Maranda Pleasant: What inspires you the most?
Tyler Blackburn: I know this might sound a little cliche but, I feel like everybody is searching for the same thing, and that is truth. I think that’s sort of the journey to define that which is most inspirational. Even in acting, when I watch an actor who I find to be so truthful in their craft, or a musician who gets up there and sings so truthfully—I like that. I really like individualism based on truth. That’s something I try to think about. What do I actually think about that, what do I actually feel right now? As opposed what should I feel.
MP: Love that. Powerful. What is it that makes you vulnerable?
TB: I’m very sensitive. It’s always been something I’m very in tune with. I am very emotional. Sometimes to the point of where I just want to hide away, because I can’t get a handle on myself. I don’t mind that idea. Vulnerability is kind of one of those things of, how do I really feel in this moment?
Wow, this is when I’m the most vulnerable. Obviously when I’m put in a situation where there is a lot of attention on me, it’s this weird dichotomy—I like it, because I feel like I’m a natural born performer. But I do feel the most vulnerable.
As life goes on I’m learning to trust myself more, so I am more comfortable— you have to be, doing things in front of people, especially when there’s lots of pressure. I have to make decisions. When you’re put in a position where you’re having to decide, Is this a good decision? Is this the right decision for everybody involved?—it makes me feel a little unsteady, unsure.
MP: Wow. I really appreciate that level of honesty. How do you process pain?
TB: I don’t have one go-to way to deal because circumstances change. One thing I’m recognizing more and more in myself—and looking to change—is going down more of a self-destructive path when I feel pain. I’m trying to avoid that as much as possible. That is an impulse, when I feel out of control. We don’t really understand why we feel what we do in that moment, so it’s almost like I’m trying to take control, even if it’s bad control. I do try to experience the emotions as they come, but sometimes it becomes just too much.
I lost my cousin. It’s been about a month. He’s a year younger than me. He OD’d. It was three days before my birthday. I grew up with this guy. It was such an intense scenario. I went through so many emotions. It kind of ran the gamut of anger and sadness and self-destruction and all those things.
MP: I understand.
TB: Even just talking about it, that’s very cathartic, too. That’s one way of doing that. Actually putting it out as a truth as opposed to trying to conceal it from yourself.
MP: I’m with you. I tend to isolate. Put on the Damien Rice and go paint and isolate for days and drink too much. [laughing] I get it. I’m learning more positive ways of handling myself.
TB: Absolutely. I don’t know about you but I look back at my sort of wilder days where I was doing lots of drugs, and I thought I was just trying to have a good time, but I was covering up so much pain. I haven’t done any drugs for five years now. Now I’m actually presented with these problems and I’m looking at them differently. I see even the small things. Like you said, Damien Rice—he’s perfect for those moments!
MP: You can get really f*cked up on Damien Rice!
TB: Oh my god, I know! I love the album O.
MP: When you run out of Damien Rice you always switch over to Glen Hansard. You said you’ve been clean for five years?
TB: I haven’t done any drugs for five years. I don’t even smoke pot anymore.
MP: That’s great. How was that process for you? Was there a wake up call?
TB: It mostly starts with a decision. I was inching towards making that final decision but I would always retract. It became a vicious cycle. I started realizing that I was no longer having fun with it. It was all-consuming. I had support from my girlfriend at the time. She didn’t do drugs. That was really helpful. I did do a sort of a detox program. I didn’t go to rehab or anything like that. It was a lighter detox program that really eliminates drugs and toxins from your body. Keeps the cravings and stuff from coming back. That made it a lot easier. And then just really reshaping myself.
It’s just so funny—as soon as I did that, that’s when I started booking acting work, which was my dream. So many things have gotten so much better. My life is just in a completely different place and I’m so happy about that.
MP: Deep bow. That is not an easy thing to do. Tell me what you’re passionate about? I heard you speak out against bullying?
TB: My interests lie in nurturing children. That’s part of the reason why the bullying thing has become an aspect of my life. I was bullied a lot growing up. I know firsthand the amount of life that is sucked out of you every time that happens, and how it affected me as a young adult. I was asked if I wanted to do a campaign through Seventeen magazine. And I was like, “Wow, yeah, I would like to.”
It was one of the first moments that I realized that being on a TV show didn’t stop when the director says, “Cut.” There’s a responsibility level that comes along with being a public figure. I can use this for really cool things. That really [allows] me to be very honest about my experiences.
I used to want to kill myself because I had lost so much of who I knew I was because of all the other invalidation from people. It sends you spiraling where you’re like, Wait, I know I have this quality, I know what my integrity is—until you’re being fed all this false information about yourself. You start to wonder why. You don’t feel good about yourself because you no longer believe in yourself.
It’s so important for everybody at every age, but especially kids. High school is a really strange time—you’re not a kid, you’re not an adult. You’re about to be an adult, you’re going to have to make some really intense decisions. It’s a really pivotal time to have as much self-confidence as you possibly can. Even if that means you have one friend who supports you completely. I’m sort of ranting but…
MP: I like your rant! Keep going.
TB: Thanks! I just feel like that spoke to me a lot. I know that the demographic for the show [Pretty Little Liars is pretty much high school students. Not all, but I know that’s a big part of it. I find that again, it’s beneficial to be as truthful as possible. I know that when that magazine issue came out, I got so many tweets about that, saying, Thank you for being honest. It was just really great.
I got to go to an anti-bullying rally in Washington, DC. That was really cool. Parents spoke whose kids have killed themselves because of bullying. It makes me sad. I was there and all the people on the panel were there to raise awareness about that. It’s fulfilling to me in a way that I had never experienced before. I love to act, I love that aspect of my life, but the fact that that sort of parlayed into this other sort of feeling of fulfillment was unbelievable. Now I’m Global Ambassador for Stomp Out Bully. I don’t get to do as much work with them as I would like to.
MP: Thank you for that, by the way. I was suicidal for years in my teens and even almost up into college. Just because of bullying. It doesn’t take long to start believing that stuff. Just living in fear and all kinds of self-worth issues—you don’t shake that off. It takes years to clear that.
TB: It does. In a lot of ways, certain things, it feels like they’re never going to go away. The best thing to do is continue to ask questions, look that fear in the eye.
I feel like from a very early age, we know who we are as individuals. I love when I see parents with their kids in these crazy outfits and they’re like, “That’s what they wanted to wear.” Those small things are so important.
That’s why I think children need to be nurtured for what they are as opposed to what you want them to be. I think that’s when those ideas come into your head of like, What should I feel in this moment? It’s because someone told you, “Your instinct was incorrect.” And you’re like, Why? Why is that wrong?
MP: What projects can we support you in right now?
TB: We just wrapped up the season of Pretty Little Liars. We’ve been working pretty hard on that. I am working on music presently, also through ABC Family. I’m recording some really great tracks right now.
MP: That’s right, you’re a musician.
TB: Mostly a singer. I just recently started writing lyrics. It’s been a new venture for me. I’m really proud of [what] I’m doing musically. The new season of Pretty Little Liars comes out around January 5th.