'I have experienced a lot of pain': The Office star Rainn Wilson, 57, lays bare 'traumatic' abuse he suffered as a child in a 'loveless home' – as he opens up about his secret battle with depression while filming hit comedy

  • Post category:news
  • Reading time:8 min(s) read

  • Wilson, 57, was abandoned by mom as a toddler and raised in a ‘loveless’ home
  • Actor was ‘so unhappy’ during The Office because of ‘chronic dissatisfaction’
  • Starred as Dwight Schrute in the smash-hit series over nine seasons

The Office star Rainn Wilson has revealed how the abuse and trauma he faced during his childhood caused long-lasting mental health struggles – which ultimately affected his career as a actor.

Wilson found international fame with his iconic character Dwight Schrute in the smash-hit series, The Office, over nine seasons from 2005 to 2013.

However, the 57-year-old has since revealed that despite his natural comedic talent helping him to become a millionaire star – he has had to undergo 22 years of therapy to undo the damage caused to his wellbeing during his youth.

Opening up on Steven Bartlett’s The Diary of A CEO podcast, the actor stated: ‘I experienced a lot of pain in my life, and a lot of suffering with anxiety and depression and addiction. As I dove into recovery and the therapeutic process, I can pin that squarely on a lot of gross imbalances and trauma that I suffered as a child.’

Bad memories: The Office star Rainn Wilson has revealed how the abuse and trauma he faced during his childhood lead to his battles with depression and addiction

Bad memories: The Office star Rainn Wilson has revealed how the abuse and trauma he faced during his childhood lead to his battles with depression and addiction

Breakout role: Wilson found international fame after playing iconic character Dwight Schrute in the smash-hit series, The Office, over nine seasons from 2005 to 2013

Breakout role: Wilson found international fame after playing iconic character Dwight Schrute in the smash-hit series, The Office, over nine seasons from 2005 to 2013

‘It’s important to excavate and honor the pain we went through, the lies that we were told, the gaslighting that we might have undergone, religious trauma as well, all kinds of different traumas that we suffer.’

The Rocker star explained that his mother ‘took off’ before he turned two, leaving him to be raised by his father.

After an impulsive move to the ‘jungles of Nicaragua when I was three years old’, Rainn and his father then settled down in Washington State in time for him to start kindergarten.

Wilson revealed that despite being raised with the Baha’i faith community (which believes in the unity and equality of humanity, and in one God), his childhood was absent of love and filled with ‘rage’ and ‘gaslighting’.

After his father remarried, Wilson recalled being raised in a ‘loveless shell of a house’ where he encountered ‘lots of different kinds of abuse’.

‘Abandoned toddler, that’ll f**k you up, and there was this weird gaslighting mind f**k,’ he quipped.

He claimed he became cut off from his emotions by the time he reached teen age because his father and stepmom didn’t know how to navigate their own feelings, and therefore failed to teach him how to do so.

Explaining that his own father had endured a traumatic childhood, Wilson stated that it made his dad unable to parent in the way his son had needed.

Rocky relationship: The Rocker star explained that his mother 'took off' before he turned two, leaving him to be raised by his father

Rocky relationship: The Rocker star explained that his mother ‘took off’ before he turned two, leaving him to be raised by his father

Sad time: Wilson revealed that his childhood was absent of love, and filled instead with 'rage' and 'gaslighting'

Sad time: Wilson revealed that his childhood was absent of love, and filled instead with ‘rage’ and ‘gaslighting’

He recalled being raised around constant ‘gaslighting’ due to the fact his father and stepmom was switch from moments of ‘rage’ during arguments to being giving praise and worshipping within the Baha’i faith.

The Meg actor admitted that his home life ultimately pushed him to turn to acting because he was naturally drawn to an environment where he found ‘acceptance’ and ‘love’ as a result of his natural talent. 

Reflecting on the fact that many comedic greats have also suffered in their past, Wilson stated: ‘There’s a reason why so many comedians come from painful backgrounds because comedy is what you plug in to shift your perspective away from pain and trauma just like gratitude takes you away from depression.

‘You see the great comedians of the age and how much suffering they went through in their lives, but comedy became the necessary thing to plug into their perspective in order to carry [on moving] forward.’

The star shared his belief that going through a less than ideal childhood ultimately provided him with the drive to succeed in his chosen career.

‘This is the curious thing, I’m grateful for it, because if I had a happy, well-balanced childhood, I don’t know what my career would have been,’ he explained. ‘It certainly wouldn’t have been a successful actor.’

Struggles: After his father remarried, Wilson recalled being raised in a 'loveless shell of a house' where he encountered 'lots of different kinds of abuse'

Struggles: After his father remarried, Wilson recalled being raised in a ‘loveless shell of a house’ where he encountered ‘lots of different kinds of abuse’

Reflecting: Actor has had to undergo 22 years of therapy to undo the damage caused to his wellbeing during his youth

Reflecting: Actor has had to undergo 22 years of therapy to undo the damage caused to his wellbeing during his youth

He continued: ‘These confluences of pain and difficulty and abuse and neglect, they caused me a lot of suffering later on but at the same time they caused me to be driven and the best version of myself… they made me funny.’

The star struggled with ‘addiction, depression and anxiety’ into his adulthood, and not even the success of The Office could help bring the inner peace he craved.

Just like Dwight Schrute didn’t think being the assistant to the regional manager was enough, Wilson didn’t believe that having one of the main roles on a hit sitcom was enough. 

Finding focus: The actor admitted that his home life influenced his pursuit of acting

Finding focus: The actor admitted that his home life influenced his pursuit of acting

‘There were times that I really struggled and I really wasn’t happy because it wasn’t enough,’ he stated. 

The actor then admitted realizing that he had the ‘greatest job’ but still ‘spent a lot of unnecessary time in anxious discontent when I should have been enjoying it’.

Wilson added: ‘It didn’t make any sense because society had told me that once you achieve all these things, you will be happy and it’s bulls**t.’ 

Explaining why he has chosen to be open about the fact he wasn’t happy while filming the show, Wilson insisted that it was important for listeners to understand that even someone who has ‘officially made it’ can still be deeply unhappy. 

The Seattle native said that at the time he was a victim of the disease of more as he focused on what he did not have instead of savoring his success.

However, he has chosen to look at the positives stating: ‘My chronic dissatisfaction fueled my spiritual drive, and fueled my career drive, and my ambition because I wanted more.’

The star also wanted to make it clear that he has nothing but the highest appreciation for all those who helped to make The Office a success.

Opening up: The 57-year-old actor revealed that he was 'mostly unhappy' during filming due to his mental health struggles

Opening up: The 57-year-old actor revealed that he was ‘mostly unhappy’ during filming due to his mental health struggles

‘I just need to speak to how deeply gratified I am, that all of us are, that The Office has brought so much serenity and peace and love and upliftment and inspiration to people,’ he began. ‘Getting on a TV show is one of the hardest things in the world’.

He continued: ‘And then getting on one that last, and then getting on one that last and is good and then getting on one that last and is good and still has a cultural impact 10 year after it ended – talk about hitting the lottery. We had no idea it would have this kind of impact.’

The Office aired on NBC for nine seasons from 2005 to 2013 and turned the likes of Steve Carell and John Krasinski into household names.

It follows the office lives of Dunder Mifflin employees working at the fictional paper company’s Scranton, Pennsylvania-based branch.

Wilson’s character Dwight Schrute is not only a paper salesman but also a devoted assistant to regional manager Michael Scott (Carell). 

SNL alum Greg Daniels adapted the series from the UK version created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, but it was given a lighter feel.

It’s shot in single-camera, mockumentary style and features the comedic writing talents of Mindy Kaling, B.J. Novak and Paul Lieberstein.

Big hit: The Office turned the likes of Steve Carell and John Krasinski into household names; (L-R) Carell, Krasinski and Wilson in The Office

Big hit: The Office turned the likes of Steve Carell and John Krasinski into household names; (L-R) Carell, Krasinski and Wilson in The Office

Fan-favorite: Wilson's character Dwight Schrute is not only a paper salesman but also a devoted assistant to regional manager Michael Scott (Carell)

Fan-favorite: Wilson’s character Dwight Schrute is not only a paper salesman but also a devoted assistant to regional manager Michael Scott (Carell)

Wilson, Carell, Krasinski, Novak and actress Jenna Fischer are billed as the show’s main cast, but it also features performances by Kaling, Lieberstein, Ellie Kemper, Ed Helms and Angela Kinsey among others.

The series finale, which received critical acclaim, originally aired on May 16, 2013 and was viewed by an estimated 5.69 million viewers. 

Despite going off the air a decade ago, The Office was the most-watched show on Netflix during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

It racked up 57.1 billion total minutes of viewing, which made it the top streamed show in the U.S, according to Nielsen. 

But it moved exclusively to NBC’s streaming service Peacock in January 2021, with the licensing deal costing a reported $500 million. 




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