In a new interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Pete Davidson opened up to anchor Tony Dokoupil about his father’s tragic death on 9/11 and his past struggles with suicidal thoughts and depression. His issues are referenced in The King of Staten Island, a new semi-autobiographical film about a 20-something attempting to find his way in life. Davidson, 26, serves as the co-writer and star of the film, which was directed by Judd Apatow.
Davidson’s firefighter father died while responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. The Saturday Night Live, who was only 7 at the time, spoke to Dokoupil about his realization that something was wrong.
"I don't remember the moment I found out, but I remember when I started to get curious, because a lot of his friends would be coming over. And he wasn't over," Davidson said. "I started to put two and two together that maybe something was wrong."
Davidson still considers his father’s death to be one of the defining moments of his life.
"When people have something like that happen to them, often it's like a dividing line in their life; there's everything before, and there's everything after,” noted Dokoupil. “Did you feel like even though you were only a kid, you were already a changed person?"
"Oh, yeah, absolutely,” Davidson responded. “One of my best friends is forever gone."
A few years later, Davidson turned to comedy. By the time he was a teen, he was doing standup at open mic nights in Manhattan. By age 20, he was cast on Saturday Night Live, a show he didn’t even realize was still on the air when he was asked to audition. The show changed his life “drastically.”
“It really, really changed my life,” he told Dokoupil.
But because he was significantly younger than the rest of cast, Davidson said it felt a bit like “charity.”
"I was, like, 10, 12 years younger than everybody else. So, it felt like it was a joke,” he joked. “It felt, like, very Make-a-Wish-y!'"
Though Davidson quickly became a fixture on the NBC show, personal issues began to plague him off-stage. Describing himself as “very self-hating,” he shared that he became suicidal by 2017. When asked by Dokoupil how close he got to harming himself, Davidson said he was “as close as you can get.”
"I mean, just, like testing the waters,” said Davidson. “And until I met the right treatments and met the right doctors and did all the work that you need to do to, like, not feel that way, it got pretty dark and scary."
During one scene in the film, Davidson closes his eyes while he’s driving on a busy road. It’s an experience he said came from his real life.
"Yeah, that's true. I used to do that,” he told Dokoupil. “That's horrible to say. But yeah, I used to close my eyes on a closed road, usually at night. And I would drive without a seatbelt."
Despite his past difficulties, channeling his person experiences into the film has been a “cleansing” opportunity for Davidson, he added.
"I feel like I got to speak about it in the biggest way possible, and I could get my story out there. So I feel like, now I could, like, let it go," he said.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.
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