Florence Pugh is being defended by fans after her comments about experiencing imposter syndrome sparked a mixed reaction online.
In an interview discussing one of her first major acting roles, which was the 2018 BBC adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, Florence got candid about feeling as if she was “not supposed to be there” due to her lack of professional background in drama.
While she’s now a multi-award winning actor who has starred in an array of acclaimed films, like Little Women, Midsommar, and Don’t Worry Darling, Florence actually had no formal training — unlike many of her peers in the industry.
And as a result, Florence detailed the feeling of experiencing imposter syndrome, which is the inability to believe that your success is deserved or earned because of your skills. People who experience this feel as though they aren’t as capable as others in their field.
“We had two weeks of rehearsal — I had never done a play before. I’d never done that version of working before,” Florence detailed about her experience preparing for King Lear, alongside the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, and Emily Watson.
“I was in the room with all of these greats, and Anthony Hopkins knew the play off by heart from the very beginning,” she said.
When asked if the experience was “daunting” for her, Florence admitted it was “absolutely terrifying.”
“I constantly thought that at some point, someone was gonna be like, ‘Ugh, we should’ve gone for someone who had a theater background,’” she said.
The interviewer then interjected and said, “It comes back to the drama school thing. You didn’t have the formal training.” Florence agreed in response, before revealing that it was during the first King Lear script read that she felt out of place, after noticing how differently the other actors had prepared for the rehearsal.
“In those moments, when other people process things and work things differently to how you do, it’s very easy for you to suddenly feel like you’re not supposed to be there or that you don’t have the right skillset to attack something like they’re attacking.”
However, her comments were seemingly misinterpreted by some Twitter users, who questioned how she could feel out of place due to her privileged background. If you didn’t know, Florence, whose siblings are also actors, attended two private schools in Oxford — one of which has alumni including Laurence Olivier and Emilia Clarke.
“I’m curious how ‘imposter syndrome’ works when you attend two incredibly posh private schools, and have two siblings who are actors too,” read one viral tweet, which has since been deleted.
In view of this, some Twitter users began to discuss Florence’s industry contacts, arguing that her leap to success without any formal training was representative of the way “working class talent” is typically diminished in the UK acting field.
But, as many other users went on to point out, Florence wasn’t denying that her career might have benefitted from “having the financial means” to pursue acting full-time. She was rather explaining how she’s sometimes felt as though she didn’t belong for that very reason, which is exactly what imposter syndrome entails.
“Imposter syndrome is *made* for that situation. When you have a whole lot of unearned privilege and you have no idea if you’re actually any good at the things people are employing you to do, or if you just got them because of your background,” one person wrote in defense of Florence.
“‘Impostor Syndrome’ is not about upbringing, but of doubting your place in society, doubting your self-worth, doubting the love others heap unto you. And it’s sentiments similar to yours that make people like Florence feel like an impostor,” echoed another.
“She’s from a privileged background thus questioning if she’s an imposter even though she’s a great actress,” said a third.
Other users went on to note that while the conversations about privilege are certainly valid in some instances, Florence’s success is ultimately down to her talent.
“If you want to have a convo about how Florence’s career benefited from having the financial means to pursue only acting full time, then go ahead, but her success is not due to any industry connections or nepotism. People just believed in her talent,” one fan wrote.