Most actors playing super-powered characters stay in shape to acclimate to a role. Thor is a sculpted mass of Asgardian greatness, hence Chris Hemsworth needs to look the part; Wonder Woman is an Amazonian warrior with divine origins, ergo, Gal Gadot must tap into her military background and match the demigod accordingly. For Brie Larson, however, it’s the other way around. She doesn’t exercise to become a hero; she works out because she is a hero — or rather, is supposed to be. Doing heavy cardio, and perhaps lifting weights, is part of the superhero gig, as fellow Avenger Tony Stark probably believed.
Robert Downey, Jr. adopted a strict fitness regime and relearned Wing Chun to play the Armored Avenger, despite the character never having to. But to Brie Larson, who plays Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, taking care of oneself enough to qualify as a superhero in the real world is enough justification to remain in shape. Larson believes actors need to be responsible for the characters they play, and aiming higher — the same way they would — is part of the deal. She tells Kate Dwyer of The New York Times, “I just wanted to feel like in the human realm I could accomplish what she was doing in this superhero realm. And it helped me inform the character. It didn’t make sense to just stand there and be like, ‘The C.G.I. will take care of this.’”
In the years before superheroes have come to dominate cinema, action stars typically had to keep fit — but just enough to satisfy producers. These days, superhero films and shows have dramatically lifted the bar, requiring actors to take expectations several notches higher and practically embody the paragons of justice they play. It’s no longer enough to attain the bare minimum, as Brie Larson quickly figured out. “I was starting to feel like my own image of myself was oppressive,” she shares. “There’s something very different about being shown to the world as a superhero,” referring to an unspoken industry yardstick “to uphold a certain image.”
As the lines between character and actor blur, the need to emulate a gold standard that doesn’t even exist can feel all the more tyrannical and coercive. Society puts an overwhelming amount of expectation on the actor to become the hero they portray, short of actually shooting lasers and whizzing through outer space, and some have even failed to come out unscathed. Zachary Levi was harassed on social media for wearing a bigger muscle suit and seeming too small for the physicality of Shazam. Robert Pattinson, our new Bruce Wayne, reportedly struggled to put on weight while filming The Batman. Fanboys complained about Gal Gadot not having ample chest area when the Israeli actress was first cast as Wonder Woman. One can see where an actor like Brie Larson would feel some pressure.
Not everyone is Gina Carano or Dwayne Johnson, and sometimes even actors (and studios) forget that. Brawn is now infinitely more paramount than acting ability, but despite the pressures that come with playing Captain Marvel, Brie Larson doesn’t necessarily think so. She suggests a healthier way of perceiving physical requirements, in that it’s not about setting your sights on the impossible. It’s about respecting the role you were given. The amount of dedication one devotes into a part is not too different from caring for someone you love or investing in a relationship.
Brie Larson elaborates: “When I’m prepping for a role, it’s like getting a crush. You want to think about them, you want to talk about them, and everywhere you go, it’s almost like you get magical signs because your whole world is this love.” Regarding exercise as freeing and empowering over demoralizing and intimidating is certainly a much healthier way of viewing the experience. “[The mind and body] can change for good and bad depending on what it is I’m doing,” she adds.
Carol Danvers is notably one of the MCU’s strongest Avengers, if not the strongest right next to Thor Odinson and Wanda Maximoff. Brie Larson debuted as the human/Kree hybrid in 2019’s Captain Marvel, directed by Mississippi Grind’s Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. She was next seen in Endgame, assisting the founding Avengers in taking down Thanos with the goal of restoring half of all life in the universe. Since Marvel Studios’ Infinity Saga ended, there have been two more Captain Marvels to join Carol Danvers: Captain Monica Rambeau and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel. Captain Rambeau, played by Teyonah Parris, is a friend of Danvers and the daughter of S.W.O.R.D. founder Maria Rambeau. She developed spectral vision, energy absorption, intangibility, and accelerated perception of time after entering Scarlet Witch’s Hex a third time in WandaVision and allowing it to mutate her DNA.
Kamala Khan is a newer Marvel Comics character who owes her shapeshifting powers to her Inhuman genes; she is scheduled to make her first appearance in the MCU in the Disney+ miniseries Ms. Marvel. She will also be featuring in the newly-announced The Marvels, the direct sequel to Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel. It will have all three Captain Marvels: Carol, Kamala, and Monica. Kamala Khan will be played by Ontario young actress Iman Vellani. Ms. Marvel is being written by Bisha K. Ali while The Marvels has the Candyman sequel’s Nia DaCosta directing.
Brie Larson may also be appearing in Thor: Love and Thunder. The Oscar-winning actress is already prepping physically for The Marvels, but when she’s not building muscle to play an Avenger, she’s baking without a recipe, catching up on French literature, playing video games, doing crafts with her friends, and happily vlogging on YouTube.