Alexi is an actor, filmmaker, author, and an Olympic athlete. Her memoir, Bravey, with a foreword by Maya Rudolph, has received praise from Mindy Kaling, Richard Linklater, Jay Duplass, and many others. Alexi co-created and starred in the film OLYMPIC DREAMS, premiering at SXSW 2019 with distribution from IFC Films. In 2016 Alexi co-wrote, co-directed, and starred in the film TRACKTOWN. Alexi competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics, setting a Greek national record in the 10k with a time of 31:36.View the profile
Bill Hader (born June 7, 1978) is an American actor, comedian, writer, producer, and director. He is the creator, producer, writer, occasional director, and star of the HBO dark comedy series Barry (2018–present), for which he has won two and been nominated for three Emmy Awards.View the profile
About the talk
Olympian, actress, and author of the bestselling book BRAVEY, Alexi Pappas, in conversation with Emmy award-winning actor, filmmaker and creator/star of BARRY, Bill Hader. Alexi and Bill discuss their evolving relationship with mental health in their creative, professional, and personal lives, and on the lessons they’ve learned from mentors along the way.
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Hi, my name is Alexi Pappas and I'm an Olympian filmmaker asterisk, South by Southwest the lumps. And author of the book gravy with a foreword by Maya Rudolph. Brady is about my journey to the Olympics and pacing my creative dreams after having lost my mom just suicide. When I was four years old, it's also about my own experience with post-olympic depression and there's a chapter in the book about when I first met Bill Hader and how much is mentorship has meant to me, this conversation, you're about to see between Bill and me, is about finding mentors, grieving and managing mental health.
In high-pressure situations from Saturday Night Live to the Olympic. I hope you enjoy. I do want to start by just sharing how we know each other, because I think it's fun to share that we first crossed paths in 2018. And this is when we are in touch about a movie that I was putting together. Or end, I wrote about this experience in my book bravee. Okay, I'm going to reduce your part, which is the real feeling, okay? So, Okay, so All right. I was in a heavily air-conditioned Airbnb in Scottsdale Arizona when my phone rang hello. Is this Alexi? Yes,
this is Bill Hader, he said it like it was a question. Hi, I have fell out of the chair. I was sitting on. Can you hear me okay. Yes, I can. Bill continued out of breath. I'm at the top of the mountain, and it's pouring rain. And I'm wearing a Santa Claus costume. I'm in, I'm on set. I'm sorry, I've never done this before. I've never called someone like this. I don't normally do this, but I had to call you. I had to I'm calling you to tell you that I can't be in your movie. Oh, that's okay. I said it. Like I was happy that he couldn't be in my movie.
Bill could have told me anything, literally, anything, and it would have been. Okay. Just to hear his voice to hear him. Say my name was otherworldly. All I've ever want is for people. I admire to believe in me and maybe give me a chance. Usually this applies to coaches and older teammates, never too famous people. It's always felt to me like, celebrities live on a different planet when I very much want to visit and maybe even live on one day too. And when someone you admire from afar, says your name, the reality sets in that you are both people living here on this Earth and could possibly cross
paths. The last time, I felt like this was when I met Princess Belle at Disneyland in the world of Beauty, and the Beast, came to life and everything magic felt really real Okay, I'm not going to keep going but cool project I just I'm bummed out, you know, I can do it. Yeah. But I think that that like gift of confidence is like it's how you're I mean you know you can have mentors and you going to Mentor that you've never met like just people where you I don't know, you watch their movies
near like I want to be like that person or I want to like imitate them and I think you even the phone call made you like that to me like this it's like a gift of confidence and I was wondering like do you have did you have mentors like growing up or did you have like people or any interactions like this where you're like That has changed my life for that. I've decided could change my life for the people, in my family, my grandfather was on, what did your grandfather? What was your team? But
you look really young too. He was like 61 when he got a good he on you. You live like a like one house away from my grandparents day. So I kind of was like we went between both households growing up me and my sisters. and here just I just was just open and, and No matter what it was just like, no judgment. Like I remember coming to him insane. I really want to go find, you know what? I'm enough. Famous Monsters magazine magazine from the sixties and I wanted to see if this,
Buckshot had them, if they had reissues of them. And I was like 12 or something and he was in the Lake Golf and he was an engineer and all this stuff. And you know, never was like ready to what, you know you just went, okay? And then he was as invested in it as I was he went with magazine. Would you know what have that? You know what I mean? And it was just a genuine showing of love and affection. You know, I do my grandson wants this thing, I'm going to try to get it for him and I I love
the way that that made me feel and also just when we were reading he loved the reading and so he would say to take me to a bookstore and go. What do you have to get for school or Red Badge of Courage? You're looking to get some for yourself and I'd be like, what do you mean for myself? He's like to read you, going to, get to come to read for yourself. And I would go over to like the young adult section you tonight. all the books have bad words and sex and I got like a Stephen King books and he was like and and
they just gave me the confidence to like around to read that I can you know, And yeah. So It reminds me of my old pairs used to like make macaroni and cheese. They were like these babysitters that lives with us, because my dad was working, and they would be like, how's the macaroni and cheese tonight? This was one in particular Petra and I was like, she's taking me seriously and like there's going to be a variation, could there be in a macaroni and cheese? Just like, you know,
obviously I have a skin in this game today. Take care of what I think my grandfather was and You know, I was never talking down. I was always like a full from a young age and it was really great dream. You had seriously, you know, I mean, 21 years ago now and I moved here and not knowing very many people, and I was just a PA on set and stuff like that. You know, you know, picking up trash and been driving around the actors and getting coffee and stuff. And I remember at some
point finally, going like, I'm the only person who's going to take myself seriously, in this town. Like no one knows anything. And the only way they'll react to it is, if I just make stuff, So I need to figure out a way to make things cuz we just talking to people about it isn't getting me anywhere and so it was like you know, you just have to show them and then you know that awful feeling when you start writing the script. So you make it shorter doesn't come out the way you wanted to or whatever you get really discouraged
7 years or something. You know, just trying to get stuff made and, and watching every movie Under the Sun, but not really making stuff. And then it all changed for me. Cuz I went to Second City LA in March of 2003, and, you know, for the first time ever, I remember I was at this yet to audition to get into these higher levels and I did my audition and they said it was awfully wrong parking lot. We all sat on one end of the parking lot and the people would just call you over
and I'll leave. And I was like a horrible and I was having a lot of anxiety and then they brought me over there and And remember the guy I just want to tell you really good at that. And no one has said I was good at anything like that. Wasn't like with family member. What would it have met? It didn't mean the same thing coming from your grandpa at. These people write this person. It really doesn't was just like you're really really good and I just saw it. Oh, wow. And I was riding on that for
like Play Wheatus? Yeah, you did. I mean it also takes a certain kind of, I don't know what this world like vulnerability, but like you to put yourself in a position to maybe sell. And I think that that muscle is like, it's one that you grow and you keep exercising the one that like my style but we'll keep trying no better place can You know. With where you learn, how to do that, on a daily basis to Saturday Night Live. I mean, from Monday pitch meeting on your just An accusation to look like an idiot.
And you just keep doing it. And then like, I remember when Barry came out, we got it. We got like some bad reviews and I got bad reviews and I read it when I was like a listen that bad. but you know how you get bad reviews and you just kind of like okay, like you don't mind I would find things I agreed with you know, on the most aren't even though I don't really read that stuff cuz you also I just wanted to be like or not let it affect you know you just want to cuz you want to have like your
Any responsibility. But hope so. The thing in there, s m, l, my overtime was with confidence in your vision. You guys, we don't have to disagree or no one's right or wrong role will disagree, but it doesn't to be right or wrong. It's just to see it differently. And like when I like isn't what you like and that was the same thing about that shower. Usually when you do a show it's like you're trying to find people with the same kind of general you know, likes and dislikes and tone and they kind of get the thing that you're doing and that's
an allen. I was just, you know, so many people with different tastes and invoices and stuff and and in a lot of them are just completely different from each other. And so my virtue that you have people doing sketches that other people didn't like and vice-versa like that. But you had to just place Yeah, there was no, like, lack of respect for the people, you know, that his energy was like an eagle list son where you felt the Rays like by being around him and it like it just you know you probably still feel it today because you're still talking about
it, you know. You know, like it doesn't matter. No worries me know anything just kind of like this is what it is man. And never like this is unfair, how the hell does happen? I'm like a healthy guy. Always really that bad that I actually had a massive massive effect on me. You know, I'm as you can obviously relate to as well. You have this giant hurt someone, not in your life anymore and then you kind of go. I'm not used to but I know I felt like anywhere so I need to like, get my test again. Yeah,
it's so like yeah, yeah, I mean, you know, she took her own life and not like seeing that but I like a really young age it made. I was confused then, right? Because I didn't understand that, it wasn't that, like I didn't matter enough for her to stay, that's what I thought that I was like, I don't matter enough for her to stay. And so I will matter to everybody else and I think that was a challenging moment. But what I tried to choose to see the world as which I think you do. 2 is like okay Something's Happened and they're like sad and unfair like I think it is probably unfair that your
Grandpa got sick, you know? It's it feels like that but we can then choose to see the world is like a place that takes things from us and is not abundant or we can be like, okay this happened but we the world is still like abundant and we get to have everything else and I think I'm thinking even about your experience on SNL like you could have felt like it was a mutually exclusive thing. Your success in there is or you could be like well I'm actually just around another kind of Sundays like these performers that are very good and I get to be around them instead of I have to be around
them or it's like you know it's tight. Afraid of failing, so afraid of doing wrong. well, it wasn't until later that I, you know, start going to therapy and figuring out like You know, someone tells you you have an anxiety disorder and you're like whatever, like everybody is nervous, you know, give me a break. I just want to know where it was. It was just the fear of being on live television which was very anxiety-inducing. Don't stay awake last night host. I'm like a basket case before I start shooting before
we actually do the show like the whole week. I'm like, Is very nervous. Yeah, there's a fear of failing but also just really irrational, thoughts. Like, I remember being in the said, being on set during a sketch and the only thing I can hear are the people walking above the catwalk where all the lights are very hyper aware of what the lights about. Like I did hear the, my gamer doing The Californians, and all my, I just don't like reality in our actual reality, right? And like, that's okay.
But then making sure that it like connects with the actual reality and then doesn't limit the actual reality. I think. That's where like, we have, that's probably you. And I have like, you know, when our own different ways, but growing, because I for a long time I think I was trying to like solve some of my purse, my leak, internal problems with external Solutions, which like, drove me very far. Got me to the Olympics and this and that, but eventually, it will limit us. All of us have these anxieties, and if we truly play out, this is something I think it's like a sports psychologist. I
work with him. Whenever I have an anxiety like that, they asked me, what's the worst part about this? And what's the worst part about that? Usually gets to like a core sphere or whatever. And usually when you play it out, It's not that bad. Like even when we think about trying something new and more like I'm nervous about the bicycle. What's the worst part that? They say know that they reject. You the biggest life-changer for me, when I like had a post Olympic Depression was like, to realize, this isn't like a, it's an injury to my brain, it can heal like, it's not, it doesn't need
to be this. Like, like, I can like nail this down, get on a program and take care of it. And I think that all we ever want is to like how they like feel safe, taking care of things. And, you know, I've seen your advocacy for mental health and I think that it makes a huge difference because people just need to feel permission to like take care of the things I need to take care of and not feel so crazy for feeling crazy, right? A mental problem. You know, I know and I would think like oh I just get nervous or I worry a lot and so you know therapy and owned
it. Like medication is help me to write like just being able to try to lay him down like a very simple things. Like I was 40 when someone was like Hey you know I was like what right does that was an issue. I was drinking. I was out of my mind, right? And then you can when you learn these things, you can retroactively be a little bit more compassionate towards your your yesterday self. This is a thing that I am and I know what useful for me to address it now and I'm going to do it, you know. It's like it's almost like
yeah. It's almost like I don't know like like peas and their pants and then they accepted I peed in my pants. No one can point you to be like for you peed in your pants and you like, I know, I know. Yeah, but it's just saying that you have like that you have like a issue and not apologizing for it, you know, or just it's just having some objectivity but it's not the it's not the discount like really well in life and I'm happy, but I also like, you know, that a mental illness,
like I have a problem, you know, it's learning. So, Is there a brain tumor? I, I was just exhausted and this is anxiety. And then don't push it away when I push the way, makes it worse. So, you know, it's a faulty alarm in your body, you know? It's like your body. Constantly feels like it's under attack, you know, people by half an hour. Like all you used to break all the time or like that sings iety. Cuz I'm like this All it said, was someone going and I would just play.
Oh my God. This is, you know, why else would ever be saying to myself? Before I went on, SNL almost all the time and I think that's cool because it needs that like at its core, your body is probably rooting for you. And it's like it's giving you these false alarms because it is like, it's like a it's a it's like a child that's like, are we okay? Are we okay? And like, it's just waiting for you to be like, yeah, we're cool. Like I see you. There you are.
And just know that. That's the best thing is that also goes, how you feel, right now is not how you will feel forever. It was like, actually broken leg or like a sprained, ankle. No one would look at you and being Fix this tomorrow. Like they would understand that it's real. It's just that you don't wear a cast over your head and so right. And so sometimes it's the most disorienting thing is when you feel like the way the world sees you in the way you see yourself are at odds that's like the most you know
that's what I do when I'm really nervous. Like I was on Stephen Colbert and I'm laughing the entire time super hard and it's because I'm terrified. I'm so nervous. I'm like so. But that day I don't know what it just. I was fine. Fine. And then the minute I got on my mark before I went out there just was like crawling on my face and I was like, all right, there you are. I think about it, the more that you're allowing it to be that the way the world sees you as more. Like, it's like finding a little bit more of a middle ground because
you're more and more honest about your own life. If it's late. It's like a drink before you would want to try to not be that way. And I've been try to like control it and then weirdo. Best thing you can do is, is what I'm learning. And here's one thing, it's like, you manage it, and you learn more about it everyday and see what I mean about it. Each time you can I get a better handle on, you know. So And everything's like a text. And I felt like this
pandemic, especially for me, blue were like the first nine months of this damn it. Really, really rough for me mentally. And then you you're able to kind of go to be in the moment and trying to distract yourself and in having a confidence that you'll know it's going to go away that feeling like you said all doing okay. Well I want to thank you Bill and I just your like mentorship to me which I think I've wholeheartedly like labeled and adopted myself into this bill tradition. But
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