amy-adams-american-hustle.jpg“I have worked with some of the meanest people in the world. You can’t do anything to intimidate me.” –Amy Adams

When financial experts recommend that people diversify their wealth, it is to protect their clients’ assets over the long run. An actor’s career, on the other hand, often accommodates safety in finding a pocket, or the familiar groove, of a type. Discovering that your essence neatly fits into a marketable compartment of “the girl next door,” “the bad guy,” “the white-collar professional,” or “the class clown” can certainly help break through industry barriers, and can translate into real–and hopefully prolific–roles. It is a blessing to have a type; and yet, over time it can feel like a bit of a curse. If you’ve played the part of poker-faced doctor for the hundredth time, you might just start fantasizing about portraying drug-addicted, volatile degenerates every once in a while. But, alas, it’s not always so easy to do. Consider all the actors who have made a career based on their type: Jason Statham, the uber bad ass; Adam Sandler, the loveable halfwit; Woody Allen, the sex-starved introvert. No doubt, it’s good work if you can get it; and there’s an allure to staying in character, so to speak, for these actors. And let’s be real; not everyone can boast a diverse career like Ben Kingsley–ranging from peaceful Gandhi to Sexy Beast’s psychopathic Don Logan so utterly convincingly. “As an actor there’s no autonomy, unless you’re prepared to risk the possibility of starving,” Kingsley once said–and he surely took his chances.

Well, following in Ben’s courageous footsteps is Amy Adams. You might immediately associate Amy with her roles as the would-be princess from Enchanted, the talkative and sunny Southern wife in Junebug, the sweet nurse from Catch Me If You Can, or the mechanically-apt school teacher from The Muppets. These roles make perfect sense for the strawberry-blonde who often plays cheerful, optimistic if naive characters. “I think that I’ve always been attracted to characters who are positive and come from a very innocent place. I think there’s a lot of room for discovery in these characters and that’s something I always have fun playing,” Adams said.

But her acting portfolio is breaking the mold with a tough-as-leather performance in The Fighter, portraying the domineering and unpleasant wife of a cult leader in The Master, and her latest–and darkest–role to date: Sydney in American Hustle. Sydney “is the most miserable human being I’ve ever played,” Adams said. “She is not—happy. I’m used to playing people that, even if they’re survivors, there’s some sort of light in them. I don’t know that she has that, necessarily.”

Taking such a wide turn in the image she’s capable of portraying didn’t come out of nowhere. Indeed, in many ways, the risks she’s taken in her career have come in response to her fears. What kind of fears? Well, for example, Adams said to Elle UK“[After 2002’s ‘Catch Me If You Can’] I choked. I felt this pressure to suddenly be this level of actress that I wasn’t confident enough to be. Being an actress hasn’t made me insecure. I was insecure long before I declared I was an actress … I had an existential crisis at the Oscars, sitting next to Sean Penn and Meryl Streep and being like, ‘What am I doing here? I don’t belong here.’” Indeed, during a red carpet interview at the 81st Academy Awards, Amy claims to have suffered from extreme stage fright and claustrophobia, which she has fought vigilantly to overcome. In response to her growth, just this year the Santa Barbara International Film Festival honored Adams for her overall risk-taking capabilities, describing her as, “One of the gutsiest and most gifted actors working today.

“The only thing that allows you to be a risk taker is somebody who tells you that your fears are pointless, really. And tells you that really the only thing that fear indicates is… it’s a risk worth taking…. I’m a fearful person, and I think being brave means working through your fear; it doesn’t mean not having it,” Amy shared.

As for Amy’s next role? She will reprise her role as Lois Lane in Zack Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman, the sequel to Man of Steel. Guess she’s determined to keep on mixing it up!