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Tom Holland, who has been sober over a year, reflects on mental health and ‘recognizing triggers’

The actor spoke about how his role in “The Crowded Room” changed his views on mental health.
/ Source: TODAY

Tom Holland’s latest role had him digging deeper than ever before.

The 26-year-old actor shared in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, published May 9, that he is one year and four months sober. While he didn’t specify from what substance or the reasoning behind his sobriety, he reflected on how his views on mental health have changed since portraying a troubled young man in “The Crowded Room.”

Holland has played the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, aka Peter Parker, and other dependable characters people “feel safe around,” he said. But his role as Danny Sullivan changed his perspective.

“I’m no stranger to the physical aspects of the job doing the whole action-movie thing,” he told the magazine. “But the mental aspect, it really beat me up and it took a long time for me to recover afterwards, to sort of get back to reality.”

“The Crowded Room” is inspired by a true story and based on the 1981 novel “The Minds of Billy Milligan, The Crowded Room.” It centers around Holland’s character Danny, a shy, antisocial teen from upstate New York, who is arrested following a shooting at the Rockefeller Center in 1979. The real Billy Milligan was accused of kidnapping, raping and robbing three women near Ohio State University, per The Associated Press.

Tom Holland filming "The Crowded Room" in Manhattan on July 5, 2022 in New York City.
Tom Holland filming "The Crowded Room" in Manhattan on July 5, 2022 in New York City.Robert Kamau / GC Images

Holland took the role seriously and nine months into filming found himself struggling to detach from the role of Danny.

“I was seeing myself in him, but in my personal life,” the actor said. “I remember having a bit of a meltdown at home and thinking, like, ‘I’m going to shave my head. I need to shave my head because I need to get rid of this character.’ And, obviously, we were mid-shooting, so I decided not to … It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.”

After speaking to a professional, he said his views on mental health changed and taught him about recognizing his own triggers.

“Learning about mental health and the power of it, and speaking to psychiatrists about Danny and Billy’s struggles, has been something that has been so informative to my own life,” he said, noting the importance of “recognizing triggers” and “things that stress me out” like social media. 

He also credits his co-star, who portrayed Danny’s friend and roommate Ariana, to helping and supporting him at the time. Holland said that when he was really struggling to understand his character's reason of action, Sasha Lane “would take me aside and was really open and willing to share some of her experiences that were so helpful in the moment.”

Though the show — out June 9 on Apple TV+ — is told from a fictional point of view, Holland said after his experience he hopes viewers “have more respect and more sympathy for people who are going through mental health issues.”

Adding, “I hope that people will feel educated about the powers of mental health, the struggles, (and) our incredible abilities to survive.”