Solar-driven water evaporation has been emerging as a highly efficient way for utilizing solar energy for clean water production and wastewater treatment. Here we rationally designed and fabricated a bi-layered photothermal membrane with a porous film of reduced graphene oxide (rGO) on the top and polystyrene (PS) foam at the bottom. The top porous rGO layer acts as a light absorber to harvest and convert light efficiently to thermal energy and the bottom PS layer, which purposefully disintegrates water transport channels, acts as an excellent thermal barrier to minimize heat transfer to the nonevaporative bulk water. The optimized bi-layered membrane was able to produce water evaporation rate as high as 1.31 kg m−2 h−1 with light to evaporation conversion efficiency as high as 83%, which makes it a promising photothermal material in the literature. Furthermore, the experiments and theoretical simulation were both conducted to examine the relationship between the overall energy efficiency and the depth of the photothermal material underwater and the experimental and simulations results coincided with each other. Therefore, this work provides systematic evidence in support of the concept of the interfacial heating and shines important light on practical applications of solar-driven processes for clean water production.