STAND BY ME: In Life As in Art
To date, the most powerfully influential film and song, for both my life and my art, remains, Stand By Me. A defining essence that shows not only how beautiful it is when Humanity unites, strengthens, grows and moves forward together as a race, but also how poignantly ‘necessary’ it is. The film and lyrics, awakened me, changed me, and put into words more eloquently than I ever could, what it is to love, to be a friend, and to be a human being.
Whenever there was a sports day as a kid, I always sprinted ahead, eager to cross that victory line, motivated purely and simply by being told that’s what I was meant to do, but moments away from claiming that winner’s trophy, I’d stop, turn, and wait a few seconds for my friends to catch up. In High School I always chose Relay. I never wanted to cross that winning line alone. If I couldn’t take my ‘human race’ with me, I didn’t want to do it. Singularly, winning a race alone has never made much sense to me, and I doubt it ever will. Even now, having won a number of National and International Acting Awards, I am profoundly aware I never got there alone, I got there because of the hard work, support, truth and emotional bond with a plethora, and I do mean ‘plethora’ of others. No Artist, is ever, EVER alone.
Yet so many Artists, including myself, are so often plagued by a pathological sense of ‘being completely alone’, ever seeking the purest connection and expression to unite us with this world and to our race. Acting, arguably one of the most competitive professions in the world is the ultimate paradox. Essentially you need to be so driven, determined, competitive and uniquely talented to smack all the other players out of the ball park whilst simultaneously forging, welding and caring for deep human emotional bonds, strengthening collaborations and continuously connecting with other Artists, Producers, Directors and Agents. You need battle worthy fierce chainmail armour to get the job, and then willingly take it off and be as a vulnerable as a naked child, to do the job ‘well’.
On Wednesday I attended SAMHSA Voice Awards which annually honours People who have used Television and Film to give a voice to behavioral Health Issues. In the US, there are continuously more suicides each year, than homicide. We have endless shows about murder, but how many do we have centered on Suicide? Evidently not enough. SAMHSA has a mission to get people in the Arts talking about behavioral health, so that we can unite as a race to restore hope and save lives. Suicide and substance abuse affect us all. Every single last one of us, and its only in talking about it, in life as in art, that we can begin to make a difference. It shouldn’t be surprising that Artists, who by profession deal with the extremes of high and low emotion commonly battle substance abuse and dependency, depression and are prone to suicidal thoughts. And yet the shock when celebrity do end their lives is always so great, particularly in Hollywood. It’s heartbreaking that little more than a year ago, Robin Williams, who gave smiles and laughter to so many, ended his life alone, that we couldn’t support him in his vulnerability and give back some those smiles and laughter when he needed it most.
Historically, Icons perpetually teach us the same lesson: Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, River Phoenix, Kurt Cobain, and so very close to my own heart, Philip Seymour Hoffman – I could go on – all left this life through a lethal concoction of drugs that became their coping mechanism. So many people, not just celebrity tread the same painful, isolated path feeling that they have no one to ask for help. There are many Killers in this world, but I believe this is one we can and must tackle together, simply by talking, connecting, supporting the people around us. Even the smoothest of Oceans can have a Tsunami brewing underneath.
You may be pleased to know that SAMHSA honoured our very own Brit, Johnny Lee Miller’s Elementary. That the film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s international best-selling novel A Long Way Down also received a SAMHSA Award and Jennifer Aniston’s CAKE was awarded for its truthful voice on Behavioral Health. Documentary to look out for, That Which I love, Destroys Me, about Psychological effects of War on Soldiers, fighting against all perceived stigma and if you haven’t taken your children to see Pixar’s Inside Out, also a SAMHSA Award winner – DO IT!!!!!!
But hands down, do you know what he absolute best moment of the SAMHSA awards was? The moment when Emmy Award Winner Wayne Brody was presented with an SAMHSA achievement award by his Ex wife, Mandy Taketa. She gave one of the bravest, most honest, most open, most connected and so beautifully moving speeches anyone could give anyone. Now that’s the never ending love and support I’m talking about. No matter what pain you go through, how tough it gets, how brutal it gets, even in Divorce, we can unite and move forward together. What an inspiration.
And finally…..as always, Shakespeare beat us to it. The most original Big Time Brit and my personal hero, covered everything. Shakespeare back in 1600, covered Homicide and Suicide with equal gravitas through one of the strongest – YES I SAID STRONGEST NOT FLAWED AND NOT WEAK, Hero’s, Hamlet. We in 2015 still have some catching up to do……We all need love and support, to have someone to talk to, and to have our voice listened to and heard. Time to get rid of the stigma, locate our compassion, awareness and humanity and use it. In Art as in Life, #Stand By Me. Lets move forward, together.
For anyone who would like further information:
SAMHSA’s website is: http://www.samhsa.gov/
And I personally closely support our UK’s Voice: