Andrew Garfield’s recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert featured lots of singing and stories about Lin-Manuel Miranda, which is to be expected from an actor promoting his new musical. But the conversation around tick, tick… BOOM!, a musical biography based around the work of Jonathan Larson, the author of Rent, eventually turned toward grief.
It’s not exactly a surprising turn, given both the subject matter and the people having the conversation. Larson died tragically young at 35 from a treatable heart condition, the morning of Rent’s first Off-Broadway preview performance. Death is part of the story, which connected with Garfield, who tragically lost his mother in 2019. But it’s a subject he’s happy to bring up, and starting around 4:19 in the video above, he tells Colbert why.
“I love talking about this,” Garfield says with a sad smile. He defines grief as “the unexpressed love” we feel for a person, even a person who was well-aware of being loved every day. “We never get enough time with each, right? No matter if someone lives until 60, 15, or 99. So I hope this grief stays with me, because it’s all the unexpressed love that I didn’t get to tell her. And I told her every day. We all told her every day.”
It’s truly moving sentiment. A consummate host, Colbert lets Garfield process his grief. His specific question, about using art to process grief, is something that Colbert has experienced himself. In a 2015 essay for GQ, Colbert discussed the plane crash that killed his father and two brothers when he was just ten years old. Doing theater in college, Colbert described “sharing my pain with everyone around me,” saying that acting was “therapy as much as it was anything.”
It’s not that art can lessen the grief, both Garfield and Colbert seem to feel. But it can help make sense of the impossible.