Hollywood star Emma Stone about playing a depressive, taking responsibility and questioning what is normal.
Emma Stone arrives for our interview at New York’s Crosby Street Hotel feeling perky and good humored. Even battling a cold, for which she apologizes throughout our chat, does not hold her back. The subject matter – depression – is something that has attracted the Arizona native for some time: she has openly discussed her own panic and anxiety attacks.
Ms Stone, you turned 30 last November. How different do you feel from the girl we first met when you promoted Easy A?
I feel pretty similar, but I also feel like I have learned a lot and have been through a lot more. It’s just as anyone does in those years, you experience more and become more circumspect about choices you make in your life. I still feel like the same goofball I was 10 years ago for the most part, but now with just a little bit more context.
What are you excited about in the next decade?
Getting older has been a fun experience so far, gaining more wisdom and context for things. I was a little gloomy the week before I turned 30. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe because of all the memories that you have from the past decade. But people say that pretty much every time they age another decade, I think. Now I am just really happy, and I am looking forward to seeing what is going to happen in my 30s.
What drives you?
Creativity and passion are two big driving forces, but of course for those to develop you need to have a support system. You need some basis for them to grow from. I admire a lot of women who are my friends, and without them I couldn’t do what I do.
What has been your biggest purchase so far?
My house has been the biggest expense, probably. It’s a luxury to have your own home and I am very grateful for it.
You are one of the most successful stars in Hollywood. What attracted you to the Netflix show Maniac?
It was an interesting challenge to tell the story of a character over five hours rather than
the two hours you have in a movie. And I got to play five characters throughout the show, which was very exciting. I want to go where the good material is, and it can be film or television or theatre. So, it didn’t really feel all that different, it just felt like a more extended endeavor.
The show delves into fascinating themes including depression. What do you think audiences will take from it and what discussions will it stir up?
One of the things my character talks about near the end, she asks what is normal? She says basically everybody goes through something difficult, and I think that is really true. It might not be a mental illness that needs to be medicated, but if you need medicine for what you are struggling with, that’s completely valid and a viable option. Everybody goes through pain, drama, anxiety and depression, situational or otherwise. Talking about that and admitting we all struggle, we have all lost and we all have pain, and that it is normal not to feel normal, and that connecting with people can be a healing balm for us instead of isolating ourselves ... I thought that was a beautiful and important discussion to have.
What’s your advice to people who go through a painful experience or a huge loss?
I can only paraphrase what my character says: the pain never goes away. It stays with you, and you keep living through it. I think that is true and it changes you forever. You are never going to go back to the same person you were before. That kind of huge loss requires more than meditation or more sleep or having some conversations with people you trust. And that all helps, of course, but I think when it comes to that huge, unspeakable loss, one of the most insane things about being human is the resilience that we need to have. Part of living is losing things you feel you should never have to lose and feeling pain you should never have to experience, and everyone goes through it at different times, but everyone does go through it.
What do you do when you don’t feel good?
I call somebody. Usually, I feel that if I can talk it out with somebody, it really, really helps. I pretty much share my feelings to a fault, so I say it or show it, or act it away. Talking always helps.
What are your thoughts on anti-depressants?
I know people have benefitted greatly from them, so I think that it’s a “to each their own” issue. I would hope that people do deeper work alongside it and talk to people and really examine if that is the right choice for them. But I think it can be in many ways a life-saving option for people.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I am sure there is stuff I wish I had known earlier, but people are meant to learn by doing and through experience. It’s hard to tell a young person “Don’t get this,” or “One day this is going to feel like that,” and “You are going to wish that you made this decision”. Kids think “Shut up, I am going to do whatever I want”. So, I doubt I would have listened to my own advice.
Have all the dreams that you had as a kid come true?
The dream was always to act. Other things that can come with that are more fantasies, like you don’t even know what to expect, because that life feels so far-fetched. Now, it feels different as it really happens because you are still yourself and it doesn’t change you internally, it only changes things externally in a beautiful way. And it is incredibly wonderful as it’s happening, but internally you still have the same insecurities to battle and the same growing to do. So, it doesn’t fix that for you, but feeling that your work, this thing that you dreamt of doing, is being recognized in that way is an amazing, beautiful gift. Choosing the material that you want to be a part of or choosing the films that you want to be a part of, is so rare in our industry. When you look at the whole Screen Actors Guild, a small percentage is working regularly. Four percent is working regularly, and of that, maybe one percent is getting to actively choose every role or part that they want to be involved in. So, I don’t take it for granted for a second.
Emma Stone has received numerous accolades. Her mesmerizing turn as the aspiring actress Mia who pursues a bittersweet romance with jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) in the movie musical La La Land (2016) won her a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, and the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Her new show
Emma Stone stars opposite friend and colleague Jonah Hill in the Netflix comedy-drama Maniac. Set in New York City in the near future, the show is about two emotionally damaged strangers who join an unorthodox pharmaceutical trial to find a remedy for their problems.