“Growing Up” Shines the Spotlight on Everyday Heroes

Brie Larson and Yara Shahidi are among the directors of this inspirational documentary series

Brie Larson and Yara Shahidi are among the directors of this inspirational documentary series

Brie Larson has spent several years playing a superhero on the big screen. Now, she’s taking those heroics into the real world.

The Room Oscar winner, who had a box-office smash with Captain Marvel, aligns again with Disney as a co-creator and executive producer and, for one episode, a director—of Growing Up, a series that makes its streaming debut as part of “Disney+ Day” on Thursday, September 8. Each half-hour profile showcases one everyday “hero” (or, in Larson’s directorial effort, two) and his or her personal challenges in moving through adolescence, examining how family and society have influenced the early stages of their respective lives.

“It felt like a transformative experience for everybody that was on set, from our heroes to the directors to everybody on the crew,” Larson reflects. “I’ve never had an experience where people felt so seen and connected to what it was that they were doing. We were such a little family. I remember finishing this going, ‘Even if no one ever sees this, I feel like there was a lot of healing that happened here.’”Growing UpDisney+Best friends and women’s health activists Clare Della Valle and Isabel Lam are the subject of Brie Larson’s episode.

Larson explains the Growing Up concept began “with a thought while I was driving, where I realized I was living with shame about who I was. It sent me on this path for years of asking people who I was close to, ‘What do you feel shameful about?’ And when they would open up, I realized that 100 per cent of the time, the thing they felt the most ashamed of was not anything that was shameful at all.”

Yara Shahidi, star of ABC Spark’s grown-ish, is also among the first season’s 10 directors… each of whom guided one episode. Once-homeless registered nurse Gavin Arneson is the subject of one instalment, while the episode directed by Larson profiles friends Clare Della Valle and Isabel Lam, who organized the distribution of menstrual products while they were Pennsylvania high school students.

“Certain elements of our story were dramatized to visually show how we were feeling,” Della Valle reports. “It was a very positive experience to have to validate what we went through. It was definitely a little strange; I’m not an actor or anything, so getting some tips from Brie was very fun. That’s not an experience everybody gets to have, coming from someone like her. It was just really a great experience also to kind of relive those moments, with my best friend.”

Lam concurs, deeming it “very interesting to take a deeper dive into our stories, because I never really think about it that much on a daily basis. I just kind of reflected on those moments and figured out how important they are. It’s like, ‘Who I am today.’”

“Growing Up” is currently streaming on Disney+