Before Bria Vinaite landed her breakout role in Sean Baker’s Oscar-nominated 2017 film “The Florida Project,” she was selling marijuana-themed outerwear on Instagram. Raised in Brooklyn and born in Lithuania, she had the specific kind of no-nonsense vibe Baker was seeking for the role of Halley, a single mother and sex worker living with her daughter in a rundown Florida motel next to Disney World. Along with Brooklynn Prince, another Baker discovery who played Halley’s daughter, Moonee, Vinaite earned unadulterated praise for her raw and charismatic performance. Once the film entered the awards race and picked up a slew of accolades, Vinaite’s life changed drastically, launching a burgeoning acting career for which she had very little preparation.
“I got home after four months on the press tour and I was so depressed,” the 26-year-old recently told The Independent. “I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t have a hundred people taking my picture anymore? No one’s telling me I’m beautiful? This is so fucked up!’ I didn’t know what to do with myself.”
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While Baker and Vinaite’s co-star Willem Dafoe were both very helpful as Vinaite navigated the ins and outs of Hollywood, she wished there had been someone her age to share the experience.
“I definitely wish that I had someone to talk to before the movie came out, who was more in the stratosphere,” she said. “Because obviously I would talk to Sean and I would talk to Willem and everyone, but I didn’t really have anyone my own age who I knew at that point, who I could just be like, ‘Wait bitch, this is crazy!’ It was like me and children and then Willem Dafoe. So I just felt very lonely.”
Of course, a star-making turn with such a specific and rich character has its downsides. Like an Ellen Page in “Juno” or Jonah Hill in “Superbad,” Vinaite is now entering the phase of her career where she must push against being pigeonholed. She recently played a three-episode arc on Netflix’s genre thriller “The OA” and has a few indie films in the works, but it’s still a struggle to land other types of roles.
“People only see me as Halley, and I almost feel like now I’m at a point where I have to prove to everyone that that’s not all I can do. People assume that I’m this trashy motel girl, and that those are the only roles I can play, but I really take it seriously, and I know that I can do more. I want to do comedy, I want to do horror, I want to do all these other things,” she said.
Read the full interview with Vinaite here.