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‘Sorry for Your Loss’ star Jovan Adepo talks mental illness and self-care

The “Sorry for Your Loss” star has had a very busy year

In case you haven’t noticed, Jovan Adepo has been having one hell of a year. Since his first big screen performance in “Fences,” alongside Viola Davis and Denzel Washington in 2016, his career has catapulted to include “The Leftovers” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” as well as the upcoming horror “Overlord” and “Central Park Five” from writer/director Ava Duvernay. In the midst of his incredibly busy schedule, he carved time to star in the poignant drama “Sorry for Your Loss” on Facebook Watch.

The 10-episode series, which is now streaming in its entirety on the social media platform, tells the story of a young woman named Leigh (Elizabeth Olsen) as she struggles to navigate her grief over the sudden and recent death of her husband, Matt (Mamoudou Athie), a seemingly healthy young man who lost his footing while on a hike one day. Adepo plays Matt’s brother Danny, who, like Leigh, is grappling with the loss of his brother but in an entirely different way. While she is increasingly consumed with learning what exactly led to Matt’s death — stumbling upon more questions than answers in the process — Danny is trying in vain to move forward in his life. Together the two actors deliver truly devastating and conflicting portrayals of what grief looks like as their characters confront the possibility that Matt may have taken his own life.

Adepo spoke with us about the way in which “Sorry for Your Loss” explores the stigma and subsequent suppression of mental illness, the importance of self-care and how Danny manages both.

What drew you to this series?

It was the opportunity to work with good, talented people. I get to work with Kelly Marie Tran, and Janet McTeer of course and Elizabeth [Olsen], creative minds who I’ve enjoyed watching. I always enjoy really interesting characters with interesting stories. That’s a dream for every actor.

The series truly resonates, particularly in today’s world in which self-care and mental health are too often neglected. It has an even greater impact because it explores mental health through the eyes of a young black man who, as we learn, was struggling in silence.

I think there’s a stigma against being able to have that discussion about mental health with African-American men. That’s been a discussion within our community in the last couple of years. I think it’s a great show because it highlights the discomfort around mental Illness. But [the writers] don’t make it apparent that this is a black man going through this. This is just a man going through this who just happens to be black, which fits into that discussion that it’s very under-discussed.

An interesting moment is when Leigh asks Danny whether he thinks Matt took his own life, because a lot of the series explores mental health without directly relating it to suicide. I think when it comes to confronting mental health, it’s not only about the mental health of the deceased, but also of the surviving victims — including Leigh and Danny.

Absolutely. Just to piggyback off the scene you just brought up, Danny didn’t know how to answer that question. He was like, “I don’t know what you want me to say. I can’t tell you whether he jumped or not, because that’s not something I want to think about. You’re supposed to be enjoying your birthday and you’re asking me if my brother jumped off a cliff and killed himself. What are you doing?” Of course this is me speaking for Danny. I think Leigh has her own self-destructive quality about her. She wants to get into things that she knows is going to drive her absolutely insane. But why keep doing it?

We see Leigh go to grief therapy sometimes, but we don’t see that as much with Danny. Why do you think that is?

I think he’s one of those people who kind of sees it as a machine and he’s just here. I imagine him sitting in a room with all these people and seeing this therapist or speaker or moderator just going through a checklist in her notebook about what topics are hot triggers, or what’s really going to get these people to open up and share. Danny, he would be like, “This is bulls***. Why am I even here? Like, I don’t want to say any mantras that are going to make me happy for the moment.” I feel like that’s how Danny would see it after a while. At the end of the day, he’s going to leave there, get in his car, get something to eat, go home, and cry and feel horrible about his brother being gone. S*** isn’t going to last. It’s not going to make him feel better and make the pain go away. Although, he could be absolutely wrong. It could totally help a lot of things. I think him feeling like he knows everything inherently, like he’s the smartest guy in the room, would [make him] refuse any type of assistance.

Before Matt died, Danny and Leigh had a complicated relationship at best. Now their relationship has become more amicable. Do you think that’s due to shared grief or is there something truly romantic between them?

That was something the writers and producers never wanted to define. They made it clear that there is something very organic and natural between Leigh and Danny in their interactions. They’re having an intimate — and as you know, intimate does not always mean sexual — interaction and connection through shared grief. What Leigh’s saying is that she didn’t know her husband as well as she thought she did. It’s a tough pill to swallow, that there is something about your husband you just did not know. Why didn’t he feel comfortable sharing this with me? What was the whole point of our relationship if not to talk or be honest with the person you’re with? With Danny, it doesn’t seem like she has that [problem]. Even when it’s negative, at least he’s up front with her. Like, “I f****** hate you. This is why I don’t like hanging out with you because you are toxic. You are the worst kind of person to be around.” She and Danny have never held their tongue when it comes to how they feel about each other. At the end of the day, it’s a really transparent relationship, which in my opinion is one of the strongest things you can have in a relationship. So, I think that they never really wanted to define this thing between Danny and Leigh because it [leaves] room to explore.

Because “Sorry for Your Loss” explores such heavy themes, how you manage own self-care, off set?

By taking the time to [rest] and have my own time. I’ve been very busy this year, which has been a total blessing. I would never trade it for anything. But something that mother stresses to me, which I think is very important, is meditation and really enjoying time away from work. I am at my best when I have a certain amount of time dedicated to the work and a certain amount of time to [myself]. That is something I am trying to get better at because this has been a very busy year. I’ve been experiencing this kind of schedule for the first time in my career, and I’m starting to see why it’s so important to take time to recharge. I think that’s paramount in maintaining a level of happiness and control, being able to come back and give your best to your job and your loved ones.

‘Sorry for Your Loss’ is now streaming on Facebook Watch.

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