Scarlett Johansson Says Being a Parent Was 'Invaluably Helpful' for Jojo Rabbit Performance

Being a real-life mom to now 6-year-old Rose helped Scarlett Johansson land her two Oscar nominations this year for her work in Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit. (She’s is nominated for Best Actress for the former, and Best Supporting Actress for the latter.)

Jojo Rabbit tells the story of lonely German boy JoJo “Rabbit” Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), whose life is turned upside after discovering that his mother Rosie (Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic during World War II. The only person he feels he can truly count on is his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (played by the film’s director Taika Waititi).

“It’s a parent’s job to protect their kids,” Johansson tells PEOPLE. “I think that by not involving Roman’s character in the reality of what’s going on at home… I think I’m basically keeping him alive that way. I’ve never had a child in [a] film before. And then this year, I made two films where suddenly [I had] 10 and 11-year-olds — so I kind of became this insta-parent.”

She added, “I think for actors, of course, there are ways of getting yourself where you need to go. Being a parent myself was just invaluably helpful to me. I had empathy for Rosie’s plate that I may not have had insight on otherwise. She was just a joy to play. She’s a warm, lovable character that felt really comfy to me. And I wanted that to come across, that she’s just comfortable and kind of sugary and warm.”

The 92nd Annual Academy Awards will air live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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