Emily Blunt — From Stutter to Stagecraft

Most people know Emily Blunt as a Golden Globe-nominated film and stage actress, who recently won accolades for playing the character of the beloved nanny in the Mary Poppins Returns. However, between the ages of 7 and 14 she developed a crippling stutter that had her struggling to even hold a simple conversation.

“I was a smart kid and had a lot to say, but I just couldn’t say it,” she claimed in an interview for W Magazine. “I never thought I’d be able to sit and talk to someone like I’m talking to you right now.”

For Blunt, it was one junior high teacher in particular that she claims helped her overcome her fear of speaking by encouraging her to try out for the school play. At first, Blunt resisted the idea, but the teacher wouldn’t give up on her and coaxed her to take acting lessons and experiment with different accents and character voices to help express herself. In the end, those efforts paid off for her immensely. In addition to her incredibly successful career as an actress, she also became a member of the board of directors for the American Institute for Stuttering.

Some of the other celebrities that overcame stuttering spectacularly are Marilyn MonroeJames Earl Jones (Darth Vader,) and Shaquille O’Neal!

6 things you can do to help someone that stutters

Stuttering may seem like an easy problem that can be solved with some simple advice, but for many adults, it can be a chronic life-long disorder. Here are some ways that you, the listener, can help.

  1. Don’t make remarks like: “Slow down,” “Take a breath,” or “Relax.” Such simplistic advice can be felt as demeaning and is not helpful.
  2. Let the person know by your manner that you are listening to what he or she says — not how they say it.
  3. Maintain natural eye contact and wait patiently and naturally until the person is finished.
  4. You may be tempted to finish sentences or fill in words. Try not to do so.
  5. Be aware that those who stutter usually have more trouble controlling their speech on the telephone. Please be patient in this situation. If you pick up the phone and hear nothing, be sure it is not a person who stutters trying to start the conversation before you hang up.
  6. Speak in an unhurried way — but not so slowly as to sound unnatural. This promotes good communication with everyone.