Tom Holland on The Crowded Room: it broke me, I’m taking a year off

Back in December 2021, Tom Holland said that he wanted to take a little bit of a break from acting. It seems like that break didn’t last too long, appearing in the movie Uncharted in 2022 and now a TV series on Apple TV+ called The Crowded Room which was filmed in 2022. Now he’s saying he’s taking a break again, only this time, I think he means it. The reason? His role in The Crowded Room was so demanding that it “broke” him. I have to be honest, it doesn’t bode well if the lead actor is saying “this show broke me” while on the promotional circuit. Here’s what he told Extra about his experience making The Crowded Room:

The role scared him, but in a good way? “I just was terrified by the idea of playing this character, and for me that’s a really good thing, so I said yes,” Tom shared on what drew him to the role of Danny Sullivan, which is loosely based on infamous real-life criminal Billy Milligan.“I just was really excited by the challenge of bringing him to life. You know, understanding the responsibility of telling a story like this, hearing the message from Akiva [Goldsman], hearing what he wanted to try and achieve, and just feeling really aligned with him,” he said.

The process of making this show sounds kind of awful: “It was a tough time for sure. We were exploring certain emotions that I have definitely never experienced before, and then on top of that being a producer dealing with the day-to-day kind of problems that come with any film set added that extra level of pressure,” the actor said.“I love the learning curve of becoming a producer,” Tom continued. “I’m no stranger to hard work. I’ve always sort of lived by this idea that hard work is good work. I really enjoyed it, but then again, the show did break me. There did come a time where I was sort of like, ‘I need to have a break.’ I disappeared. I went to Mexico for a week and had some time on a beach. And I’m now taking a year off, and that is a result of how difficult this show was.”

He hopes his fans learn more about the power of the human mind from this show: “I hope that like me they can get the same education I got into how impressive the human mind is and to how far we can go in order to survive. I hope the fans come along for the ride we’ve laid out for them. There is a mystery with puzzle pieces. You can put it together yourself or you can just be along for the ride,” Tom said, adding that he looks forward to engaging with audiences as they watch.“I’m going to be very present online. I’m going to speak to fans and ask them what they think and see if they figured it out.”

[From Extra]

I looked up the real person his character is based on, and it is a dark story. Billy Milligan was the first person in the United States with dissociative identity disorder to be acquitted of a crime because of his illness. He committed multiple felonies, including rapes, and is suspected of committing two murders. Dissociative identity disorder causes memory gaps, and so people who have it can go through phases where they don’t remember what they did in a different personality state. I understand completely why Tom is burned out. Trying to inhabit the mind of someone whose own identity is constantly changing, who did terrible things to other people but didn’t remember it…that would be hard. There are a lot of actors out there (cough, Jared Leto) who take the whole Method acting thing too far. But I think Tom was just emotionally exhausted.

Part of me also wonders, reading between the lines, if there were other reasons why Tom found the show so difficult to make beyond the subject matter. My spidey senses (sorry, I couldn’t resist) say that something else was amiss on set but I don’t know what. I watched the trailer and it all seems like a serviceable crime thriller, but Tom kind of gets lost in it. I think he’s naturally a super charismatic performer but it’s like he was directed to play the character very flat, without affect. It could just be how the trailer is cut. Maybe the reviews will change my mind but I think it’s probably not going to be that entertaining.

Photos credit: Darla Khazei / Avalon, Apple Press and Marion Curtis/StarPix for Apple/

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14 Responses to “Tom Holland on The Crowded Room: it broke me, I’m taking a year off”

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  1. Laalaa says:

    I think he’s supposed to seem blank because his mind is a crowded room so you get nothing from the outside.
    Interesting trailer, I even like Amanda, whose perfomance I usually don’t care for.

  2. HeyKay says:

    Don’t we all wish we could take a year off to recover from tough times?
    Must be great to be wealthy!

    • K says:

      I don’t know if this is his situation exactly, but sometimes it’s take a break off or you won’t be able to continue living.

      I’ve never been wealthy and yet had to take a couple breaks off from working in order to prioritize my mental health, particularly after working at some highly toxic workplaces and after losing a parent. There was nothing easy about it, but it was necessary to address my deep depression and heart issues triggered by constant stress.

  3. Concern Fae says:

    I’ve been really disappointed by several Apple shows I was expecting to be good, fantastic casts, great locations, plenty of atmosphere. The Essex Serpent is the prime example. I had to go to the library half way through and check out the book to figure out what was supposed to be going on.

    With the writer’s strike, Apple has really been slammed about their terrible treatment or writers and how it really impacts the script quality. I can’t imagine that the same contempt for the creative process doesn’t carry through to the rest of production. These tech companies want to treat movie people like coders and it’s not going well, for the people or the shows.

    Hope Tom figures out a way to make it through these emotionally grueling projects. He seems like a nice guy. Ultra dramatic may not be the direction for his career to go. Chasing prestige is probably not his path. It’s going to be interesting to see how the abusive work culture of Hollywood interacts with a generation that is open about mental health.

    • manda says:

      samsies! the shining girls was just not very good

      • North of Boston says:

        I had to bail on Defending Jacob. The story *seemed* compelling, the cast was interesting to me, plus some scenes were shot at places in my hometown (West of Boston instead of north of Boston) and I wanted to play spot the location.

        But I just couldn’t watch it, not sure whether it was the narrative, the inherent (PTB) point of view or how things were played out, presented but I bailed after a few episodes. IIRC I paused halfway through episode 3 for some reason (phone call, bathroom break, etc) and just never bothered to start it again. Kept seeing it in my queue but never wanted to get it going again.

        Though in fairness, Bad Sisters was awesome so there’s that. (Was that produced for Apple or did they buy it complete?)

      • manda says:

        I also really wanted to like trying, but just couldn’t get into it.

        Bad sisters was good!

  4. tealily says:

    I wish that I made enough money at my job that I could take a year off when it broke me.

  5. Sunnee says:

    Taking care of one’s mental health is everything. I work in child welfare and some workers do take stress leave, 6 weeks, 2 months, 6 months etc. worker burnout is real, especially when exposed to secondary trauma on a daily basis. True we all don’t have his money and the luxury of taking a year off;however, we do have FMLA, EDD, supplemental insurance and accrued time to use. I remember someone who got paid more when he was off, because of Aflac, than when he was working. For me, I can take 4 to 6 months off and continue to get paid, probably not the same pay but close.

    • Rapunzel says:

      And most people will lose,their jobs if they follow this advice. Plus, most people can’t afford to take any reduction in pay at all because they’re literally living paycheck to paycheck.

      • Louise says:

        So we should judge and begrudge someone the ability to do so? Not jumping on that train, thanks.

  6. manda says:

    Re: Tom being a good actor–They made a movie in 2012 about the tsunami in Thailand (in like 2010? 2008? I can’t remember) called The Impossible, about a family separated and reunited when that happened. Tom Holland played one of the boys and was just so good in the role, I really amazed at how convincing he was playing it and he seemed pretty little at the time. I hope he has a career beyond spiderman bc he is good!

  7. TN says:

    I’m in grad school to be a therapist. DID is a tough mental illness where a person could fluctuate from a shy introvert to the heinous protector to a flirty social butterfly. It’s a archetype soup. It’s feeling stuck and changing your personality (repeatedly) to get out of the fear/panic. I am glad to see the actor who defend him – he’s from Fauda on Netflix. It looks like an intense drama. Maybe it’s a role good for awards and showing range, and Tom is finding, it’s not good for his soul.

    I remember a long time ago when Jennifer Garner was on Alias and then did 13 Going on 30… JJ Abrams or some director/producer gave a quote about forgetting what it was like to see her smile on screen. Similarly, Harrison Ford talked about not being dramatic often bc that’s not what most audiences wanted from him. They wanted him in shallow action flicks or being Chewbacca’s buddy.

  8. Abbie says:

    Shouldn’t you put a spoiler alert to the real story tidbit? I had no idea the show was based on a real person and now I kinda feel cheated that you gave away what’s going on. I couldn’t tell from the trailer alone…