Bafta winner Joanna Scanlan admits past struggle with alcoholism

Bafta award-winning actress Joanna Scanlan has said that she has sometimes called herself an alcoholic.

The 60-year-old was named the winner of the main acting prize at the Bafta awards ceremony in March, taking home best actress for her performance in the drama After Love.

However, the Wirral-born actress, known for her role as civil servant Terri Coverley in the BBC sitcom The Thick Of It, has described alcoholism as having played a “big role” in her younger years.

Joanna Scanlan after winning Best Leading Actress for After Love (Ian West/PA)

Speaking about the shock of being sent to a six-year-old girls’ boarding school, she told the Telegraph: “It was particularly tough, of course, in those days.

“The damage is absolutely huge and it takes a lot of work to repair.”

The actress said she never responded to her mother’s letters and instead “completely shut down.”

Scanlan was expelled at age 13 for her “extremely” bad behavior and transferred to boarding schools.

A year later, he recalls “feeling suicidal,” locking himself in a school bathroom, before taking pills “with this attempt to kill myself.”

She said: “I don’t know about you, but when I got to adolescence, that darkness came into my world in a way that was really unfathomable.

“It was so normal to have to deal with really big, dark emotions.”

He admitted that alcohol had been a major feature of his childhood and remembered having a bottle of Clinique toner filled with gin.

She said: “Alcoholism was a big part of our family life.

“I was desperate to be able to make decisions about my own life and having a drink was a big part of that, as was smoking.”

Scanlan admitted that he spent most of his time drinking in his room when he went to study law at Cambridge University, which he describes as a “consequence of the trauma of meeting men”.

Despite devoting herself to her studies and graduating from university, she described drinking at home “desperately lying in bed, unable to do anything.”

At the age of 29, he said he suffered a “massive breakdown”.

knight jack

Joanna Scanlan joins the cast of Gentleman Jack (BBC/PA)

“I woke up with what I thought was a hangover or the flu, went to see my parents, went straight to bed, started crying and it continued day after day.

“Floods of tears. This feeling of headache, sore throat, muscle pain.

“My mom took me to the doctor and they told me I had chronic fatigue syndrome,” she said.

Scanlan gave up drinking and smoking 30 years ago, but admitted: “I’ve sometimes called myself an alcoholic. Yes.

“In certain situations I have said that I am an alcoholic without having gone through much of what many of my friends have gone through and that is simply because I was 29 years old, instead of 39.

“If it had continued, it would have gotten worse and worse.”

House of Fraser BAFTA TV Awards 2016 – Arrivals – London

Joanna Scanlan, Elaine Cassidy, Alexandra Roach and Will Mellor (Ian West/PA)

Scanlan praised her doctor at the time, who warned her that if she did not perform again “she will be sick for the rest of her life”.

“It was like an arrow in my heart,” he said.

Scanlan, who married her husband, accountant Neil, in 2009, added: “Honestly, I don’t think the purpose of our existence is to be happy.

“But I think it’s being authentic and being there as part of a community and that means engaging with the darker elements in yourself.”

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