The ''United States of Tara'' alum gives a knockout turn in the acclaimed indie ''Short Term 12'' (now in theaters)


1. Barbie Girl
Her first gig was a ”Malibu Mudslide Barbie” sketch for The Tonight Show at age 7. ”I thought I had made it,” says the actress, now 23.

2. Short Term Job
To prep for her role as a counselor at a foster-care facility in Short Term 12, she worked at one for three weeks. ”I needed to respect the material and that world honestly,” says Larson, who also appears briefly in Don Jon.

3. Genre Equality
She says alternating between dramas and comedies (like 21 Jump Street) is key. ”If I don’t stay in touch with the funny stuff, then the drama stuff doesn’t work because you indulge too much.”