Joy and Anxiety standing next to each other
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Anxiety’s Voice Actor Understands the Importance of Talking About, Well, Anxiety

Is there anything more (unfairly) embarrassing than crying at a Pixar film when you’re a grown adult? Because that was the situation I found myself in when watching Inside Out 2.

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Warning: This article contains spoilers for Inside Out 2.

When the inner workings of Riley’s mind started turning the bright orange of anxiety, I understood the feeling perfectly. I have pretty serious anxiety, you see, enough to require medical intervention, and the mechanics of it all were illustrated so well. It really does feel like all your positive and helpful emotions have been thrown out of your head.

So after the movie I took a look around to see if actress Maya Hawke, the voice of Anxiety (I never would’ve guessed it was her!) drew on her own experiences to play the role. She had! Ah, and she cried too. Good. We should all cry at this movie together.

“There’s something about this story and these characters that I think really brings fundamental truths about our experience to the surface,” Hawke explained to Empire magazine. “It’s so relatable, so emotional, so pure, that whether you want to or not, you use what you have and what you’ve been through.” She begged for the role of Anxiety. She was that convinced that she was the right person and was over the Moon when she got it.

Hawke also talked about how she prepared to play Anxiety in an interview with the official Walt Disney Company website. “The little voice that I hear in my own head—the one that tells me to worry if my shoes are wrong or if I’m going be late to the airport or say the wrong thing—whatever that voice is that’s in my own head, I just tapped into that and let it come out of my mouth instead of keeping it in my brain,” she said. That little voice became the seed for her performance as Anxiety.

And a lot was riding on her performance, because Anxiety is really the main character of the movie. Although she causes most of the problems Riley faces, she’s not demonized, and by the end of the movie she’s learned some coping mechanisms. (She has her own special chair to sit in when she starts to worry.) It’s a great way for kids to get educated about how they can get their own emotions under control, and Hawke did a pitch-perfect job with all of that. Even when Anxiety is controlling Riley and making her act irrationally, we forgive Anxiety because we see ourselves in her. Who hasn’t wanted to be that overwrought, sometimes? And who hasn’t, like Hawke, wanted to vocalize the anxious thoughts and get them all out? Many people, unfortunately, still fear that.

Maya Hawke said in her Disney interview that Inside Out 2 “takes so many tough emotions that everyone experiences, not just teenagers, and actualizes those emotions in a way that makes them feel less alienating or stressful.” She’s right. Fingers crossed this movie reduces the emotions Alienation and Stress in people by getting them to talk about their own experiences with Anxiety.

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Sarah Barrett
Sarah Barrett (she/her) is a freelance writer with The Mary Sue who has been working in journalism since 2014. She loves to write about movies, even the bad ones. (Especially the bad ones.) The Raimi Spider-Man trilogy and the Star Wars prequels changed her life in many interesting ways. She lives in one of the very, very few good parts of England.