“How are you?” has become a loaded question during the worst global pandemic in a century. Sometimes I say “Fine?”—emphasis on the question mark—when I really mean “Hanging by a thread” or, to borrow the title of author and reluctant grief expert Nora McInerny’s podcast, “Terrible, thanks for asking.” It’s loaded in casual, masked conversation, in fumbling, awkward emails, and also when Zooming with Kristen Bell at 6:15 p.m. Los Angeles time on a Tuesday night in late March.
How is Bell, actor, producer, and the somewhat rare not-annoying mom influencer/purveyor of CBD skin-care? “I am currently fulfilled,” she replies with a nod from the set of her new Netflix miniseries, the dark comedy-thriller The Woman in the House. Bell is eating a sandwich in her trailer (6:15 p.m. is lunch when you film until the wee hours) and wearing a caramel-colored bang hairpiece. “Going back to work was a little nerve-wracking,” Bell tells me, but it was necessary for her sense of balance—a word she hates but that seems unavoidable when talking about mothers and their careers. Like millions of parents across the country, “I was in my house for one year with a six- and a seven-year-old”—her daughters Delta and Lincoln with husband Dax Shepard (as everyone who tracks their life like a reality show well knows).
But Bell isn’t one to leave it at that, allowing any reader of this story to think she’s a perfectly cute super celebrity, the actor behind Veronica Mars, Sarah Marshall, Gossip Girl, and the unmistakably chipper Anna from Frozen. Bell acknowledges she had the privilege of sheltering in a luxurious space. “I say to [my kids] all the time, ‘I’m not saying you can’t complain. You’re allowed to have any feeling you want, and you’re allowed to sit in it for as long as you need. But when you’re done, I just need you to remember,’” she says, “‘we have the luckiest life you have ever heard of. You have a swimming pool in your backyard.’” But she is also one of the millions of people for whom the pandemic, in all of its uncertainty and tragedy, exacerbated existing mental health issues.
“I know that I present someone who is very bubbly and happy all the time, and a lot of the time I am, because I have really good tools,” she tells me. “But there are definitely days when the alarm goes off and I go, ‘No, I’m staying right here. Nothing’s worth it…. I’m just going to stay in this cocoon because I need to; because I feel very, very, very vulnerable.’”
Bell’s anxiety and depression came in waves during the long, dark valley of COVID-19. “I have trouble distinguishing between my emotions and someone else’s emotions, and that’s not a compliment to myself. That’s a very dangerous thing to toy with,” she explains. Consuming the endlessly heavy news took her to a “mental zone that wasn’t healthy for my family to be around.” Shepard confronted Bell in a way that certainly wouldn’t be right for everyone but that she reflects on as a turning point. “‘Hey, real quick, are you helping anyone right now by sitting and crying in your bed, or are you just being self-indulgent?’” Bell remembers him saying. “‘Either get up and donate money or donate your time or do something to help, or take that story in, give it some love, and come out here and be a good mom and a good wife and a good friend and live your life in honor of the suffering that happens in the world.’” Bell had an understandable response: “‘How dare you?’ But also, ‘You’re right.’” So she gave blood to the UCLA Blood & Platelet Center and made a donation to No Kid Hungry. [More at Source]
Feature: Kristen Bell for Self Magazine
05 / 03 / 2021