America Ferrera’s scene-stealing, heartfelt performance in Barbie has earned her a best supporting actress Oscar nomination — and, despite the film’s global success, the honor came as surreal and unexpected.
“For a moment, I questioned whether I had imagined it,” Ferrera tells The Hollywood Reporter. It didn’t take long for waves of congratulations to start poring in, which helped the honor sink in.
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Ferrera played the human protagonist to Margot Robbie’s Barbie, a woman struggling with her own insecurities and trying to reconnect with her teenage daughter. Her monologue about the hypocrisy of the demands society places on women has become iconic. “It is literally impossible to be a woman,” she says while consoling Barbie. “You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough.” Her words snap the Barbies out of their Kendom-induced haze and help inspire them to reclaim Barbieland.
As a performer, Ferrera has been inspired by not only her co-stars and creatives on Barbie — which landed eight nods, including best picture and best adapted screenplay for Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach — but also her fellow nominees.
“All of the women in the incredible category that I get to be a part of: Da’Vine [Joy Randolph] and Danielle [Brooks] and Emily [Blunt] and Jodi [Foster], [their] work is just so beautiful,” Ferrera says. “It’s truly unbelievable to me that I get to be a part of the conversation with all of this amazing work being done all around.”
Ferrera spoke with THR on Tuesday morning after the nominations were announced to share her shock and excitement, reflect on her character and celebrate the film’s creative achievements.
What was your first thought when you saw that you were nominated? Did you watch it live?
I watched it live in bed by myself because my husband was taking my kids to school and I was in shock. For a moment, I questioned whether I had imagined it, but then my phone started blowing up. So I thought, “Oh, I guess that really did happen.” It was utterly shocking and exciting. Then my husband called me from the car screaming and my kids were very confused and asking him to please stop screaming.
What drew you to the role of Gloria?
I loved that she was a real woman, that she had to be imperfect and flawed and human in an otherwise plastic and perfect world of Barbieland — and that her embracing her imperfections and her own deep conflicts and insecurities became a moment of empowerment for the women in Barbieland. And also that she got to be at the center of a fun adventure. Loving Barbie and loving this child’s play was her adventure to go on — not just stand on the sidelines and root for her teen daughter, but instead to get to live out some wish-fulfillment for herself. It felt like such a gift from Greta to adult human women everywhere that we got to have a voice in this story that was just so unexpected.
As a mom, did the mother-daughter relationship resonate with you?
Absolutely. I’m a daughter and I’m a mother, and just living inside of that push and pull that wanting to be close and connected, but also being pulled in different directions [and] being in different stages of life. I loved working with Ariana Greenblatt, who played my daughter Sasha. Right away we had so much love for each other and such a chemistry. She’s so smart and so talented, and I felt like we could really build that connection between us. Even when she was being kind of a standoffish teenager and breaking her mother’s heart, we still felt that underlying pull toward them truly seeing each other.
I think one of my favorite moments in Gloria’s journey is when she’s ready to give up on Barbie and give up on Barbieland, and it’s Sasha, her own daughter, who mothers her in that moment and says to her you believe in this and you can’t give up and your drawings aren’t stupid. I love your drawings and I see you for everything you are the weird, the dark, and the crazy, and I love that. That felt like such a moment of her getting the love and the mothering from her own daughter that she had been giving her.
What was your reaction to the film’s other nominations?
Best Picture is very exciting, the nominations for “What Was I Made For? and “I’m Just Ken” and for Ryan [Gosling] and for the screenplay and production design. It was such an amazing creative team led by the incredible Greta Gerwig. She created this team of top-of-class, amazing artisans and craftspeople who got to come together and do such beautiful work in the service of what felt like child’s play. That was a gift that Greta gave to us all with her leadership and with her heart, and also it was a vision that Margot had for what Barbie could be. Margot and Greta are our fearless leaders, and they created this opportunity for so many incredible artists to come and bring everything they had. So, I celebrate them for what they created and made possible.
It’s pretty surprising that they didn’t get nominated as individuals.
It was unexpected, if I’m being perfectly honest. I think that Greta as a director is just unbelievable. The world’s creation, the incredible script she wrote with Noah, the team she assembled, and all the mastery of the craft that she wields is a marvel to witness. It’s been a highlight of my career to get to work with her as a director, and I hope I’m lucky enough to get to work with her again. Margot is a performer who I’ve admired for so long. Her work is unbelievable, and she’s a producer with incredible vision and skill to pull off and something as globally impactful as Barbie. Her work in front of the camera was also amazing to witness and to watch, and I’m so grateful for both of them and their enormous talents. If it were up to me, they would get all the awards.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
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