Andrew Garfield says he never wants to stop grieving his late mother: ‘It’s unexpressed love’

Grab your tissues, but also maybe take some notes.
November 24, 2021 1:46 p.m. EST
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Andrew Garfield, who is currently winning rave reviews for tick, tick...BOOM!, made a memorable appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert this week and the actor's comments have fans getting real about grief.

Why? Well, Garfield's mother, Lynn, died of pancreatic cancer in 2019, and working on this film was key to helping him process his grief over her passing. Colbert, who has experienced a great deal of that in his own life with his father and two of his brothers having died in a plane crash when he was young, added another moving layer to the discussion.

Colbert opened the conversation with the question: “How does doing this show, or any show, and art itself help you deal with grief?”

It's important to note that in the movie, Garfield, 38, plays Jonathan Larson, 35, the Rent lyricist and composer who died the same day the musical debuted.

After taking a pause to think, Garfield replied, “I love talking about it, by the way, so if I cry, it’s…only a beautiful thing. This is all the unexpressed love. The grief that will remain with us until we pass because we never get enough time with each other, right? No matter if someone lives until 60, 15, or 99."

"So I hope this grief stays with me because it’s all the unexpressed love that I didn’t get to tell her," he continued, referring to his mother. "And I told her every day! We all told her every day, she was the best of us.”

He continued, choking up here and there, “This film is kind of to do with that, it’s to do with this ticking clock that we all have. That we all know somewhere deep down that life is sacred, life is short, and we better just be here as much as possible with each other holding on to each other.

“I got to sing Jonathan Larson’s unfinished song while simultaneously singing for my mother and her unfinished song. And I’m indebted to John, and I’m indebted to [director] Lin-Manuel Miranda, I’m indebted to everyone who’s brought me to this place so I can honour the most beautiful person that I’ve ever experienced in my life through my art and use it as a way to heal, use it as a way to sew up the wounds.”

He concluded, "Both Jon and my mother were artists," he explained. "And they were warriors for art. They knew the power of art, and they knew the power of leaving the world in a slightly more beautiful state than when they found it."

Garfield thanked Colbert for letting him speak about his mother, particularly with his father and brother in the audience.

The late-night moment has gone viral on social media since then, with many saying it connected with their own journeys with grief, while others shared it was helping them reframe their pain from loss.

The actor recently told Variety that he learned of his mother's diagnosis just before he was set to begin filming The Eyes of Tammy Faye in North Carolina, but she insisted he go to work. When, later that year, she was close to the end, Garfield paused filming and headed home to England to be with her.

"The good news about me and her is that we left nothing unsaid," Garfield said. "We had all the quality time we could possibly have while she was here. And those last two weeks I got to be with her were probably the most profound two weeks of my life. To be with her and my dad and my brother, all of her friends, my nephews. It was full of grace in the midst of the terrible tragedy." 


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