“During my 20s and early 30s, when I wasn’t really working, I realized, OK, I’ll just focus on my work, I don’t have a Thing.” –Amy Adams

Arrival and Nocturnal Animals actress Amy Adams spoke with The Guardian recently about how focussing on her work has served her well through the course of her career.

Adams prefers to keep her private life out of the public view as much as possible, and she believes this separation of work and home is helpful for her acting. “I think the more people are concerned with me, the less they can invest in my characters,” she said.

Adams continued, “My husband and I are very quiet people. Whereas some people–Jennifer Lawrence, let’s say–she just has the kind of energy where she walks into a room and everybody notices. I don’t think that it’s a desire for attention, that’s just the nature of her being. I can disappear really, really quickly in a room.”

Although she’s now content with this aspect of her personality, she used to wonder if this quality amounted to a deficit in the world of acting. But as her career evolved, the now 42-year-old A-lister has come to view her ability to “disappear” as an asset. “Before I almost felt like it was a deficit, because I thought to be an actress you had to make people pay attention to you, and that’s just not my energy. It took a long time to be okay with that because you would see people receive a lot of opportunities based on something intangible, and it’s frustrating. But during my 20s and early 30s, when I wasn’t really working, I realized, okay, I’ll just focus on my work, I don’t have a Thing.”

While Adams did receive attention for her role in Catch Me If You Can as Leonardo DiCaprio’s love interest, the part proved to not really launch her career considering she didn’t work for a year afterwards. She’d get close to landing roles, only to be disappointed when they’d fall through. As a result, she thought maybe she didn’t have “it.” She wondered if she should quit pursuing acting on screen. “I thought maybe I should move to New York, maybe I should do something else…like maybe this just wasn’t a good fit,” she once shared. But she soon was offered a part in the low-budget independent film Junebug. She was cast as a young, pregnant wife named Ashley. And as fate would have it, playing Ashley earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Adams would go on to receive more Oscar nominations for future roles in Doubt, The Fighter, The Master, and American Hustle. Indeed, she is celebrated for her ability to pull off a broad range of roles including comedies, dramas, and musicals.

Adams attributes becoming a mother with feeling “more raw and more open to empathy, and that helps.” But moreover, she insists that motherhood has helped how she processes her work. “I used to have a dysfunctional relationship with my work, where I was bringing home all my insecurities and expectations, and if I felt a director didn’t love what I did, it would just plague me. That had to change,” she admits.

Specifically, she refers to her time on the set of David O. Russell’s American Hustle. While playing the part of Sydney–a role for which she would go on to receive a Golden Globe, she explains, “[Russell] didn’t necessarily make me cry; I cried. The experience of playing that character struck me in a strange place, and that’s heightened by David’s energy, yeah. So I couldn’t bring that home….I remember looking at my husband and saying, ‘If I can’t figure this out, I can’t work any more, I’ll have to do something else. I don’t want to be that person, not for my daughter.’ So I figured it out….It’s not that I don’t find my work important. It’s just that I now know, at the end of the day, I’ll be back home reading stories to my daughter.”

It’s all but impossible to deconstruct and define the curious blend of talent, individuality, charisma, and luck that makes up the elusive “It” factor. But when Amy Adams doubted she had “It,” she simply dedicated herself to the work at hand: the craft of acting. She’s also proved to be flexible over the years, adapting in the ways that pertained to her particular personality and journey. And look at all she’s been able to accomplish!

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