The actress talks about getting into the mindset of a battered wife and how 'deeply' she had gone into the character

When Anne Hathaway recently dove a little too deep into a role, she relied upon someone special in her life to lift her spirits up.

In the new film Serenity, the actress plays a battered wife who seeks out the help of her ex-husband, played by Matthew McConaughey, to get even. On Wednesday, the Oscar winner, 36, told reporters at a N.Y.C. screening on the film — hosted by The Cinema Society — that she prepped for the role by reading about domestic violence and speaking to survivors.

“I thought I was doing a good job of keeping myself safe and in my life,” she told PEOPLE. “And then by the end, it had just taken over.”

Luckily, Hathaway had her husband, Adam Shulman, on hand to bring her back to reality. “I’m just really grateful I had my husband there to remind me where our life ended and where she began, and helping to keep that clear for me.”

Fashion 2018 Givenchy Arrivals, Paris, France - 30 Sep 2018
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The complexity of the issue is what swallowed Hathaway whole. “It’s a really serious problem and it’s one that — the reasons for it, the reasons why people find themselves in abusive relationships, the reasons why people abuse — they’re multifaceted and complicated and difficult to talk about and devastating,” she explained. “So, by the end I realized how deeply I had gone in.”

Hathaway’s character in the film, Karen, is a blonde, but that didn’t mean the actress was having much fun.

“In this case, her hair color and style, and her personal style, and the way she wore her makeup, and everything about her life was constructed by her husband and chosen for her by her husband,” Hathaway said. “So in this particular case it was a very sad blonde.”

'Serenity' film photocall, Los Angeles, USA - 11 Jan 2019
Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway
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For now, however, she’s grateful Serenity is coming out when it is.

“There are so many things that we’re not talking about and one of the things that I don’t think we’re talking about is the way unhealed trauma begets trauma,” Hathaway, who’s an outspoken supporter of the Times Up movement, explained. “And this movie doesn’t solve that problem for anybody, but it does explain what happens when trauma is left unhealed and who the weight of that falls on.”

Serenity is now playing in theaters.