In an emotional appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” Monday, the actor explained how playing “Rent” composer Jonathan Larson in the film helped him to process the grief he experienced after losing his mother, Lynn, to pancreatic cancer in 2019.
“I love talking about her, by the way, so if I cry, it’s only a beautiful thing,” Garfield explained. “This is all the unexpressed love, the grief that will remain with us until we pass because we never get enough time with each other, no matter if someone lives till 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,” he added. “And I told her every day. We all told her every day. She was the best of us.”
Directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Tick, Tick... Boom!” follows Larson during his struggling artist days in New York before he wrote “Rent.” Approaching his 30th birthday without a major theatrical credit to his name, the composer finds himself at a personal and professional crossroads.
Watch Andrew Garfield’s chat with Stephen Colbert below.
“Rent” was a smash on Broadway and influenced a generation of theater artists, Miranda included. Sadly, Larson himself never got to witness the musical’s success. He died in 1996 at age 35, just hours before “Rent” was slated to give its first off-Broadway preview performance.
In his chat with Colbert, Garfield compared his mother to Larson, as both were “warriors for art.”
“I got to sing Jonathan Larson’s unfinished song while simultaneously singing for my mother and her unfinished song,” he said. “I’m indebted to everyone who’s brought me to this place so I can honor the most beautiful person that I’ve ever experienced in my life through my art and use it as a way to heal, use it as a way to sew up the wounds.”
Garfield, a 2017 Academy Award nominee for “Hacksaw Ridge,” previously opened up about Lynn’s death in a September interview with Variety. He recalled nearly turning down the role of disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” after learning of his mother’s cancer diagnosis, but opted to sign on for the project at her insistence.
“She said, ‘I would struggle with you not doing it on account of me,’” he said. “I told her, ‘OK, but promise me when it’s time to come home you’ll let me know.’”
The actor went on to recall how he left the “Eyes of Tammy Faye” set to spend “the most profound two weeks of my life” with his mother shortly before her death.
“The good news about me and her is that we left nothing unsaid,” he told Variety. “To be with her and my dad and my brother, all of her friends, my nephews. It was full of grace in the midst of the terrible tragedy.”