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New must adds for your reading list. Make it real. A new law class sends students out to see where theory meets the street. Brain surgery? I was in the middle of my very busy life—I had no time for brain surgery. But, finally, I settled down and signed. And then I was unconscious. For the next three hours, surgeons went about repairing my brain. This would not be my last surgery, and it would not be the worst. I was twenty-four years old. I grew up in Oxford and rarely gave a thought to my health. Nearly all I thought about was acting.
My dad was a sound designer. My mother was, and is, a businesswoman, the vice-president of marketing for a global management consultancy. Our parents, who wanted everything for us, struggled to keep up with the fees. I have no clear memory of when I first decided to be an actor. When I went with my dad to theatres, I was entranced by backstage life: the gossip, the props, the costumes, all the urgent and whispered hubbub in the near darkness. When the curtain came down, I stood on my seat and clapped wildly over my head.
I was hooked. I think I took the Pygmalion story as a sign of how, and with enough rehearsal and a good director, you can become someone else. He knew plenty of actors and, to his mind, they were habitually neurotic and unemployed.
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My school, in Oxford, the Squirrel School, was idyllic, orderly, and sweet. When I was five, I got the lead part in a play. When it came time to take the stage and deliver my lines, though, I forgot everything. I just stood there, center stage, stock-still, taking it all in. In the front row, the teachers were trying to help by mouthing my lines. But I just stood there, with no fear, very calm. With time, I got better at acting. I even remembered my lines. But I was hardly a prodigy.
But I kept at it. Those went to the tall, willowy, impossibly blond girls. After graduation, I made myself a promise: for one year, I would take only roles with some promise. But I was determined: one year of no bad productions, no plays above a bar. In the spring of , my agent called to say that auditions were being held in London for a new HBO series.
My Stroke of Luck: How I Lost My Mind and Found My Sense of Humor.
The part called for an otherworldly, bleached-blond woman of mystery. To prepare, I learned these very strange lines for two scenes, one in Episode 4, in which my brother goes to hit me, and one in Episode 10, in which I walk into a fire and survive, unscathed. In those days, I thought of myself as healthy. Sometimes I got a little light-headed, because I often had low blood pressure and a low heart rate.
But it all seemed manageable, part of the stress of being an actor and of life in general. Now I think that I might have been experiencing warning signs of what was to come. Four days later, I got a call. I was told to fly to Los Angeles in three weeks and read for Benioff and Weiss and the network executives.
My Stroke of Luck - How I Lost My Mind and Found My Sense of Humor (Hardcover)
I started working out intensely to prepare. They flew me business class. I stole all the free tea from the lounge. At the audition, I tried not to look when I spotted another actor——tall, blond, willowy, beautiful——walking by. I read two scenes in a dark auditorium, for an audience of producers and executives. In retrospect, I could have ruined it all. I could hardly catch my breath. I went back to the hotel, where some people invited me to a party on the roof.
Rather, using a technique called endovascular coiling, the surgeon introduced a wire into one of the femoral arteries, in the groin; the wire made its way north, around the heart, and to the brain, where they sealed off the aneurysm. The operation lasted three hours.
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When I woke, the pain was unbearable. I had no idea where I was. My field of vision was constricted. There was a tube down my throat and I was parched and nauseated. They moved me out of the I. If I made it that long with minimal complications, my chances of a good recovery were high. Instead, nonsense words tumbled out of my mouth and I went into a blind panic. I am an actor; I need to remember my lines. I was suffering from a condition called aphasia, a consequence of the trauma my brain had suffered.
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Even as I was muttering nonsense, my mum did me the great kindness of ignoring it and trying to convince me that I was perfectly lucid. But I knew I was faltering.
In my worst moments, I wanted to pull the plug. I asked the medical staff to let me die. My job—my entire dream of what my life would be—centered on language, on communication. Without that, I was lost. I was sent back to the I. I was able to speak. I knew my name—all five bits. I was continually reminded of just how fortunate I was. One month after being admitted, I left the hospital, longing for a bath and fresh air.
The doctors said, though, that it was small and it was possible it would remain dormant and harmless indefinitely.
We would just keep a careful watch. And recovery was hardly instant. There was still the pain to deal with, and morphine to keep it at bay. The show must go on! Even before we began filming Season 2, I was deeply unsure of myself. I was often so woozy, so weak, that I thought I was going to die. I sipped on morphine in between interviews.
Vanity comes with the job. I spent way too much time thinking about how I looked. Read: George R. The reaction to Season 1 was, of course, fantastic, though I had very little knowledge then of how the world kept score.
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