, try doing this a little bit differently… You know, when you’re tweaking, usually it’ll look like this or that. He sat us down beforehand. Basically gave us a whole schooling on all of the different drugs that were mentioned in the film. How people do them, what it looks like when you do them, he did all this in such a respectful way as well. It was an education. One that I never thought I would get, but one that I’m extraordinarily thankful for. He’s also just the kindest man you’ll ever meet.
I’m sure like no part of this role was easy to tackle. Is there one scene in the film that was particularly taxing for you?
There are two actually. I feel like one’s going to be a bit of a surprise, but the first one, the more obvious scene that I found difficult was the scene with the safe and pills and Coke. It was difficult solely because of the places I had to go to. I’m really grateful because the brothers created a space where I felt safe to do so. And having people like, like Tom and Jack (Reynor) by my side, who are wonderful people and such talented individuals. I really felt like it made it much easier to reach those depths that I needed to reach for that.
The second scene that I found the most taxing was the breakup scene in the dorm room. It doesn’t feel like a lot, but sometimes you just get there on the day and things don’t click quite right. You sort of have to discover the scene as you’re shooting. I feel like it really challenges you creatively to be like, okay, why is this not working? Let’s sit down, let’s put our heads together and figure this out. Once it does work out, it’s a hundred times more rewarding.
You’re truly in that fictional moment.
Exactly. Yeah. You can’t be anywhere else, but there.
“Sometimes you just get there on the day and things don’t click quite right. You sort of have to discover the scene as you’re shooting. I feel like it really challenges you creatively to be like, okay, why is this not working? Let’s sit down, let’s put our heads together and figure this out. Once it does work out, it’s a hundred times more rewarding.”
I feel like obviously so much of the movie works because of the chemistry between the characters. Did you and Tom take it upon yourselves to hang out a bit more? And do more of the groundwork of familiarizing yourselves with one another?
Yeah. And that was definitely a priority for me. That was certainly a priority for me because, I think that’s one of those things. It’s just clear as day when two actors don’t like each other. I knew we needed to be friends for this to really work. Obviously I lucked out because he’s one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet and such a hardworking individual. We definitely made sure to take the time to get to know each other on a deeper level. So that we could have each other’s backs and know that we could lean on each other when it came down to it. Tom’s a great person and an incredible actor. I couldn’t have chosen a better partner in this.
This film is bound to impact many on a deep level. What’s the last film or series you watched that has stayed with you for a while after having finished it?
That’s a great question. There’s a couple of movies recently that have stuck with me. I got to watch Judas and The Black Messiah on Saturday, and I have been thinking about that movie since.
Also, this is not a film but I May Destroy You with Michaela Coel. Oh my God. This was the type of TV show where you need to take like a full day afterwards to process. It’s not the type of show I could binge. I would watch one episode and I would savor it because it’s so, so beautiful and so well done. I would need a full week to decompress afterwards and just think about what I saw. She’s an extraordinary talent. I feel like I keep calling everyone that in this interview, but I truly truly mean it with her. I think she is absolutely without a doubt, the voice of a generation and one of the best artists I’ve ever seen.
I agree. I think she’s like enlightened on a different level you know? I’d watch the show and sit with it for a few days. I wanted to live with it in my head for a while before moving on with the story.
Exactly. I want to savor it. Savor the experience of good art.
“Tom (Holland) and I definitely made sure to take the time to get to know each other on a deeper level. So that we could have each other’s backs and know that we could lean on each other when it came down to it.”
Growing up in Kentucky, what do you remember about your first inkling to wanting to be an actor?
It’s funny because it’s not something that I ever considered when I was truly living in Kentucky. Because it never felt like an option to me. Then as soon as it became one, it wasn’t because I “caught the acting bug” or whatever. It was just solely out of curiosity that I wanted to go down this path and see where it led. I feel like it was once I got on a set, and I entered the Big Time Rush World that I really had time to think about it. I was head over heels in love. That love has grown steadily over the years with each new project. On Big Time Rush I got to learn about technical aspects of being on set, while also learning about comedy. How a crew can really become your family.
Then I left that Nickelodeon world and entered Red Band Society. There I got to learn about the research that goes on behind a role. You can bring yourself to bring a character to life. I feel like in that I really, really got lost in this. I’m afraid, it has my heart. Unfortunately.
Big Time Rush was huge. I remember that era so well. What do you remember about those first years living in LA after you left home?
It was a bit of a rough adjustment at first. I think being so young and not having that many friends out here to keep me feeling like It was my new home was hard.
But I loved being on set and I absolutely loved the family that I had on Big Time Rush. They are brothers to me. I’m so grateful for those relationships. In terms of moving from Kentucky to Los Angeles, I’m not going to sugar coat it, it was certainly a rough transition, but now God, how many years later? Like 10-12 at least. I’m grateful that I did it—and I would do it again in a heartbeat, because now, this place certainly is home for me. I’ve met so many people that I’m just so happy to have in my life and the experiences I’ve had? I wouldn’t trade those for the world.
“I had a moment like this in high school. There’s just something about that transition between late teens and early twenties where things just start to shift and fall into place in a completely new way.”
Mara Roszak/A-Frame Agency
Molly Stern/A-Frame Agency
Narrative PR, Apple
And you’re making good, meaningful work too…
I am privileged for sure. Absolutely. The cherry on top.
What’s life like for you right now at 23? How would you describe it?
I feel like I’ve just been born, honestly. Does that make sense? I’m 23 years old. I simultaneously feel like I’m a newborn child and an adult. Where I’ve entered this new version of the world and my eyes have been opened to so many different aspects of life that I just wasn’t aware of before. I feel like I’m getting the chance to learn again. And I feel like I’m finding my voice as “20-something”, if you will. I’ve been truly discovering where my priorities lie as well. I think this past year with the difficulties it has brought in the ups and downs that I’ve had, it’s brought so much perspective to my life. I very much so feel like I’m taking my first steps again. I had a moment like this in high school. There’s just something about that transition between late teens and early twenties where things just start to shift and fall into place in a completely new way. That’s exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.
I love that. I’m smiling real wide for some reason? But I think it’s because I know that moment in life. You’re right, it’s equal parts exhilarating and terrifying.
Ciara Bravo is photographed by Anaïs & Dax for the digital cover and print magazine of The Laterals in Los Angeles on February 2nd 2021.
Cherry Now in theaters
Streaming on Apple TV+ March 12 2021
Watch the official trailer below