How do the demands of an acting career impact your emotional health as a child or adult?
Evan Rachel Wood advises parents of potential child actors:
“If your child is showing signs of talent and really seems to possess something unique, it’s not going anywhere, so there’s no need to throw them in front of a camera right away.”
She also notes, “If you push somebody out on the spotlight too early and they don’t know who they are and they’re a kid, then they’re going to be told what to do and who to be.
“There’s a reason why so many child stars have these little breakdowns.
“You’re raised in this adult world, but you’re also told not to be an adult, but you have to act like one, but you’re not one.
“So it’s this weird kind of push and pull of, ‘Don’t grow up too fast. But grow up immediately!’ “
From Evan Rachel Wood’s Advice to Child Actors — and Their Parents, By Jordan Allyn, BackStage June 27, 2018.
One of the kinds of breakdowns both child and adult actors may experience is drug abuse and other forms of addiction, often as self-medication to deal with overwhelming difficult feelings.
One example is Tatum O’Neal.
An Oscar winner at age 10, she says in her autobiography (“A Paper Life”) that growing up she had to deal with her mentally unstable mother and volatile and unpredictable father, in an environment of drugs, neglect, and physical and mental abuse.
By age 20, she was addicted to cocaine.
From article Artists and Addiction.
Jackie Earle Haley achieved an Oscar nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Todd Field’s “Little Children.”
His reaction was enthusiastic: “Jubilation. Pure unbelievable joy. This is a day of all days.”
Fellow “Children” nominee Kate Winslet recalled his audition for the director:
“We read together; he gave the most breathtaking audition I’ve ever seen in my life. And Todd gave him the job on the spot.” [Hollywood Reporter Jan 23, 2007]
He has also commented: “I started acting when I was 5 years old.
“And I was pretty well known for a while. Your self-esteem and your identity start to become wrapped up in that celebrity, and when that starts to fade away, your self-esteem and your identity start to fade away with it.
“Those roles that I played and the success that I had, that is not who I am. It’s part of who I am, but it’s not everything. So when it drifts away and you start to feel increasingly insecure, it’s kind of a long battle out of that.”
“That transition from child to adult actor is so incredibly elusive,” he adds.
“The roles that were coming to me as a young adult were not that great, but I was taking them anyway to pay the rent. And the more bad roles in bad movies I took, the less anybody wanted me for a good role in a good movie.”
[From his imdb profile.]
Kate Winslet said of the acclaim for her work in “Little Children”:
“I literally feel like I’ve never been nominated for anything before in my life.
“You don’t understand, I am a girl from a small town in England who was told that she might have a career in acting if she was happy to settle for playing fat parts.” [Entertainment Weekly Feb 2, 2007]
That kind of experience early in life can endure as self-critical thoughts and insecurity, especially for sensitive people.
Winslet has admitted that before a movie shoot, she still sometimes thinks, “I’m a fraud, and they’re going to fire me… I’m fat; I’m ugly.”
[From post: Actors and Self esteem.]
Creative, often highly sensitive people are, according to research, often susceptible to perfectionism and unreasonably high standards and expectations that can lead to exaggerated self-criticism.
One related article: Ashley Judd: “If I engage in perfectionism, I am abusing myself.”