It’s a fact that many may be surprised to learn about her, but Emily Blunt has a stutter. In fact, it was so severe growing up that she couldn’t even say her own name if called on in class. But kicking off an honest conversation in a new interview, Blunt opens up about why being a stutterer isn’t a weakness — rather, the Quiet Place star says it has made her a more empathetic person and, in a way, is the reason she has a career in acting to begin with.
For Marie Claire‘s March issue, Blunt sat down for a somewhat unorthodox interview. While she spoke with the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Anne Fulenwider, she was primarily interviewed by Fulenwider’s 11-year-old son, Sammy. Why? Well, Sammy has a stutter. And that’s something Blunt understands on a deeply personal level.
For Blunt, her stutter first surfaced around six or seven, getting “progressively more challenging” as she got older. By the time she was a tween, it was something she’d come to accept. “It wasn’t the whole part of me; it was just a part of who I was. There were certain people who liked to define me by that. That was tough. I decided not to really spend time with those people,” she said. “I’ve probably only now come to realize that everybody has something growing up. That just happened to be my thing.”
Of course, adolescence is tough no matter how you slice it, and having a stutter adds another layer of complexity. “I could never say my own name if someone said, ‘What’s your name?’ Because you can’t substitute a word out, which is what we tend to do to find a better flow. You substitute another word that’s easier, and you can’t substitute your name. So, I realized quickly as a kid, any pressurized situations were quite hard for me,” she shared.
Wondering how that translated into a life in the spotlight? The two are interestingly intertwined. When Blunt was 12, one of her teachers at the time asked her to participate in a class play. She refused at first, but the teacher persisted — telling her he’d heard her doing silly voices and thought she could do the part in an accent. “And that was a very liberating thing for me as a kid. Suddenly, I had a fluency,” she said, adding that she pulled off the play. “That was the beginning of realizing that I had a handle on it, ad maybe it could be temporary, and maybe I could grow past this. That was kind of a big deal.”
Obviously, Blunt has gone on to become an extremely successful entertainer. But she credits that in no small part to being a stutterer (“once a stutterer, I feel, always a stutterer”). It’s made her the person she is. “I think in some ways, when you go through something like having a stutter, you become a really good listener. You absorb the world in a different way,” she said, adding, “I was a really empathetic kid and still feel that’s something I try and lead with. And I encourage empathy in my kids and embracing differences and not being scared of them, or teasing people for them, you know?”
So, in sharing her story, Blunt hopes to cut through some of the misinformation out there — and, hey, maybe that will encourage kindness in other people, too.
“It’s not psychological. It’s not that you’re nervous, it’s not that you’re insecure, it’s not that you can’t read, it’s not that you don’t know what you want to say. It’s neurological, it’s genetic, it’s biological. It’s not your fault,” she emphasized. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”
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