Alyssa Milano says having a mental illness and anxiety as an actress is 'tricky'

Maggie Parker

Critics are afraid that Netflix’s new series Insatiable will be far from empowering. But for cast member Alyssa Milano, that’s exactly what it was.

The actress visited Build with co-stars Debby Ryan and Dallas Roberts, as well as creator Lauren Gussis, on Tuesday and revealed that it was during filming that she felt inspired to send the tweet that started a movement.

“We were shooting during the [Harvey] Weinstein fever, and that really instigated a lot of conversation between all of our wonderful female cast members and crew members,” Milano recalls to Yahoo during her Build appearance. “And there was no one that I spoke to that hadn’t either been harassed or abused or assaulted and whatever level in between, and it made me really sad.”

After having those conversations at work, she came home to her two kids and it hit her. “I looked down at my daughter on a Sunday night and I just lost it. She was sleeping in my bed. I get weepy just thinking about it. … I just prayed to God, ‘Please let this never be my daughter’s reality.’ This is hurtful, this is horrible,” she says.

The same night, she checked her direct messages and saw the screenshot of the anonymous tweet that read, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” which originally came from Tarana Burke.

Alyssa Milano shares how she felt empowered through her character, Coralee, in Netflix’s new show <em>Insatiable</em>. (Photo: Getty)
Alyssa Milano shares how she felt empowered through her character, Coralee, in Netflix’s new show Insatiable. (Photo: Getty)

Milano reveals to Yahoo that there have been “two really big trauma moments” in her life, neither of which she’s detailed openly yet. “But if I were to really sit down and think about it, there are so many gray ones,” she says, referring to the global confusion as to what constitutes sexual harassment.

Within two days, the #MeToo movement was born. “I think, you know, being surrounded by these women and having that conversation and really feeling like I was in a safe space to tell my own story … that inspired that moment of truth.”

This series that is getting so much flak for fat-shaming empowered her to speak openly not only about sexual assault but also about her anxiety and depression. “Having mental illness and anxiety disorder and being an actress is very tricky because you’re constantly tapping into trauma to reach emotions. You just have to kind of learn how to deal with it,” she admits.

Her character in the series, Coralee Armstrong, comes off as a funny Southern stereotype, but according to Milano, she goes through a major change over the season’s 12 episodes. Milano was able to relate to this in some ways. “She goes through this incredible transformation and she finds her own truth. And in that process, I was coming to the conclusion that I wasn’t being my whole truth because I felt I had to hide my anxiety disorder because of the stigma attached to mental illness,” she says. That’s when she wrote an essay for Time about coming to terms with her anxiety disorder. “I just felt like it was the right time to be honest. And my God, I felt so much better afterwards.”

So, clearly, Milano had an amazing experience making this comedy. Which is why the backlash has taken her by surprise. “I think the reason I didn’t expect it was because this was the most magical shooting experience that you could ever imagine,” she shares. “From Lauren Gussis, our creator, to every crew member, to the chemistry between the cast. There was something that was so special. We knew it was special while it was happening.” That made it even harder to see the public’s negative reaction to the trailer. “I think because of that, the heartache of the backlash was even stronger because we felt like, ‘Oh wait a minute. What we were doing felt so right!’ And people were taking it in a whole other direction. So, it was hurtful.” Especially for this humanitarian and activist: “There was never a moment where I wanted to be the cause of anyone’s pain.”

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