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Claire Foy: The Crown star opens up about suffering ‘breakdown’ in her twenties

Actor, who stars in new BBC series ‘A Very British Scandal’, says she was filled with doubts over her career as it began to take off

Roisin O'Connor
Tuesday 21 December 2021 13:25 GMT
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Claire Foy has opened up about the mental breakdown she suffered while she was in her twenties.

The Crown star, 37, appeared on the podcast Reign with Josh Smith, where she discussed her career to date.

Recalling the mental health issues she faced as her career began to take off, aged 23, she said it was only when she opened up to friends and sought professional help that things began to improve for her.

“I basically was one of those people who was very much... I think it’s a lot to do with my upbringing, like ‘I don’t need help. I can sort it out myself. It’s not that big of a problem,’” she said.

“In my mid-twenties, I sort of had a breakdown, and I remember my sister saying, ‘I can’t help you. You need to see someone professional’. That was the first time that I sort of went, ‘The problem is bigger than me being able to figure it out’.”

She continued: “But for me, definitely in my early thirties to now, the thing has been opening up to people like my friends.

“I know it sounds silly but I had never really understood that love and protection was by being honest and being awful, like showing your worst side of yourself and then having someone go, ‘Oh yeah, me too.’”

In the same interview, Foy admitted that she was “uncomfortable” with the success of Netflix’s hit series The Crown, in which she played a young version of Queen Elizabeth II.

“I think it makes me feel uncomfortable, is what I've learned,” she said. “Not that going to the parties and lovely people being really nice to you is amazing and is wonderful for people to enjoy things that you've done, but I felt uncomfortable with it because I basically, fundamentally didn't think I deserved it.

“So that's no fun, is it? That's not nice because basically you just feel like it's even more hollow, I suppose.”

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“Success in the way that I've had it, which is because people say that something you have done has been worthwhile, is very difficult unless you think it's been worthwhile, then it's not really a success.

“It's just a very confusing sequence of award shows where you can't really feel like you're there and also it's transient, especially in my industry – you know, it's over before it's begun.”

(BBC / Blueprint)

Foy is currently starring in A Very British Scandal, about the Duchess of Argyll's high-profile divorce in the Sixties. In the new BBC series, airing on Boxing Day, Foy plays the Duchess of Argyll, an aristocrat whose divorce transfixed the nation in 1963.

During the divorce, the Duke of Argyll (played by Paul Bettany) alleged she had slept with 88 men and provided photographs of the Duchess giving an unknown man oral sex.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about performing sex scenes on camera, Foy recently said: “It’s a really hard line because you do feel exploited when you’re a woman and you’re having to perform fake sex on screen.

“You can’t help but feel exploited.”

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, the Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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