Andrew Garfield sees grief as a beautiful thing

The actor spoke about his late mother and how he sang her “unfinished song” in his new movie ‘Tick, Tick... Boom.’

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 15: Andrew Garfield poses at the New York Premiere of A Netflix film "...
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Grief, Andrew Garfield explained, is just unexpressed love. During a recent appearance on Late Night with Stephen Colbert, the actor spoke movingly about his late mother, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2019. "I love talking about her, by the way, so if I cry, it's only a beautiful thing,” Garfield said after chuckling wistfully and immediately choking up when Colbert asked him about how the actor’s loss was connected to his role in the Netflix film, Tick, Tick... Boom.

"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 til 60, 15, or 99,” Garfield said. "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, she was the best of us." Garfield’s brother and father were also in the audience during his appearance that night.

In Tick, Tick… Boom, Garfield plays Jonathan Larson, a struggling composer and playwright who died unexpectedly on the night of the first off-Broadway preview performance for his musical, Rent, which would go on to become one of the most revered and successful shows of all time. Garfield noted that his mother, like Larson, was an artist: “They knew the power of art, and they knew the power of leaving the world in a slightly more beautiful state than when they found it."

“I got to sing Jonathan Larson’s unfinished song, while simultaneously,” Garfield said, before choking up again, “singing for my mother and her unfinished song.” The sentiment, and Garfield’s profound outlook on the devastation of loss, may resonate particularly at this time of year: as countless families across the country gather for Thanksgiving for the first time in two years, many will be doing so with certain chairs empty for loved ones who have passed. To grieve them is to have loved them.

The film is about “this ticking clock that we all have — that we all know somewhere deep down that life is sacred, life is short,” Garfield said. “And we better just be here as much as possible with each other, holding onto each other.”