- Julie Andrews is a Broadway, film, and television actress who catapulted to Hollywood fame with blockbuster hits like “Mary Poppins” and “The Sound of Music.”
- Ahead of her memoir’s upcoming paperback release, she candidly shared her behind-the-scenes struggles with relationships, parenting, and mental health in an exclusive interview.
- Andrews was able to prioritize family by holding onto the idea of quality of time over quantity of time and by maintaining routines with her kids whenever possible.
- Her advice to others: “Don’t be afraid to seek help. Therapy saved my life in multiple ways.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Julie Andrews is a queen. She’s also a magical nanny, a Broadway star, and a dame.
But her latest memoir, “HOME WORK,” touches on the world behind the scenes — and the work that goes into being Julie Andrews. Written with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, Andrews candidly describes her own struggles with relationships, work-life balance, parenting, and mental health.
Ahead of the memoir’s paperback release, Business Insider sent Andrews questions about money, work, and how to weather difficult times. Here are her answers, edited for length and clarity.
Your second installment, “HOME WORK,” picks up on your Hollywood years and what you’ve learned. What compelled you to follow up on your last memoir? What was left unsaid?
I’ve always thought that if I were to write my memoirs, I would need to divide them into at least two, maybe three books. I couldn’t cover all the events of my life in just one book! My first memoir, “Home,” encompassed my childhood growing up in England, touring in vaudeville from age 12 to 18, and my subsequent years working on Broadway. That book ended just as I was about to make the transition from Broadway to Hollywood to embark on my first film, “Mary Poppins.”
The second memoir, “Home Work,” takes it from there, and tackles the next major part of my life — my years working in film, and balancing my professional life with raising my children and my marriage to my second husband, Blake Edwards. I wanted to be able to talk about the myriad mentors and experiences of those years, professionally and personally.
You often talk about the clash between Hollywood and your personal life. How did you ultimately decide to have these two worlds co-exist, and what advice would you give to someone who’s struggling with this?
I always hoped the two worlds could co-exist; I adored my family and enjoyed my work. But I don’t think I ever actually decided anything. It was more just needing to find ways to juggle it all. The struggle to balance one’s professional life with family and personal life is certainly not unique to me, nor to my line of work. There were times when I was more successful at it than others, and it was always an ongoing challenge.
I think if I had any advice to share, it would be, “Don’t be afraid to seek help.” Therapy saved my life in multiple ways. I also received a great deal of help from kind assistants and nannies, especially during my children’s early years, and there were times when my husband, Blake, and I took turns with respect to fulfilling parenting and professional obligations.
But it’s hard, and I certainly don’t pretend to have answers. I was very fortunate to have the resources to find help in so many ways.
You talk about your start as a young, small-town English girl, who was soon catapulted into fame with “Mary Poppins” and “The Sound of Music.” What it was like to be thrust into the spotlight at such a young age, and do you have any advice for someone experiencing it for the first time?
As I say in the book, I am well aware of how irritating it is when people who have been graced by good fortune complain about its rigors. But I was indeed a small-town English girl … naïve, undereducated, and considerably younger than my years, and as such, ill-equipped to manage the level of pressure and scrutiny that was coming at me.
The only advice I can offer to someone else is the same as my previous answer: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness; the opposite, in fact. It’s essential to maintain perspective, but it’s also very hard to achieve. Thankfully, there are real support tools available.
You also discuss the difficulty of saying “no” to interviews, publicity, etc. that the studio asked of you, which is something young professionals struggle with even outside of Hollywood. Can you talk through navigating that challenge and learning how to prioritize yourself over other people’s needs?
Helping to promote a creative endeavor is an essential part of the job. But it can feel, for an artist, like you are selling out or commercializing your art by engaging in efforts to promote it. In the early days, I had no idea how to distinguish between the efforts that felt aligned with my values and those that asked me to engage in a way that made me feel uncomfortable. I’m a good codependent, and I am almost always tempted to put other people’s needs before my own!
I still say yes to as much as I can, although these days I am inclined to avoid the efforts that require me to wake before dawn. I am always grateful for the interviewers that pose new or different questions, or those that allow for more than three minutes. But that is not the norm, and I do respect the fact that people who work in the arts and media must be flexible.
In the book, you detail the importance of finding an agent who looked out for you and your earnings. How has that shaped your perspective on money and advocating for yourself?
My first agent was in charge of managing my work as a child performer. He held the purse strings into my early adulthood, and since I had been with him for so long I didn’t question how my finances were managed.
Later, I switched agents and made it a point to better educate myself. I am grateful to have had very good guidance over the years since, and the more I learned the better able I was to make sound decisions. A trusted agent or manager can make a very helpful difference.
Much of the memoir poignantly focuses on how you dealt with new and unprecedented experiences, and the challenges that came along with that (which is surely something many people can empathize with right now). What’s your best advice for staying strong and weathering those challenges?
I tend to be a glass-half-full person most of the time. We don’t always get to choose the outcome of our endeavors, but any challenge is ultimately a learning experience whether it’s successful or not.
One of the ways I maintain perspective is by focusing on gratitude for what is working, what I am learning, and what I already have … which is so very much. If I can stay in the day and not get too far ahead of myself anticipating outcomes or fearing the worst, I can remember how much I have to be grateful for. It’s not so much an avoidance mechanism — “I’ll think about it tomorrow” — as it is asking myself, is this something I need to worry about today? Is there an action I need to take today? If not, can I use the day to stand still, to reflect further and maintain equilibrium?
The memoir powerfully and honestly depicts your own journey with mental health and seeking out psychoanalysis. Why did you think it was important to write on, and what was the most impactful part of this experience?
I wanted to write about my journey in psychoanalysis because it was such a fundamental part of my growth as a human being, and I wanted to help remove any stigma or shame surrounding the idea of mental health. The generation before mine was fairly closed-minded in that regard. Analysis gave me insight into myself — it was like going back to school, but the subject was me, my behavior and thought patterns, and how they had been shaped by my childhood and early experiences.
At a certain point in the process, my analyst became aware that one of the areas where I needed the most support was education, since I had had so little. He was a very learned man, and he took it upon himself to teach me as much as he could in the areas where I felt so deficient. The tools I learned in psychoanalysis continue to sustain me, and I am forever grateful for having had that opportunity.
A guiding theme throughout the memoir is everything that goes into balancing a career and parenthood. What would you say is the most important thing you learned about this balancing act, and what advice do you have for parents attempting to do the same?
I always felt that if my kids were OK, I could do anything … but if not, I couldn’t fully concentrate on anything. There were many times when I wasn’t able to be with my kids as much as I would have liked due to my work schedule, and that was always difficult.
What helped the most was holding onto the idea of quality of time over quantity of time. I tried to make sure that the time we did spend together was meaningful, and that I was fully present and focused on them. I also made an effort to maintain routines, whenever possible, and to do my part in that routine. For instance, my kids tease me about it now, but I tried to make a “good protein breakfast” for them before school, and we had dinner together most nights. We also designated one night a week “family night,” and went out to a favorite restaurant together.
That said, I am firmly convinced that children do need to see their parents engaging with the world — pursuing a passion or a job, having a sense of purpose. Hopefully it sets an example for their future.