Chris Evans is probably best known for his role as Marvel’s Captain America throughout the nearly decade he portrayed the comic book character come to life. But even America’s bravest soldier can suffer from mental health struggles.
In recent years, Evans has been extremely open about his battle with anxiety, especially when it comes to acting. In 2020, he talked on the Awards Chatter podcast where he identified when his anxiety really started to take hold in 2007, anticipating the premiere of his first superhero film Fantastic Four, being rejected from other roles, as well as a break up that affected his personal life more directly.
“It manifested in anxiety and a little stress,” he remembered at the time. “I’ve gotten a lot better at it now. But at the time, it’s hard to separate. It’s hard to know if the path you are taking is the wrong one because the way I’m feeling isn’t healthy.”
His anxiety began ruling his life come 2010 while he was filming Puncture, where he admitted that was his first time experiencing “mini panic attacks”.
“It was the first time I started having mini panic attacks on set,” he continued. “I really started to think, ‘I’m not sure if this [acting] is the right thing for me, I’m not sure if I’m feeling as healthy as I should be feeling.”
It was during this time where many Marvel movie fans, although they didn’t know it at the time, almost lost out on one of their favorite superheroes that ruled the theater for the last decade.
In what Evans called a “fork in the road” moment, Marvel invited him to a screen test for the role of Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, in which he initially turned down due to his crippling anxiety at the time.
Contemplating even continuing to act, he decided to talk with therapists, his family, and even had a conversation with his future Avenger partner, Robert Downey Jr., before Marvel came back and told him they’d offer him the role upfront.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock throughout the 2010s, you know what his answer was this time around (he said yes).
What was initially a decision “based on fear”, he was grateful that Marvel tried their hand again on him to play the role, calling it “the best decision I’ve ever made.”
“I really owe that to [Marvel CEO] Kevin Feige for being persistent and helping me avoid making a giant mistake,” he added.
On how he overcame his anxiety, he talked with MTV News last June and said that the biggest obstacle is recognizing “your thoughts are not you”.
“Depending upon how you’re looking at the world, if you make your world small, your pain can feel loud and big,” he explained. “But if you recognize that you are timeless, and that your thoughts are not you, and that you’re bigger than all of it, the pain melts away.”
Even before that interview, he spoke on the YouTube channel Motivation Madness where he advised, “Maybe the thing you’re most scared of is exactly the thing you should do.”
He even shared what he’d tell his 12-year-old self had he the opportunity.
“It might seem oversimplified, but it’s profound, I’d say, ‘Shhhh’,” he replied. “It’s been a big thing for me, ‘Shhhh’. It’s so funny how noisy my brain is. Everyone’s brain is noisy, it makes thoughts. The problem is, in most of our lives, the root of suffering is following that brain noise and listening to that brain noise and actually identifying with it as if it’s who you are. That’s just the noise your brain makes, and more often than not, it probably doesn’t have much to say. [Saying ‘Shhhh’] it’s gonna help you.”
Not only by speaking out about his own struggles with anxiety and mental health, but being the face of a superhero that so many can look up to, Evans has used his fame to inspire courage and bravery to so many who may be suffering the same struggles he once was.