Making a BBC documentary, Psychosis and Me, about his experience with his mental health struggles made him confront his lowest lows, actor and author David Harewood (Homeland, The Night Manager, Supergirl) told a TV industry gathering on Thursday. “It scared the shit out of me,” he told the Edinburgh TV Festival.
Asked about the overall experience of coming out about his mental health problems and sharing his experience in a doc, he said: “It was the toughest thing I have ever done.”
Recalling specifically going through documents featuring his comments from his time in a psychiatric hospital, Harewood said, “You are reading your disturbed self.”
After “a very difficult period,” he went through “a period of healing” and is now feeling comfortable discussing the topic, he shared.
Questioned whether he was ever worried that his career would be affected by the doc, he shared: “Oh my God, I thought it was over.” He said he was content, though, when his mother said she had found it “fantastic.” The actor said he also received a great deal of other, positive feedback and to this day hears thank yous from people. “It is one of the most common forms of mental illness, but nobody talks about it,” he said.
Harewood also recalled once having to be restrained in Britain by seven policemen sitting on him for three hours as they gave him an emergency tranquilization. “I say this in (my) book: had I been in America, I would be dead,” he highlighted.
His struggles, Harewood said, are “one of the most common forms of mental illness, but nobody talks about it.”
Speaking on day two of the festival, Harewood discussed his career, differences he has seen between the creative opportunities in the U.K. and U.S. and how race, gender and nationality have presented both opportunities for, and challenges to, his artistic expression.
Looking back on early reviews of his theater work in the early 1990s, Harewood said the write-ups typically started with or highlighted that he was a Black actor.
“I could just tell I was being dismissed,” he said. “The press were very dismissive and very hostile to this new generation of classically trained Black actors. I hadn’t really considered the importance of my color, because it had never mattered, or I didn’t think it had mattered.”
Suddenly, he said, “it was forced down my throat every single day.”
He added, “Everything I did was politicized. My skin became politicized.”
Harewood was interviewed by Afua Hirsch, journalist and executive producer at Born in Me Productions. On Wednesday, Harewood interviewed BBC chairman Richard Sharp at the fest.
In October, it was announced that Harewood would make his directorial debut with boxing biopic For Whom the Bell Tolls. The feature — from Fulwell 73, the James Corden-backed production banner behind The Late Late Show and Cinderella — will chart the rivalry between two of Britain’s most famous boxers, Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn. Set in the 1990s, the film follows the fighters’ fierce opposition, culminating in their infamous battle for the WBO middleweight title.