Anna McNiven Talks About Her Role In the Film ‘Nora’ And Mental Illness Awareness

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Anna McNiven in ‘Nora’.

We recently caught up with actress Anna McNiven to talk about her role in the film Nora and the issues of mental illness. Here is what she had to say:

How did you prepare for your character in Nora?

The character I played was quite heavily emotional, as she is someone who suffers from mental health and depression. So in order for me to get into this space I reflected on times in my own life where I felt depressed or where I experienced people (I witnessed) go through a time of depression and drew from that and took it into the story of Nora.

How did you get cast in the role?

An audition through a director who I have worked with before referred me to the director of Nora. I tried out for two roles and ended up getting the lead which was a big one to take on as it wasn’t the happiest of roles to play.

Do you know anyone in your life that has experienced mental illness or depression?

Many! -including myself. I have never been paralyzed with depression but I do know a lot of people who have been and had close friends and a family member that have taken their own lives due to deep depression. I also have some people close to me that have family members suffering from mental health and it is a devastating illness. It really suppresses ones ability to live life to the fullest.

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What personally drew you to this character?

The character was interesting to me because I could see how relatable she is for so many. Also, I wanted to play a role that people suffering could watch and feel connected to and bring the topic of depression and mental illness to light.

How real is mental illness to you?

As real as it gets! It is a massive problem in this day and age in particular.

Do you think there is enough help for people suffering from mental illness?

Yes and No. I think that there are a lot of people and causes and communities that are doing wonderful things to support people who are suffering -however I feel like there needs to be more. I think mental illness is on the rise due to the very pressured and stressful times we live in with all of these unnatural avenues of exposure into peoples personal lives -social media being the major one, where we are all selling ourselves and (if you are not careful) basing our self value on how many people pay attention to you or like who you present to the public on social media platforms. I’m not saying social media is evil, I think it’s a great way to stay connected to family and friends that you cannot see in person often and also a great tool for business -but I see so many (especially younger kids) -basing so much value on their social media validation before they are even developed within knowing who they are within themselves, which becomes in my opinion, really scary.

So to answer the question, I feel there needs to be more support for individuals suffering from mental illness -and to shift the focus on creating ways for people to feel connected to each other in other ways that are not based off their profile online.

I read somewhere, which resonated with me, that depression is caused from feeling of lack of connection. So this is the irony -and my point is about social media hype are the connections we have in our lives -our relationships to our loved ones, our relationship to ourselves and connection to the things we are passionate about -which is what actually counts in the long run.

Do you think diet and exercise play a big part in mental health and wellness?

Yes I have studied nutrition and movement -and as a dancer and avid Pilates and Yoga lover, I know that this definitely does effect the way we feel -our hormones, brain function and mood. But what I have also learned through study and experience is again, our relationships are the main source of happiness in our lives -the relationship with ourselves and others.

What would you like audiences to take away with them after watching Nora?

I would love for people who see this film, to become more aware of how these issues of depression and mental illness may reflect their own lives -and to have a moment to really look at this in the face and confront it and ask themselves what would they like to change about this -and who they feel in their lives need help and what relationships do they need to nurture?

Personally that is what I would like people to walk away with. But whatever the audience actually walks away with is completely personal and up to each person who has the chance to see Nora.

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