“I don’t think you can go through something like this and not have some sort of PTSD afterward.”
It’s no secret that many actors choose to immerse themselves in their roles — but sometimes it ends up doing more harm than good. While it may make for a better movie or show, it can be pretty damaging if their role is too intense. In fact, some actors walk away after filming wraps and have a difficult time shaking off the character they portrayed.
Actors like Sophie Turner and Anne Hathaway have all said that they felt as though they were almost traumatized by their all-consuming roles. Some stars have even had to turn to therapy in order to move past the character they embodied. Even though it may have been an extremely emotional process, most of these actors say it was worth the trouble.
Read on to find out what these stars had to say about their roles…
1. Sophie Turner – “Game of Thrones”
Sophie Turner was just 15 years old when “Game of Thrones” premiered and through the years, her character Sansa endured everything from horrific violence to psychological abuse to sexual assault. The actress says she’s not sure if she fully comprehended the depths of some of the scenes due to her age but in order to emotionally deal with the heavy storylines, she was forced to create coping mechanisms. She says that between takes she would often try to make light of the situation by singing and dancing.
“The subject matter was so heavy that I just developed a coping mechanism of just having the most fun in between takes, so I wouldn’t get traumatized…I’m sure I’ll exhibit some symptoms of trauma down the road,” Sophie said in an interview with The Cut.
2. Kate Winslet – “The Reader”
Back in 2008, Kate Winslet portrayed a former Nazi camp worker in “The Reader” and after filming wrapped, she says she had a really hard time shaking the whole experience. In fact, she says it felt like being a “car crash victim.”
“I am still coming to terms with the whole experience of having played Hannah, I really genuinely am. We wrapped on July 12th, and I sort of walked away like some car crash victim who somehow hadn’t been hurt on the outside, but I felt like I couldn’t speak [about it]. It was truly overwhelming. I really went somewhere. I was in some kind of a trance. And I’m still coming to terms with all of it,” she told HuffPost.
3. Alex Wolff – “Hereditary”
After filming the supernatural psychological horror film “Hereditary,” Alex Wolff says he experienced symptoms of PTSD from the “disturbing s—” he went through while making the movie. After nights of not sleeping, Alex says he tried to channel all of his negative feelings in the hopes of overcoming what he went through.
“When I started talking about it, all these flashes with all this disturbing shit I went through sort of came back in a flood. It kept me up at night to where I got into a habit of emotional masochism to the point of just trying to take in every negative feeling I could draw from. I forced it upon myself rather than the opposite of what you’d usually do in life, which is sit on the heater until it starts to burn and you jump up immediately. I had to do the exact opposite of that and absorb the pain and let it burn. It’s a reverse emotional thing. It’s hard to describe eloquently, it’s just a feeling. I don’t think you can go through something like this and not have some sort of PTSD afterward,” Alex told Vice.
4. Anne Hathaway – “Les Misérables”
In preparation to portray dying prostitute Fantine in the “Les Misérables,” Anne Hathaway dropped 25 pounds, which took an intense toll on her mental health. She says that before filming she went on a strict cleanse to lose 10 pounds and then, during a two-week break from filming, she lost an additional 15 pounds by going on an intense, “near starvation” diet. On top of that, she filmed traumatic scenes where she got her hair shorn and her teeth yanked out and was assaulted by a sailor.
“I had to be obsessive about it — the idea was to look near death. Looking back on the whole experience — and I don’t judge it in any way — it was definitely a little nuts…I was in such a state of deprivation — physical and emotional. When I got home, I couldn’t react to the chaos of the world without being overwhelmed. It took me weeks till I felt like myself again,” Anne told Vogue.
5. Dakota Johnson – “Suspiria”
After Dakota Johnson wrapped filming on supernatural horror “Suspiria,” she says that it “f—ed [her] up so much that” she had to go to therapy. She later expanded on the situation, explaining that she tends to absorb the emotions of others and a dark film like “Suspiria” can sometimes be hard to move on from.
“I find sometimes when I work on a project and — I don’t have any shame in this — I’m a very porous person and I absorb a lot of people’s feelings. When you’re working sometimes with dark subject matter, it can stay with you and then to talk to somebody really nice about it afterwards is a really nice way to move on from the project. My therapist is a really nice woman,” Dakota said.
6. Lakeith Stanfield – “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Lakeith Stanfield says that filming “Judas and the Black Messiah” took a toll on his mental health when his brain had a hard time differentiating what was real and what was acting. He particularly struggled with the scene where his character poisoned Daniel Kaluuya, who was portraying Fred Hampton.
“In the scene where I had to poison him, a lot of it didn’t end up making it to the final cut, but we shot [me mixing it in] Kool-Aid, and I had to go through all those emotions. With somebody like Daniel, who I just respect as a human and an artist, as Fred Hampton, it felt like I was actually poisoning Chairman Fred Hampton. Sometimes your body thinks that’s real, everything you’re putting it through. It’s no wonder I’ve been feeling so stressed out and having panic attacks. I realized going forward before I step into something like that again, maybe have a therapist,” Lakeith told Complex.
7. Adrien Brody – “The Pianist”
Adrien Brody took preparations for his role in “The Pianist” seriously, challenging himself to not only practice playing the piano for hours a day but also selling all of his belongings and starving himself to emulate the struggles his character faced during the Holocaust. He says that while it helped his acting, there were times he was concerned he wouldn’t make it out of it without destroying his mental health.
“There is an emptiness that comes with really starving that I hadn’t experienced. I couldn’t have acted that without knowing it. I’ve experienced loss, I’ve experienced sadness in my life, but I didn’t know the desperation that comes with hunger…However, there were times when I was concerned that I might not be able to get out of it sane, because I didn’t realize how far it had taken me. It took over half a year after the film was done to settle back into things,” Adrien told BBC News.
8. Natalie Portman – “Black Swan”
While Natalie Portman was filming “Black Swan,” she says there were some nights that she thought she “literally was going to die.” After intense training, 16-hour workdays and practically starving herself for the role, she says she had a hard time returning to her regular life.
“It was the first time I understood how you could get so wrapped up in a role that it could sort of take you down,” Natalie told Entertainment Weekly.
9. Kyle Richards – “Halloween”
Kyle Richards was just a little girl when she was left traumatized by her role in “Halloween”— although it wasn’t her time on set that affected her mental health. She says that she didn’t really understand what the film was about while working on it and it wasn’t until she watched the final version that she became truly terrified.
“Seeing it for the first time all pieced together was a very, very different movie. It was just really scary, and I really did sleep with my mom until I was 15 years old after that. I was terrified. I think that’s what sealed the deal for me to get out of horror films. After seeing myself in that, I was always thinking there was someone hiding behind the drapes or outside my windows or under my bed, so I would just sleep holding my mom’s arm the entire night,” Kyle said in an interview.
10. Christina Applegate – “Dead to Me”
When Christina Applegate wrapped her Netflix series “Dead to Me,” she realized she had so deeply tapped into a past personal loss, that she needed to seek therapy. The whole experience actually ended up being beneficial for her because even though some things were difficult, it forced her to face problems head-on.
“It tapped into some stuff that I had to face. It was cathartic. I don’t know if [it was] therapeutic. Did I start therapy after I shot the show? Yes, absolutely. To like finally talk about the stuff that hurt you in your life — and heal from that? I think it’s a really beautiful thing,” Christina told Variety.
11. Michael B. Jordan – “Black Panther”
Michael B. Jordan says he “did whatever [he] felt [he] needed to do” in order to prepare for “Black Panther” but in the end, it took a toll on his mental health. He explained that while getting ready for the movie, he isolated himself from family and friends in order to experience the same loneliness as his character. Unfortunately, when filming wrapped, he had a hard time adjusting to regular life.
“I didn’t have an escape plan. It was a little tough for me at first…Readjusting to people caring about me, getting that love that I shut out. I shut out love, I didn’t want love. I wanted to be in this lonely place as long as I could…I went to therapy, I started talking to people, starting unpacking a little bit,” Michael told Oprah during a “SuperSoul Conversations” special.