Once upon a time in Venice…
Many fairy tales begin like this, especially when it comes to Venice, a place that remains in everyone’s imagination as a magical place where to see things that you don’t believe possible. And it’s here that we met and chatted with Ciara Bravo, a young actress who loves her work and can’t wait to find out what her next step will be, or rather, her next discovery. Because that’s precisely how it works for her: through her films, Ciara has discovered reality and things about herself that she never imagined, and that allow her to open up her eyes more and more to the world with total empathy.
After her film “Cherry” directed by the Russo Brothers, which we loved and where she offers us a masterful acting performance, alongside Tom Holland, and after “Small Engine Repair,“ a meaningful film about toxic masculinity, we can’t wait to see her in a new project.
Ciara is also the face of the latest Miu Miu campaign, which, with the Women Tales program, aims at giving space, importance, and a voice to women in the world of cinema.
And, as Ciara herself says, there is nothing more powerful than living freely, occupying your space in the world, and making your voice heard.
You started acting very early, yet do you recall your first cinema memory? Was there something that made you fall in love with that world, or was it more like a process?
If I’m being fully honest, it’s not such a romantic answer, it was more of a process, it was a slow but steady walk towards love for the movie industry. Of course, I adore watching movies, I was obsessed with – and I don’t use that word lightly – “The Wizard of Oz” and Judy Garland, Dorothy in particular, I had my ruby slippers that I liked to wear at school, and my Dorothy dress. That was the first moment that I was truly enchanted by a film, but I didn’t know that it was a career choice, I didn’t know that it was an option until the opportunity presented itself when I was 9 or 10; at first, I just thought it would be fun, it was something new to try out, and then, slowly, over the past 12 years I’ve fallen in love with it, unfortunately [laughs].
In general, when you read a script, what does make you say “yes”? What do you look for in a character that you might play?
Initially, when I’m reading a script before I even start the story, I like to see who’s attached to it because nothing brings me more to it than working for people who are passionate about the story that we’re telling. Then, when it comes to characters, I love a complex female character, I like a flawed female character; I think that’s important to take into consideration, especially these days, as we’re fighting for equality and diversity in filmmaking, to show a true and accurate picture of people. On top of that, I really appreciate a new and interesting perspective, especially when it comes to genre films, if they’re able to bring something completely new to the world, I’m always taken by that because it’s hard, it’s really hard.
“I love a complex female character, I like a flawed female character.”
How do you live fashion in your everyday life? Is it something important for you? It must be so important when you’re playing a character because it puts you in the right mindset…
I think I go through ups and downs with fashion, but I always have immense love and respect for it because I think it’s one of the most accessible art forms, and one of the easiest ways to express yourself. Somedays, that comes very clearly to me, and I get very excited by the idea of waking up and deciding what “happy” looks like in my closet that day, and other times I’m overwhelmed and frustrated, and all I want to do is put my sweatpants on, but even that is comfort, it’s finding a way to feel comfortable, sometimes powerful, sometimes just yourself, at ease. I love it, I’m afraid of it and I love it.
And what does it mean to you to feel comfortable in your own skin?
That’s a good question… When I feel comfortable in my own skin, I find it easier to connect with people around me – I think the fear of others drops a bit more because I feel strong about myself; I find it easier to set boundaries where they need to be set, and I find more joy in the everyday life, in the little things.
The Miu Miu Women’s Tales (of which you are part) is a very powerful platform, for women in film, actors, directors: what makes you feel powerful in this industry and when you feel powerless?
As an actor, it’s easy to feel powerless, but in the direction towards which I have seen the industry head over the 10+ years I’ve been involved in it, every year I feel more powerful, I feel there’s more of a space in the platform to speak up and I truly attribute that to the other women in the industry. That’s why I love things like what Miu Miu is doing, just giving them space to speak and create art and exist unapologetically – they make me feel powerful.
“…Space to speak and create art and exist unapologetically – they make me feel powerful.”
Is there a female director you’d love to collaborate with?
There’s a few. Of course, Greta Gerwig is on top of that list, it’s a cliché answer, but it’s probably cliché for a reason because she’s exceptional, I love her taste, I love the stories that she tells, I love the way that she tells them. I’m also a big fan of Miranda July, who’s actually how I found out about the Miu Miu Women’s Tales: I think she is so fully herself and I’m so attracted to that.
You also mentioned that you would like to direct, and maybe produce. What makes you feel you would like to produce, and what kind of projects would you like to produce?
Directing and producing are two areas I would feel confident in, in my abilities, especially growing up on sets – I’ve had the opportunity to learn from so many different types of directors and producers. I also just love the idea of helping someone build a world and bring a story to life. For me, the reason why I love my job and what brings me the most amount of joy is being on a set, and the actual act of acting and storytelling. The rest is just the cherry on top, to watch everyone’s reactions and see the impact that these stories do have, but – and I know it’s a bit selfish [laughs] – the real joy to me is being on set, so I would want to experience every side of that.
Is there any kind of story you would like to tell in particular?
I’m 24 years old and I feel like I was born yesterday, I feel like a newborn baby [laughs], so I would like to take time to learn about life and figure out what I really want to say first. Check back with me in a couple of years!
I loved “Cherry” so much. It was one of those movies that stay with you for days. There’s a scene where you and Tom Holland’s character are laying on the bed and, in a voiceover, he says that everything was going to go bad, but he still decided to go ahead and live their story together. It’s a very emotional, very intense scene, and I connected with it very much because sometimes you just don’t know how things can end in any kind of relationship. What was it like for you to personally experience these emotions through the character?
It was emotionally exhausting and nerve-breaking, but that’s also when I feel very lucky to have a partner like Tom Holland, someone who I knew was there with me, feeling the same things that I was feeling and who could sort of hold the others head above water when you felt like it all became too much, like you were drowning. That being said, while it was difficult, I’d do it again in a heartbeat, it was also very fulfilling and, as an actor, it felt great to be able to go to those places and be able to tell that story the way we told it. And then, watching it, it’s frustrating and it’s hard, you’re watching these two young people make such a massive mistake, but I think it worn the scene away because I think we’re showing the grey areas of life and these moments where you, in hindsight, recognize how impactful they were, but, at the moment you’re just living in the painful grief of it all – not to sound pretentious or nonsensical [laughs]. It was hard to shoot, it was gratifying to shoot, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
I would like to see the movie again in a heartbeat! It was one of my favorites of the year, really.
During the Miu Miu panel you did at the Venice Film Festival you said you went to a rehab center to make a deeper research. What was it like to research and build your character in this way?
I feel like having that experience and going to the facility turned my world upside down. Back in America, I think it’s very difficult to find someone who hasn’t been affected by the opioid epidemic, myself included, especially being from the Midwest, which was essentially Ground Zero; but that being said, I’m very lucky in that I haven’t had any first-hand experience with it. To go in there and speak with these people was so humbling, these are stories that you don’t really get to hear, the intimate details of someone’s battle with addiction, usually you’re seeing a filtered version of it through some glamourized Hollywood filmmaking experience; so, hearing the truly graphic horrible things these people go through, but then also seeing the fact that they’ve sought treatment, and that they are getting help and they are better, was heartbreaking and it filled me with so much hope at the same time.
Your character’s arch is incredible because, in the beginning, you’re cold, in a way, but so angelic, with the ribbon on and everything, and then you get carried off by this world. Was it difficult to undergo all these changes throughout the storyline?
It was like a dream for me because usually you just get a small size of your character to do it all, but the Russo brothers, our directors, worked it up in a very helpful way, so we sort of shot three movies – for them four, for me three; we started with “Dope Life,” we shot every scene of “Dope Life,” and then we went on to when we were married, the beginning of addiction before it got too severe, and then we finished with “College Life,” in the beginning when we first meet and we’re falling in love. I thought that was great because it gave us plenty of time to prepare mentally and physically before we started shooting for the most difficult part of the movie, and then we got to know each other, so, towards the end of the movie, we were shooting the scenes where we were falling in love – we knew each other well, so we could develop it with a bit more chemistry, that was helpful. It was a wonderful way to shoot a movie, I loved it.
You are also passionate about documentaries: what attracts you to them?
I think being exposed to the subject matters that I typically wouldn’t have been exposed to, or that I wouldn’t really know anything about. I find them to be a great way to learn, I suppose. I like it when they’re interesting and thrilling, even the murder mystery documentary series on Netflix [laughs].
“It was a wonderful way to shoot a movie, I loved it.”
Do you have a favorite one or one that you think we should watch?
The Bee Gees one [“The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”] is on the forefront of my mind because I’ve just finished it; also, “My Octopus Teacher,” I sobbed like a baby, it’s beautiful, it’s about this man and the relationship he develops with an octopus over a year and a half, and I love seeing the life of something that none of us get to see in our daily lives in such an intimate way, and it messed me up emotionally, and I’m a bit of a masochist, I guess because I’ve enjoyed that! [laughs] I need a good reason to cry… That’s a beautiful one if you haven’t seen it.
You’re also a fan of music. Is there a song that can describe this moment of your life or one song that you’re listening to a lot these days?
That’s a very hard question… “Love and Happiness” by Al Green, that’s probably my favorite, I don’t know if it describes this moment in my life, but it brings me a lot of joy.
What can you tell us about “Small Engine Repair”?
It’s a very special project to me, we shot it at the beginning of 2019 – which feels like yesterday, but we’re coming up on two years – with three of the most beautiful men I’ve ever met in my entire life; it’s a really special story to me, I believe, it is a very sensitive topic, and it really stares at it dead in the face and challenges us, the topic being toxic masculinity, that’s how I view the film as a woman; I think it really forces us to stare at it in the face and think about how we operate in our daily lives, how our actions affect other people, and how there are consequences, oftentimes, to bear for things that we may, at the time, believe are insignificant. The intention of your actions doesn’t always matter as much as we think it does, and the way that your actions affect people it’s just as (if not far more) important.
How did you work on your character?
I play Crystal, who is Frank’s daughter, and she goes through some very tough times. I feel very lucky that so much of it was already on the page; for me, when I’m working on building a character, I love to journal and ask questions about what their most embarrassing memory is, or what their favorite memory is, what their favorite food is, these little details that obviously are not going to come up in the movie at all, but help me turn her into a real character. My favorite, in particular, is trying to decide what Crystal would have in her dresser drawers, the kinds of clothes she has, where she hides her knick-knacks or her special items; then I sit and I talk about all these things for pages and pages and then I go deeper into the more dramatic experiences that she’s lived through, and talk about those in-depth and in detail, and then I throw it all away, so when I go on set it’s there, but it doesn’t feel forced or unnatural in any way.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that every time you, as an actress, take on a new project and work on it, you also discover something new about yourself. With this project, did you find out something new about yourself?
Yeah, I discovered that when I get angry, I slip into the New Hampshire accent [laughs], which is so embarrassing because I’m not even close to being from there! After filming the TV show “Wayne,” which is on Amazon Prime, and then doing this one, and they’re very similar, I realized that’s the persona I slip into when I get angry, or mad at somebody [laughs], as my sister knows very well.
What’s your must-have on set?
On set, there are two things that I always need: one is a warming coat because I’m always cold, so I always need a massive coat, even when it’s 60 degrees outside and sunny, I’m wrapped up; then I travel with a travel mug everywhere, so I always have a cup of coffee with me on set, so I’m warm and cozy.
What’s the book you tell everyone to read?
It depends on the person that I’m speaking to and what they usually like to read. For a book of short stories, I just read “Florida” by Lauren Groff, it’s beautiful, all stories are set in Florida, and you can feel the atmosphere when you’re reading it – there’s one in particular in there about two young girls on an island that I loved, it’s great. I also like to tell people to read “The White Album” by Joan Didion: I love the way that she views the world, I love the way that she chose to live, it’s great. “Perfume,” if you’re looking for a really troubling, great character… I still haven’t watched the movie and I’m afraid to, I don’t want it to be ruined.
What are you afraid of?
Everything… [laughs] I’m afraid of embarrassing myself, that’s my actual biggest fear, to be honest. Also, the deep ocean.
What’s your happy place, instead?
I like to be surrounded by the wall of my bedroom, and my bed, but also, as an ideal situation, to be on a hammock, in the woods, surrounded by a nice grassy, beautiful area. That is my dream happy place.
Photos and Video by Johnny Carrano.
Thanks to Miu Miu.
Styling by Samantha McMillen.
Makeup by Lila Guéant.
Hair by Mariassunta Acri.