For Tom Holland (London, 27 years old), the series The Crowded Room has changed his life. "Now I'm a much happier person, I'm in a much better place," he said in an interview with EL PAÍS by video call last week, just the day before his twenty-seventh birthday. The actor, known worldwide for embodying Peter Parker, Spider-Man, in the cinema since 2017, now stars in his first series, the psychological thriller The Crowded Room, which Apple TV + premieres on Friday 9.
In it he plays Danny Sullivan, a shy and antisocial young man who ends up involved in a shooting in the vicinity of Rockefeller Center in New York in 1979. During the interrogation to which he is subjected by an investigator (played by Amanda Seyfried), Danny reviews his life, relationships with his friends and family and how all this led him to the present point. The story is gradually revealed as a puzzle in which its chips make sense and are placed in place with the passage of the chapters. Knowing more than these small details can mean spoiling the viewer's viewing and the twists it keeps.
Tom Holland reveals he's been sober for a year and four months for mental health
The filming of the series lasted for 10 months, and the entire process was a great effort for the actor, as he explains now. "We dealt with sensitive material, a rollercoaster of emotions that ended up taking its toll on me personally," he recalls. "The whole process of making the series helped me dig deeper into myself. I have come to understand better what I am capable of, what I can bear, what shoots me and traps me in a spiral. Now I'm able to put myself in a mental place where I'm really happy," he continues.
The screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, winner of the Oscar in 2002 for the screenplay of A Wonderful Mind, is the creator of this story with which, in his own words, he intends to "generate empathy towards those who suffer trauma related to mental illness". Goldsman knows this field well, both personally (both his parents are child psychologists) and professionally (A Wonderful Mind was based on the life of mathematician John Forbes Nash, who suffered from schizophrenia). "His knowledge and experience on the subject is endless," Holland says of Goldsman. "He was for me a mentor, a confidant, a friend, someone to lean on whenever I needed it and a great source of information on these matters." The actor says the series has changed the way he looks at trauma and mental health. "I hope it serves as a learning experience for millions of people around the world because we need to understand what life can be like for those poor people."
Actor Tom Holland, at one point in the series 'The Crowded Room'.
The main character of The Crowded Room is based on a real man, Billy Milligan – again, better not to know more details because a simple search on the internet can destroy the viewing experience – but in the series they decided to opt for the path of fiction instead of recreating their story. "One of the reasons we did it is because we wanted people to empathize with Danny and understand his actions and the reasons why he does them," the actor explains.
For his first series (he participated in 2015 in the British Wolf Hallbut this is his first starring role on television), Holland wanted to live the full experience. He accepted the job before the scripts were written and decided not only to participate as an actor, but also as an executive producer to follow all phases of the process, from the beginning to the end. "It's been very interesting for me to understand how television works, to navigate a 10-hour story instead of two-and-a-half hours. It's been a huge learning curve and I think the audience will appreciate it because it's a real psychological thriller, it makes you think, it keeps you alert and engaged."
I've been talking to Bayonne and there may be something to do together. Maybe you'll see me in a movie with him in the next few years.
"Possibly, it would have been easier for me to be just the protagonist, but I love learning new things. I love this industry and working in it, the creative process and the collaboration between departments, and I wanted to be a part of this in a more practical way." He was even present in the conversations prior to the writing of the script. "Akiva [Goldsman] only had one outline with each chapter. We talked about the episodes, the turning points, and then, once we had more solidly outlined the 10 episodes, he and his writing team put it on paper. They did a great job. I hate reading scripts, it's the part of my job that I don't really like at all. But reading these scripts was fantastic," the actor recalls.
Amanda Seyfried and Tom Holland, in the sixth episode of the series.
The level of involvement that Tom Holland assumed in this series is surprising. And his answer is also surprising when asked the funniest thing about the whole process: "To be totally honest, I would say the editing process. I worked with Akiva and the editor every week, we met at least twice a week and we went over the episodes and they listened to my opinions. It was a great experience to see how those experts did what they do best. Some episodes changed order completely. I loved being allowed to be part of that puzzle-building process."
Now, Holland is taking things more slowly. Personally, he has long been in a relationship with another Hollywood star, Zendaya, his co-star in Spider-Man. Months ago he decided to relate more occasionally to social networks. He explained that he has been sober for a year and four months and is involved in associations related to the mental health of young people. Professionally, the writers' strike paralyzed the project to launch what would be his fourth Spider-Man film. A little break for someone who has been non-stop since he debuted in the cinema with J. A. Bayona withThe Impossible in 2012. Would you like to re-engage with Spain? "There may be something small cooking, yes. With the writers' strike, everything has stopped, we are not developing anything in solidarity with our striking friends. But I've been talking to Bayonne and there may be something to do together. He changed my life, I owe him a lot of things and I love him, he is one of my dearest friends. So maybe you'll see me in a movie with him in the next few years."
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