Sharper Star Briana Middleton on Lessons Learned From Julianne Moore – The Hollywood Reporter

Before diving into a new role, Briana Middleton prepares her suit of armor. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

“I love prep and research,” the actress says of her process. “I don’t like this analogy, but it feels like ammo or armor going into a project. If I have all of this stuff surrounding me, and then I go into the chaos that is filming, I don’t go crazy.”

In Benjamin Caron’s A24 psychological thriller Sharper, Middleton plays Sandra, a young woman who finds herself wrapped up in the ruthless world of New York City con artists. What begins as a picture-perfect love story between Sandra and Tom (Justice Smith) slowly unravels, as the story reveals its characters are not who they appear to be.

Upon reading the script, the New Orleans-based actress says she immediately was won over by her character. “I fell in love with her heart, and I fell in love with this inherent hope that she has for people,” says Middleton, who grew up in a military family and moved around a lot, living in such places as Germany, Tennessee and Louisiana.

Coming off an appearance in George Clooney’s The Tender Bar, Middleton stars alongside Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan, John Lithgow and Smith in Sharper, which is set for a Feb. 17 release on Apple TV+. “Thank God, everyone’s so nice,” the relative newcomer says of her castmates. “It really takes the pressure off of having to have this really polished performance.”

Working with the Oscar-winning Moore, Middleton recalls learning from the actress while on set. “She is not afraid to let her process be seen,” Middleton says of Moore. “There’s this idea that you need to go away and do your thing, do your prep. Then, you have to come and do this really polished, finished performance. But [Moore] is trying things, she’s saying it and then saying it again. You see her working, and you remember, ‘Oh, right, I can actually take the time to figure this out. I can explore this.’ “

Amid its twists and turns, Sharper touches on themes such as substance abuse and mental health struggles. It was Middleton’s connection to her character that helped her push through those more difficult scenes. At times, she had to work to distance herself from the part and remind herself that she was playing a role: “I do think this stuff lives in your body, especially after doing it so many times and living in it.”

Middleton with Justice Smith in Sharper.

Middleton with Justice Smith in Sharper.

Courtesy of ALISON COHEN ROSA/Apple TV+

In its exploration of human nature, Sharper grapples with the harsh realities of what people are willing to do to survive but also what people are willing to do for love. “Is it a love story?” Middleton ponders the question. “Love is one of the things that maybe all of our characters are searching for in this film. Connection and relationship.

“We have a habit of making people two-dimensional and labeling them,” the actress adds about what she hopes audiences will take away from the film. “But that’s just not how humans are. I hope [the film] touches people in that way to remember that we are multifaceted beings. We’re not just one thing.”

This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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