The first star of Blue’s Clues, Steve Burns, made his return to that world in 2021, on the 25th anniversary of the kid’s show. He left the Nickelodeon series in 2002, with the show telling viewers that he was going to college—though that wasn’t the case.
Now the 49-year-old has opened up about his decision to leave in ’02 after six years, due to the state of his mental health.
“I didn’t know it yet, but I was the happiest depressed person in North America,” Burns told Variety in a new interview. “I was struggling with severe clinical depression the whole time I was on that show. It was my job to be utterly and completely full of joy and wonder at all times, and that became impossible.”
He continued, “I was always able to dig and find something that felt authentic to me that was good enough to be on the show, but after years and years of going to the well without replenishing it, there was a cost. My strategy had been: ‘Hey, you got a great thing going, so just fight it!’ Turns out, you don’t fight depression; you collect it.”
There was massive fallout following Steve’s departure, with rumors circulating that Burns1 had died in real life, from a car accident or an overdose. “I was under the working assumption that most of y’all thought I was dead,” Burns said. “That rumor was so persistent and so indelible that I assumed it was a cultural preference. I eventually just took the hint. I kept my head down and left public life.”
His brother, Joe (Donovan Patton) replaced Burns as the host until Blue’s Clues’ final episode in 2006. Since that time, Burns has endured a “long period of healing.” Adults who grew up with the show were moved when he returned for the emotional anniversary video, telling his fans, “I never forgot you, ever, and I’m super glad we’re still friends.”
“Steve became my role model,” Burns said at the end of his interview. “Because he was not afraid to ask for help.”
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