Amanda Seyfried, star of films including the Mamma Mia! series and Ted 2, just turned 35 on December 3. Here the Pennsylvania-born actress reveals her struggles with anxiety and how acting – and now motherhood – have helped her heal.
She dreamed of becoming an actress from a young age
“I fell in love with the theatre when I was growing up in Allentown [in Pennsylvania] because there was a bus that took us straight into Manhattan. My mum and I would go see plays like Cats and Les Misérables, which is what inspired me as far as acting is concerned.
“I also suffered from anxiety and I knew that acting was this strange and wonderful way for me to overcome a lot of those feelings. Although that wasn’t the reason I turned to acting, it helped me a lot and once I started getting seriously into it I knew that it was my calling in life.
“I love to watch movies. Love stories always inspire me. My role models were Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio (in Romeo + Juliet). When they fell in love, that’s when I fell in love with movies and when I realised I wanted to be Juliet. I think every young girl dreams of being Juliet. Thank God for that movie or honestly, I wouldn’t be here.”
She entered a new chapter in life when she got married to director Thomas Sadoski and had two children
“You realise that it’s not just about yourself any more. You grow and develop. I no longer need the affirmation of others that I needed earlier for whatever reason. I’m not really concerned about what other people might think of me any more and that’s because my priorities in life are now completely clear … and I think first and foremost of my life with my husband and our daughter. Everything is completely different. I need to be that woman that I struggle to be and I have to remember it’s now or never. I have to be there and be present. I am making sure that I get what I need for my health and sanity.”
Motherhood has helped her struggle with anxiety
“Becoming a mother was the thing that taught me most to live in the present. Now I have less time to worry about ridiculous things, or to feel pressured or afraid of things I can’t control.
“I have also had to become a more attentive listener than I was. If you want to be a good parent you need to read the signals – verbal and otherwise – from your child. I’ve also found it inspirational to see the world through the eyes of a child.”
She and her husband are into charitable work
“Thomas and I have also become involved in some important causes: we are both on the board of two NGOs – Inara and War Child USA – that are involved in the Middle East, providing help for war refugees and orphans. The reality of life that so many children over there experience is so devastating that we can’t imagine it in America. So we try to raise funds and get more people to help.
“I really feel that if we have something that we can give to somebody else, it is our job to do that. To give our assistance, to give compassion, even if it’s just advocating for the rights of somebody else. That’s our job. It’s the most wonderful thing anyone can do. We can’t help how we’re born and what we’re born into. We should all get the same chances, we should all have the same hope and we should all feel the same sense of safety.”
She is an unconditional animal-lover
“I believe that animals have a greater spiritual connection with nature than we have. Animals are much simpler – they live instinctively and they’re focused on the moment. There’s something beautiful in that way of being.
“I think human beings can learn a lot by observing how dogs, in particular, act with each other and how they interact with us. Finn, who is an Australian Shepherd, has really helped me identify what’s important and keep my feet on the ground. He has contributed to my emotional health just as living in nature has helped me.
“Whenever I finish work on a movie, I immediately take refuge on my farm [in upstate New York]. I love spending my days working in the vegetable garden taking care of the sheep, the hens and the horses. I even have a cow and a donkey, Gus, who is the best Christmas present I’ve ever received.”
She loves crocheting
“I like to crochet every day! Often in the evening when I’m watching the news, I like making scarves. I can also embroider and knit. Crochet is an existential form of mindfulness – it gives me structure. You have to finish one thing before starting another. Over the years, I’ve come to understand that I’m not the type of person who should have too many projects going on at once.”