Now 28, the British actress tells the Observer that she struggled with loneliness while filming the A&E series Bates Motel in Canada.
"I’m so grateful for that job, but I had a really tough time on it,” says Cooke, who played Emma Decody on the Hitchcock-inspired drama, which ran from 2013 to 2017. “The way the schedule worked, we all had different storylines, so a lot of my time was spent in this apartment in Vancouver, working once every two weeks.”
By 2016, that sense of isolation had grown into full-fledged depression, she tells the U.K. publication.
“It was a big old lovely cocktail: being homesick and not knowing it, having not stopped since I was 18, being on my own for large swathes of time," she says of her "full mental breakdown." "It was bad, bad. Awful, actually.”
But the Sound of Metal star didn't step back from acting to focus on her mental well-being.
“Oh, no, I was working all the way through,” says Cooke, who at the time was shooting both Ready Player One and Thoroughbreds. “I was very good at hiding it. If anything, I was like, let me escape myself.”
It wasn't until 2019 that she noticed a more significant reprieve from "the incessant, persistent, anxious thoughts" that plagued her. Now starring as Alicent Hightower on HBO's Game of Thrones prequel, Cooke says she's found herself in a "sweet spot" these days — something she credits to her new TV gig, a move back to London after a breakup with Girls actor Christopher Abbott and the chance to have something of a break amid the pandemic. And while she's still months shy of turning 29, she's at eager to embrace what's ahead.
"You wouldn’t pay to go back to 22,” she says. “Well, I wouldn’t.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255, or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
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