Jo Jo Rabbit tells the story of lonely German boy JoJo “Rabbit” Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) and his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), who's hiding a Jewish girl in their attic during World War II

By Rosy Cordero
September 09, 2019 01:19 PM

Being a real-life mom to now 5-year-old Rose helped Scarlett Johansson portray a parent on the big screen twice in 2019. The current highest-paid actress expressed gratitude for the first-hand-knowledge while visiting the EW and PEOPLE studio at the Toronto International Film Festival where her film Jojo Rabbit is set to debut on Sunday.

The satirical comedy 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 told EW and PEOPLE at TIFF. “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.”

Roman Griffin Davis and Scarlett Johansson
Celeste Sloman

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 Disney title is set to hit theaters on Oct. 18.

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