Wendy Davis On Acting and ADHD

Living with ADHD can make a person feel not normal. Actress Wendy Davis talks about how it is living with ADHD and provides advice on coping mechanisms. Also, she speaks on her role in OWN’s Love Is___ and her company Acting Pros.

ATM: How does Love Is___ drive the narrative for relationships?

WD: This show illustrates how love comes in all shapes and sizes. We have this idea that love has to be a certain way. Women believe a man rides in on a white horse. If a man does not have a white horse, then we do not recognize him as the love of our lives. This show displays that love can come in different ways and be unexpected. Nuri meets the love of her life while minding her own business. She discovers he is the love of her life a year later. It can happen at any moment and you might not like the way you expect it to look.

ATM: People often go for the guys with the money.

WD: Absolutely.

ATM: Nuri does the opposite. She likes him even though he has no money. Nuri wants them to live out each other’s dreams.

WD: Right. She is looking for substance. Men who have already built their kingdom are not looking for a woman who is a builder. They are looking for a woman who is content with a man making their decisions. Some women might not be as fulfilled. Especially if you are the type of woman who is a builder or a creator.

ATM: Are you a builder and a creator?

WD: Yes, I am. I have struggled with the trophy syndrome all my life. I am not a trophy. It does not work well when people try to put me in this category.

ATM: Explain the downfall or alternative for a couple who does not make it through the cocoon stage.

WD: This is one love story in which this couple goes through the cocoon phase. There needs to be a point where you drink and eat the other person. It has to be a sense of this. This could be the cocoon stage. I would be careful of turning this into a step by step process. Every love story is different, and this is fine. You must embrace the individual’s love journey.

ATM: These days people already assume “the end” result when first getting into a relationship. Most people believe they are with their wife or husband as soon as they get with them. This preconceived notion messes up the presentation of the relationship. Some break up in less than two to six months and some people end up being right. They do not allow the love to flow or take its own course.

WD: Is this what they do now? I am more informed about the last generation.

ATM: Or they copy off how love is portrayed on TV and in films.

WD: This is so interesting. I do feel like love has changed with technology. We did not have all this internet stuff while I was courting. The internet stuff makes men and women more accessible. There were a few dozen men in the orbit that I needed to meet. The people you knew were friends of friends. This was how you met. There was a commonality. If they were within your sphere, then you had a commonality with each other. You also had people to vouch for them. Now, there is so much to choose from. How can you pick one? There is nothing perfect in relationships. There are always challenges. When you have a thousand other women waiting on your man’s phone every time you have a challenge, what is the incentive of him working through this challenge unless you’ve gotten to the stage of who you are to each other? I agree with you about people do not get to the stage of commitment. They only make it through the Honeymoon stage. When they do not like it they go through it again with someone else.

ATM: It can also have to do with the relationships people grow up around, which influences their own relationships. They could grow up around the model of relationships that did not like good.

WD: This is very sure. In our society, not a lot of people have witnessed a successful marriage or long-term relationship. This does quite a bit of damage in terms of how people behave in a relationship. Some people do not know how to stay.

ATM: Most people grow up with their mommies or daddies telling them to go to their room.  None of these children see how to bounce back from an argument. This causes them to leave in their own relationship once they reach adulthood.

What was it like for you being indecisive at a young age?

WD: Oh lord. This is why am glad there was no social media or YouTube. The people who came before this was very fortunate. These things were not documented and left on YouTube for the rest of your life. If you know what I mean.

ATM: Why do you think conversations about ADHD are not really discussed, but only speculated in Hollywood?

WD: I do not think it is just in Hollywood. People perceive it as a negative. Who wants to claim this about themselves? No one wants to own it because ADHD is perceived as a negative. I say it is not negative. ADHD makes you different and defective.

ATM: How does it feel to live with ADHD on and off medicine?

WD: I was diagnosed well into my 30s. I had learned how to manage it most of my life. This is what most people do. I’ll give you an example. Before I was diagnosed, I would have scenes that had a lot of moving parts. There were a lot of people, extras, shining objects, and things going on in the scene. It would be challenging to stay focus on a scene to the point I would forget my lines. It was so frustrating. I studied diligently to compensate for getting easily distracted. I became a person who studied hard and long. The challenging thing about the ADHD on these occasions was that it did not matter how many times I studied. If someone walked by and it caught my attention, then I would just forget the lines. It would be almost like a short. It would just be gone. When an entire crew is waiting for you to get the lines right and you cannot. These times were heartbreaking to me. It was devastating.

ATM: Were you embarrassed?

WD: Of course. People did not understand what was going on. Why doesn’t she have this? Even though I studied all night. This was before being diagnosed. After I was diagnosed, I looked around for a medication that worked for me. I do not believe in using medicine as a crunch. I would take the medicine for moments on set as described. It would help me stay focus. This was a game changer. It was nothing I could do if getting distracted. It was not often but it was occasionally. It would be 150 people on set and it felt like a sensory overload.

ATM: I feel sometimes ADHD medicine takes away from the creativity of the person with it.

WD: Totally. Albert Einstein had all the classic characteristics of ADHD. The one meticulous thing about the ADHD brain is the offshoots. You can think of one thing and think of something else the next moment. It sparks your interest in another direction. They say the ADHD mind is actually that brain that has helped us discover new things. This is how the ADHD contributes to society. We do not think in a straight line. It is the ability to ask “what about this?”

I dated a guy once. We were renovating a house. The plans were all done. I had asked, “what about this?” It was almost like magic just happened. The way his brain worked, he could not think beyond these plans. He was incapable of envisioning something different from the plan that had been set before him. It was a brilliant idea. We ended up changing our ideas around based on this plan. This was the ADHD mind. This was a smart individual. The difference in us is that he could not go past a straight narrow. His brain did not go this way. I am just remembering him looking at me as if I had done some type of magic trick.

ATM: But in your mind, it was just a simple idea.

WD: Right. Our minds work like this all the time and 24/7. The idea is to harness this creativity rather than to let it run your life. You have to harness the abundance of creativity and imagination. If you research who has ADHD, then you find that some of the most famous people in the world have it. Will Smith is clearly ADHD. There is this great poster out there with famous people with ADHD. It has John Kennedy, Steven Spielberg, Magic Johnson, Albert Einstein, and many others. Once you see ADHD is something that can be harnessed and not something to be ashamed of, then I think this is the first step in creating your life. When people get labeled with the negative stereotype it becomes their identity. They think it is them. They are broken. They are not smart. This is the classic belief. It is not that they are not smart, it is that their mind does not do good in that type of learning environment.

ATM: Why did you feel ADHD made you feel stupid in college as stated in an interview via podcast?

WD: ADHD was not a thing when I was growing up. It was not something that was diagnosed. Either you fit into the mold or you did not. If you did not, then something was wrong with you. I assumed I was stupid because I did not fit in this mold. I had this secret in college where I thought I was not so smart. My friend said to me that I was just different. This was a lightning moment for me. I feel she was ADHD too. She was a creative person. She also did not fit into the mold. This was the beginning of seeing it in a different way. Most students with ADHD struggle with low self-esteem. It is this belief that makes them not create their lives powerfully. It is the belief of them thinking they are stupid. I am still different and struggle with organization. Now I do not see it as being stupid. I notice it as a difference. There is a lot of things I can do that those people who do not have ADHD cannot do. This is in the area of imagination. It is a trade-off. Red and blue are not better than the other because they are just different.

ATM: Talk about your company Acting Pros.

WD: I have always loved helping other actors. They are my favorite people. We are like a clan. You know one when you see one. There is a connection. There is a very specific type of acting that is required for film and television. There is the core foundation of acting and then there is the physical expression of that acting. This is different from musical theatre. I learned how to adjust my performance to film and television when first moving to LA from a young T.V/film director. This changed my life. If I had not taken his class, then I would have sucked for a lot longer. He taught me how to condense my performance for film and television. I am from South Carolina. The SE in South Carolina now is a huge market for T.V and acting. The local actors who are doing theatre struggle to book film and T.V jobs. I was down there and told myself to help them. I would teach a class once a week in a lot. Many have gone on to work professionally. I see them on T.V. This is how Acting Pros started. You get the information you need from someone who has been there already.

ATM: What are their preconceived notions about acting and their challenges?

WD: Their biggest challenge is how to modify their performance in front of a camera, which is in film and television. This is different than theatre. If you are accustomed to performing in the house with 2,000 people, then how do you modify this in front of a camera? This is more of an intimate setting. The frame is a close-up. What feels natural is something that has developed on stage. It is the same internal experience, but a different external expression.

Davis enjoys riding Quarter horses. These are the horses used at horse races. Quarter horses are calm, relaxing, and strong. “I like to stay alive when I ride. So, I choose the Quarter horse.” Additionally, her most popular roles have been on Army Wives and a regular on OWN’s Love Is___. This show has been renewed for a second season.