James Norton, the acclaimed British actor and star of AMC’s “McMafia” and BBC’s “Happy Valley,” has spoken out about the importance of therapists for stage actors following a performance of “A Little Life” at the National Theatre in London.

The play, which is an adaptation of Hanya Yanagihara’s best-selling novel, follows the lives of four college friends as they navigate the challenges of adulthood in New York City. The story delves deeply into issues of trauma, abuse, and mental health, touching on topics that can be difficult for both actors and audiences alike.

Norton, who attended the production as a guest, emphasized the importance of having therapists on hand to support cast members during performances of such sensitive material. He noted that the emotional intensity of “A Little Life” could easily become overwhelming for actors, leading to burnout or even post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Acting is a very intensive and immersive experience,” Norton said. “When you’re performing material like this, you’re essentially living those experiences on stage. It can be incredibly draining, and it’s important for actors to have a support system in place.”

He added that having therapists available backstage could not only benefit the cast, but also allow the production to delve even deeper into the emotional complexities of the story.

“Having therapists on hand can create an environment where actors feel safe to really explore the depths of their characters and the story,” Norton said. “It can help us bring even more nuance and authenticity to our performances.”

Norton’s comments come amidst a growing concern for the mental health of performers in the entertainment industry. In recent years, there has been an increased focus on the wellbeing of actors, especially those performing in high-pressure environments like Broadway or the West End.

The issue came to a head in 2017, when British actor David Mumeni created a campaign called “Everyone’s Talking About Jamie,” which aimed to provide support for actors during the rehearsal process. The campaign was inspired by Mumeni’s own experiences as an actor, during which he struggled with depression and anxiety.

Since then, several productions have implemented support systems for their cast members. The musical “Dear Evan Hansen,” for example, offers “wellness checks” to its actors before and after performances, as well as access to therapists and social workers.

As for “A Little Life,” Norton’s comments have sparked a conversation about the need for therapists in stage productions that handle sensitive subject matter. While some have criticized the idea as unnecessary or overly indulgent, others see it as a crucial way to keep actors safe and healthy.

“For actors, emotions are our tools,” said actress Keira Knightley in a recent interview. “We have to be able to access them in order to tell the story. But we also need to know how to manage them, how to put them aside when we’re offstage. Having therapists or counselors available can help us do that.”

Norton himself is no stranger to difficult material; in “McMafia,” he played a young British man caught up in the world of organized crime. He said that while the show’s subject matter was intense, the production team made sure to provide resources for the actors.

“We had consultants on set who could give us advice on how to navigate some of the more difficult scenes,” he said. “And we had a lot of support from the crew and the producers. It made a big difference.”

For Norton, the bottom line is that actors need to take care of themselves in order to do their best work. “We need to be able to show up and be present for our audience,” he said. “And sometimes, that means looking after ourselves first.”