These 6 Actors Went to Therapy After Playing Controversial Characters

Playing some characters can take a heavy toll on actor's health and well-being. For this reason, some actors must seek therapy.
These 6 Actors Went to Therapy After Playing Controversial Characters
Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 06 October, 2023

Hallucinations, exhaustion, stress, insomnia... On more than one occasion, after long days of filming and a lot of physical and mental demands, actors experience these after-effects on their health when playing certain characters. Although many believe otherwise, it’s not an easy job. For this reason, many actors decide to seek therapy for help. Below, you can learn a little more about the subject.

6 actors who went to therapy after their performances

It’s clear that the purpose of acting is to represent a character and assume their qualities to convey their essence. To achieve this, actors prepare and study the role they must embody in-depth. This – which is sometimes successfully achieved in the movie or series – has certain consequences in real life. Why?

In some cases, it’s ecause there are creepy characters with dark and unscrupulous personalities. In other cases, the actors decide to change their life habits (starve, isolate themselves, etc.), in order to understand how that character feels and lives. Also, it’s not easy because becoming someone else for such a long time can lead the actor to forget who he or she is. Acting can be exciting, but behind the lights and backstage, it also has its own difficulties.

Here are some actors who went to therapy after playing certain characters.

1. Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

In any of its versions, the interpretation of the famous Joker can be controversial for actors. For many, Ledger’s performance was the best of all time.

His success did not come free: he isolated himself for a time and experienced difficulty sleeping. In an interview, the actor commented that he locked himself in a hotel for a month, rehearsing different voices for the villain. For this very reason, after his performance, he decided to go to therapy.

2. Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables

After playing Fantine in the musical, Hathaway said that she ended up with physical (weight loss) and mental (stress and fatigue) difficulties. Although her role earned her recognition at the Oscar awards, the actress expressed in different interviews that she could not feel happy about the state she was in.

3. Adrien Brody in The Pianist

His role in this film, as a Jewish pianist who hides to survive after the Nazi invasion, earned him the outstanding Oscar award for Best Actor. However, the artist confessed that he was 27 years old and underwent several changes that catapulted him, suddenly, into adulthood.

He experienced some hardship and suffering to understand his character, who lived in a difficult time. Brody went on an extreme diet to lose weight and also lived in isolation to better characterize his role. This resulted in a depression that led him to seek therapy.

4. Jane Fonda in Grace and Frankie

This is a different case from the others, since here Jane Fonda’s case doesn’t involve the interpretation of a sinister character, but a personal situation. For the actress, the return to the screen after several years away from the profession implied a challenge that caused anxiety.

Sometimes, the internal pressures, the demands, and the desire to perform well work as stress factors, generating some discomfort.

5. Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

The British actor played detective Eddie Valiant, but had to stay away from acting for a while and go to therapy because he began to have hallucinations. During filming, he had to interact with cartoons, which meant that for a long time he felt that he saw these characters everywhere. He even expressed that they appeared to him when talking to other people.

6. Bill Skarsgard in It

Who hasn’t felt fear after seeing the scary Pennywise come out of the sewers? Well, even the actor who played him has suffered from nightmares!

In Skarsgard’s case, he mentioned that once filming was over, he had very real nightmares. On the other hand, he also expressed that during the filming he felt very lonely, since during the breaks, no one would approach him to talk to him because he looked so scary.

Although he didn’t go into depth on whether he went to therapy or not after his performance, what he did mention was that, during the preparation of his role, he studied and inquired a lot about the psychology of the character, trying to understand his dark thoughts. This, at times, made him feel that the clown lived inside himself.

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No job in the limelight is perfect

After knowing some cases of actors who went to therapy after impersonating certain roles, it can be observed that any job, under conditions of stress and pressure, has severe repercussions on people‘s physical and mental health.

Actor’s work and professional environment help shape the identity of those who work in them, since by “doing”, they also “are” – that is to say, they configure their own style and put a lot of themselves into it. Sometimes, an actor’s work-life ends up blurring their intimate life and even this ends up being affected.

In general, many people think of acting and imagineg luxury, comfort, limousines, private parties, and all the glitz they see in tabloids and newspapers. However, perhaps that’s the visible part of the iceberg. But there are also long days of filming, and stunts, among other things.

Burnout is one of the consequences of being subjected to stress and fatigue. Its results, besides physical (headaches, tinnitus, extreme tiredness, etc.), are also psychological (loss of enjoyment, sleeping difficulties, anxiety, panic attacks, moodiness and irritability, not feeling oneself, among others).

In this sense, it’s important to be able to find a balance and ensure the best conditions to fulfill our obligations: rest, dedicating micro-moments of relaxation during the working day, good nutrition, or exercise.

Finally, what can be rescued from this situation is the visibility of mental health by public figures. In this way, it’s easier to naturalize that any person, even those who are thought to have their life solved, may need help and it’s crucial to ask for it in time.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.