BAFTA winner Joanna Scanlan admits past struggle with alcoholism

BAFTA winner Joanna Scanlan admits past struggle with alcoholism

BAFTA Award-winning actress Joanna Scanlan said she sometimes called herself an alcoholic.

The 60-year-old actress was named the top acting award winner at the BAFTA awards ceremony in March, taking home the best actress award for her performance in the drama After Love.

However, the Wirral-born actress, known for her role as public servant Terri Coverley on the BBC sitcom The Thick Of It, described alcoholism playing a “big role” in her youth.

British Academy Film Awards 2022 – Press Room – London

Joanna Scanlan after winning Best Actress for After Love (Ian West/PA)

Speaking about the impact of being sent to a six-year-old girls’ boarding school, she told the Telegraph: “It was particularly tough, of course, in those days.

“The damage is absolutely massive and needs a lot of work to undo.”

The actress said she never responded to her mother’s letters and instead “totally closed”.

Scanlan was expelled at age 13 for her “extremely” bad behavior and moved to boarding schools.

A year later, she recalls “feeling suicidal”, locking herself in the school bathroom, before popping pills “with this attempt to kind of just kill me”.

She said: “I don’t know about you, but when I hit my teens, that darkness entered my world in a way that was really unfathomable.

“It was so normal to have to manage really huge and dark emotions.”

She admitted that alcohol had been a major feature of her childhood, remembering having a Clinique toner bottle filled with gin.

She said: “Alcoholism was a big part of our family life.

“I was desperate to be able to make choices about my own life and drinking was a big part of that, as was smoking.”

Scanlan admitted that she spent most of her time drinking in her room when she went to Cambridge University to study law, which she describes as a “consequence of the trauma of meeting men”.

Despite studying and graduating from university, she described drinking at home “desperately lying in bed, unable to do anything”.

At 29, she said she suffered a “massive meltdown”.

gentleman jack

Joanna Scanlan joins the cast of Gentleman Jack (BBC/PA)

“I woke up with what I thought was a hangover, or the flu, went to see my parents, went straight to bed, started crying and that was day after day.

“Full of tears. That feeling of headache, sore throat, sore muscles.

“My mom took me to the doctor and they said I had chronic fatigue syndrome,” she said.

Scanlan stopped drinking and smoking 30 years ago, but admitted: “I considered myself an alcoholic at times. Yup.

“In certain situations I have said that I am an alcoholic without having been through much of what many of my friends have gone through and that is simply because I was 29 instead of 39.

“If I had continued, it would have gotten worse and worse.”

House of Fraser BAFTA TV Awards 2016 – Arrivals – London

Joanna Scanlan, Elaine Cassidy, Alexandra Roach and Will Mellor (Ian West/PA)

Scanlan praised her doctor at the time, who warned her if she didn’t act again “you’ll be sick for the rest of your life”.

“It was like an arrow through my heart,” she said.

Scanlan, who married her accountant husband Neil in 2009, added: “I honestly don’t think the purpose of our existence is to be happy.

“But I think it’s about being authentic and being there as part of a community and that means engaging with the darkest elements of yourself.”

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