Many dynamic actors, musicians and other performers report being shy as a child, or still as an adult.
Some people call themselves shy – or are labeled that by journalists and others – even though they may really be introverted or highly sensitive.
For more about these traits and how they differ from each other, see further down the page.
Hayley Atwell comments:
“I was really shy as a kid, but my mum always used to take me to the theatre and I loved it – everyone sitting in a dark room and having the same experience, going on the same journey, and things that weren’t normally said in every day life were being said on stage.
“I didn’t know how to get into it. I didn’t know if I had any talent for it. I didn’t even know if I wanted to do anything in front of people, but I just loved that world.
“My parents instilled in me the idea that we can do and be whoever we want to be if we have the right level of awareness.”
From The Interview: Hayley Atwell, hungertv.com.
Photo above: Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter in “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
Below: in “Marvel’s Agent Carter.”
Mary McNamara, in her Los Angeles Times review about Atwell’s starring role in the TV series “Marvel’s Agent Carter” (starting 1.6.15), commented that “creators Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely managed to combine Rosalind Russell, Lady Mary Crawley, La Femme Nikita and all the gals of “The Bletchley Circle” to produce Atwell’s Peggy Carter…she is feisty, fit, formidable and, increasingly, furious.”
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Vanessa Hudgens is another talented and dynamic actor who has talked about being shy:
“When I was young, I would not talk to anybody if I didn’t know them.
“I’d hide behind my mom if she tried to introduce me to anyone.”
Part of the reason she chose to act in “Sucker Punch” – and wear revealing costumes for the role – was because she found the movie’s underlying message empowering.
She said, “You want to be the best that you can be and be the most ferocious…the costumes gave us a sense of confidence and power.”
Like many actors, she also knows it takes courage for many roles, such as her work in “Gimme Shelter.”
“I don’t like being stagnant. I want to continue to grow and just be better at what I do, and the only way to do that is to keep stepping outside of your comfort zone.”
Clea DuVall has referred to herself as “an only child and I’m just a real loner kind of person, and yeah, kinda dark. But I’m happy. Not sad. I’m just shy and nervous.” [imdb.com]
On the tv series “Heroes” she played an assertive FBI agent, and has garnered acclaim for her dynamic acting in the series “Carnivale” and many films including “21 Grams,” “The Laramie Project” and “Girl, Interrupted” – but Clea DuVall is candid about being introverted and sensitive.
In an interview [in 2000] about doing publicity for her films “But I’m A Cheerleader” and “Committed,” Clea DuVall admitted,
“That was my first photo shoot and I was so nervous. I was just nervous and shy and Matthew Lillard and Mary McCormick are just so outgoing and Brad Rowe and everybody else was getting along so well and I was just shy.
“I was just watching. I feel like I’ve gotten better and I’m not as in my shell as I used to be. I’ve gotten better at not making people feel uncomfortable with my shyness.” [28th Street, January 2000, posted on CleaDuVall.net]
And she has also said, “I was a loner in high school. I keep to myself, but I love life.” [tv.gen interview, unknown date]
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Maybe acting – playing other people – is a way to use shyness or introversion, or deal with it, for many artists.
Mischa Barton said she was always called “the shy one” and “got so much more confident as I realized acting was what I really wanted to do.”
Kim Basinger has said, “As a child, I was very shy. Painfully, excruciatingly shy. I hid a lot in my room. I was so terrified to read out loud in school that I had to have my mother ask my reading teacher not to call on me in class.”
Nicole Kidman has said, “I am very shy – really shy – I even had a stutter as a kid, which I slowly got over, but I still regress into that shyness. So I don’t like walking into a crowded restaurant by myself; I don’t like going to a party by myself.”
Taye Diggs says he has been acting for as long as he has been shy, and has an interesting perspective on using acting:
“I wouldn’t say my insecurities and shyness have lessened just because of expressing myself through acting, but what has a role in my becoming more confident is the kind of false sense of adoration you get from the business… because I was so insecure, it gives me a reason to be a little more confident.”
[From my interview with him years ago.]
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Introversion, high sensitivity
Shyness is a form of social anxiety and can be related to low confidence, but it may be confused with introversion or high sensitivity – common personality traits of many creative and talented people.
While acting may be a way to gain confidence, some people find it helpful to get counseling, or explore if they have social phobia or some other kind of anxiety that may keep them from being authentic and freely expressive on stage or on camera.
See article: Performers With Stage Fright and Anxiety.
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Mark Ruffalo :
“What is happiness other than a negotiation between reality and your dreams? It’s understanding that you give up something for something else. I feel like that’s been how I’ve been trying to be happy, although in my DNA there’s more of a depressed person. That’s when I feel like I’ve been the happiest, when I can make that negotiation happen and keep things balanced.
“Whether it’s between work and family, between activism and family, between activism and work, and whatever little time as an introvert I can carve out for myself to recharge my batteries.”
From post: Mark Ruffalo on the Secret to Happiness in Hollywood By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire June 16, 2015.
In another interview, Ruffalo comments:
“Oddly enough, though I don’t identify as a Christian, I was raised with the teachings of Christ. Take away all of the dogma and all of the noise that we hear surrounding religion, and those teachings, by themselves—being loving, kind, tolerant, and considerate—every prophet lectured about.
“I was an outsider, an introvert, and could relate to people who were struggling and I just had a sensitivity to people who were not being treated well.”
Mark Ruffalo Cover Story, May 9, 2014 by Dann Dulin, Art & Understanding Magazine.
Photo from his Facebook page – caption: “This shirt I’m wearing was created in partnership with American muralist Zio Ziegler to capture the spirit of 100%. These limited edition tees are printed on 100% certified organic supima cotton tees and made in the US. Get yours for a $50 donation.”
See more quotes by and about Amy Adams, Rebel Wilson, Gwen Stefani, Nicole Kidman, Kim Basinger, Clea DuVall, Taye Diggs, Audrey Hepburn, Jessica Chastain, Emma Watson, Claire Danes, Julie Christie, Chris Cooper, Kate Mara – and other artists such as J.K. Rowling, Tom Ford, Tory Burch in the articles:
Shyness may be a form of anxiety – here are a couple of posts on my Anxiety Relief Solutions site:
The Linden Method – Using Behavioral Science for Anxiety – Jemma Kidd had a successful career as a fashion model before “discovering a new calling as a make-up artist… she opened her own “Make-up School” in London, and a cosmetics line of the same name was launched…in the UK, America, Australia, Hong Kong, and Canada.”
Jemma comments about herself and her sister, supermodel Jodie Kidd: “We suffered from crippling anxiety and panic attacks and probably half my friends do too. Jodie and I both used The Linden Method. The program was the answer we had been looking for.”