Mandy Moore says 'This is Us' gives us a chance to process our feelings

With 'This Is Us' in its third season, Mandy Moore reflects on her 20 years in Hollywood and why life keeps getting better.
Image: Today - Season 68
Mandy Moore says her goal for 2019 is to get rid of any lingering self doubt she has about her music career.Nathan Congleton / TODAY
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By Margaret O'Malley

When fans meet actress Mandy Moore, they thank her for letting them "feel their feelings." And while the whole country appears to be fully strapped in for the emotional roller coaster ride called "This Is Us," Moore has been on her own journey of self-discovery trying to do much of the same.

Looking back, it's hard to think of a time Moore hasn't made headlines with her many job titles: singer-songwriter, actor, voice-over artist and fashion icon. At age 34, she has been in the entertainment business for 20 years, making music and starring in some of America's most beloved tearjerkers.

I caught up with the newly-married Moore for the launch of Nature Way's "50" charitable campaign to talk about growing up (and aging) in front of the camera, saying "yes" and "no," and how she's reclaiming her time and herself.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

We're heading into Season 3 of 'This Is Us'. A lot of people seem to be dealing with their emotions by watching the show. What are people telling you?

MM: People want more cathartic entertainment. They want to be able to feel their feelings and be able to process them and the different things happening in their lives. Sometimes it’s grief, sometimes it’s a miscarriage. Our show runs the gambit and there’s a little something for everybody to be able to find a way to relate back to their life. Oftentimes they say “thank you for letting me feel all of my feelings” or “I haven’t thought about my loved one who passed away in so long.” Many say it’s just a really great connective tool for families to be able to discuss bigger things, or just have a show that they love to watch together and feel good.

In the post #MeToo movement, women are looking for ways to cast off the things that are holding us back. You told "Bustle" previously that you wanted to stop making yourself small in order to accommodate other people. How's that going?

MM: It’s really hard and it’s a constant battle, but it’s something that I don’t beat myself up about because I know I’m a work in progress. I think I’ve taken very big strides over the last few years in particular to acknowledge that and help combat it. I’m so much better at saying “no” and I’m better at taking time for myself — starting to prioritize myself before others. I am much better at it.

You’re newly married. Is this something you were conscious of going into a new relationship?

MM: I think if you’ve found yourself in previous situations where you aren’t serving yourself, you start to make a conscious effort to change that. I was doing the work before I met my husband. But when you meet someone who is complementary to that and champions that idea and does that for himself as well, it serves as a great example. I don’t think I’d ever find myself in a relationship with someone who didn’t honor that.

You’ve been open about being in therapy over the last 10 years. What advice would you give someone who is nervous about starting?

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MM: I think it’s important to acknowledge that you have to find the right person and the right environment to feel vulnerable enough to talk about your life, feelings, your anxiety and all of that. But I always find that I get the most benefit from therapy during the moments when I’m least expecting it. Not that it’s a chore to go, but sometimes you have something top of mind that you really want to break down and get into the nitty gritty about. But I’ve found time and time again that the most important work is done during the moments where you’re thinking “life is good and I feel like I’m operating at 100 percent” but there is something underlying there that you somehow find a way into.

I always find that I get the most benefit from therapy during the moments when I’m least expecting it.

It’s important to be easy with yourself and recognize that it’s about taking baby steps. You don’t have to walk into a room with a stranger and tell them every single intimate detail of your life. It takes time to earn that trust but it feels so good to have an advocate and someone whose job it is to have your back and help you decipher things that we’re not supposed to know about. But it’s so beneficial and something I really need to get back to. My time in therapy kind of ebbs and flows with my schedule. When I can’t get there, I meditate, spend time with my friends, decompress, and make sure I’m still taking care of myself and prioritizing it.

There's so much coming at us every day — work, life, news ... social media. How do you deal with it all?

MM: I think we’re all struggling. I think I feel differently about it every day. Some days you’ve gotten plenty of sleep and you’re well-rested and you can take on the day and things don’t irk you as much. You’re not as sensitive and don't feel every single tremor of the day. And then some days it’s the exact opposite. So it’s just taking time to recognize that every day is going to be different.

I take a lot of time to listen to my body and I listen to my psyche. Taking a minute to breathe for a second — and put your phone away! I have those days when I feel like “I should be on Twitter or I should be Instagramming” and it’s part of the job just as much as everything else is, but for my health and wellbeing, I need to take a step back. So you just have to listen to yourself. I ask myself “what’s triggering me?" or “what’s making me feel bad?” and oftentimes those things can be the culprit. We live in such a full-on world and there’s so much content coming at us, and the best course of action is to just take a step back, take a break and take a breath.

Your 10 year challenge post kind of broke the internet. Has this role made you think about aging differently?

MM: I can’t wait actually. To have that wisdom and life experience behind me, I’m very much looking forward to that. It doesn’t freak me out — I’m excited. Not to sound cliché or cheesy but life does keep getting better and richer and fuller. I know so much more about myself and I’m more comfortable in my skin. I’ve said it many times before but you couldn’t pay me to go back to my twenties. I’m very happy to be where I am and I feel like it’s only going to get better from here.

You’re only 34, but it feels like you’ve been doing this forever. What would you say now to that teenage girl we all remember?

MM: Almost 20 years! This makes me emotional. I would say “don’t be so hard on yourself." I’m a perfectionist and it’s something that I work on to this day, but I wish I would have been a little easier on Mandy back in the day. And on the opposite side I wish I had said "yes" to things more, just in terms of living a life. I went around the world as a kid and some of those places I’ve never been back to. I wish I had been fully present. It’s hard when you’re a teenager, you don’t even understand that concept. I think I was so overwhelmed by the world around me that it took all I could muster just to put one foot in front of other.

It sounds like the last 10 years have taught you how to say "yes" and how to say "no." How do you make that calculation?

MM: I’m pretty good at trusting my gut. But I value myself more and I value my time. I’m innately a people pleaser and that’s something that I’ve been working on constructively the last few years. When I don’t want to do something or I’m not available, I try to honor that because it’s more important for me to take that time.

It's a new year and a lot of us like to make intentions. Is there anything you want to add to your life in 2019?

MM: Silly things like drink more water. But I’m much better at that now by taking baby steps and not going directly for the coffee. So, it started with having a glass of water in the morning and before I go to bed and then slowly but surely being more conscious of it.

Also, I want to be outside and hike more. I love hiking. I moved to a new part of town and I want to get to know the trails around where I live. Oh, and pledge to take a trip once a year where I hike a mountain.

Flip-side: Anything you want to do less of?

MM: Self doubt. Yeah. I’ve been really scared to make music for a long time and I have studio time booked as soon as I’m done with work this year. I’m going to be in the studio this March making music. So getting rid of that self doubt and whatever weird toxic feelings I have about my music from the past — or people from the past — and letting all that go. I'm marching forward.

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