Ginger Gonzaga Shares Her Self-Care SecretsThe Marvel actor is all about doing what it takes to care for her mental health.
With 15 years in the acting game filled with some exciting cable television roles, Ginger Gonzaga is savoring this moment in the spotlight. As Nikki Ramos in Marvel’s She-Hulk series, Gonzaga is front and center as Jennifer Walters’ best friend who (mini spoiler ahead!) infiltrates the Intelligencia hate group. On March 1, Gonzaga takes the lead in True Lies, the new CBS series inspired by the 1994 spy comedy movie.
It might seem like Gonzaga is under more pressure as her acting credits continue to grow, but the actor is focusing on the excitement, power, and joy that comes from these roles, she says. Here, the mental health advocate opens up about what works for her, from learning the importance of speaking up and getting enough sleep to why her nickname is “human resources.”
[This interview originally appeared in an August 2022 edition of the Wondermind Newsletter. Sign up here to never miss these candid conversations.]
WM: How are you doing lately?
Ginger Gonzaga: I am well, but discombobulated, forever in a vortex of not knowing what my schedule is. But all things considered, especially post-pandemic, I feel a lot better than usual. [My schedule] is not something that I ever have control over—even when I do have a job. I've never really been able to adjust. It’s hard to plan things [and] be like, “Oh, I'm gonna go on a trip,” or “I'm gonna be at the library for four hours.” It's just not a possibility, but also, I wouldn't trade it for anything else.
WM: When you get those breaks, how do you take advantage of them since it is so hard to plan ahead?
GG: I'm trying to be better about looking at the macro of my life and reminding myself this always happens. I'm always gonna be in a state of not really knowing [my schedule], so how can I always be ready? Because the other side of it is I have so many days off, and then I won't do anything. And then something pops out immediately, and I have to be ready [for this job opportunity].
[I try] to give myself permission for things. Like, I'm not lazy just because I'm not at a job today. I have to remember when I'm working, I work 16-hour days. So when I'm off, if I feel like sleeping in, I don't need to feel guilty about that.
WM: What's something you learned about your mental health while filming She-Hulk?
GG: Well, sleep deprivation is never good. I’m bipolar II. I'm also ADHD, and I've had a lot of complex PTSD in my life. Weirdly, when I'm sleep deprived, I call it when I'm being in rare form, 'cause I get really slaphappy and everything's silly to me. Because I lean toward comedic things, it doesn't end up being too disruptive on set. Sometimes I actually think I'm a better improviser when I'm really exhausted because everything becomes sillier. But because I don't want any consequences from the general lack of sleep that you have on set, I've learned to conserve [my energy] in certain areas.
I will pick up on people's emotions and sometimes exhaust myself by making sure everyone's OK, which is good and bad as an actor and as a person. I’ve learned I have to set limits with how much I deplete that kind of emotional energy with everyone on set. I wanna get to know everyone, but I don't need to go independently make sure the basecamp PA has a dog walker on Wednesdays, 'cause I know people [laughs]. People will find their own fucking dog walkers, and I'm not the end-all-be-all with referrals. My friend calls me “human resources” 'cause they'll just say something, and I’ll be like, “I got somebody. You need laundry? I know who does laundry.” I gotta chill with some of that stuff.
WM: What's something that's invigorating you lately?
GG: I shouldn't feel guilty when I do things that I love, but I love to read and sometimes feel guilty when I'm like, Ooh, let me just read this book for a minute. I'm reading about the Marcos family in the Philippines, which is endlessly fascinating. … I've also been going through some old hard drives to organize things, and I found a lot of old sketches of mine and different comedy bits. It’s really inspiring to [remember], Oh yeah, I can still recycle some of this creativity. Even though it's old, it's not necessarily dead; I can update it. I like anything that's like brain candy. My brain gets bored and hungry very easily … so I just like learning a lot of different things.
WM: What affirmations are you working on right now?
GG: No negative self-talk is a thing that I really apply to myself and am constantly preaching to my friends. It can be very difficult; I'm very skilled at flogging myself in ways. But I do think that [no negative self-talk is] a practice, and once you really double down on that every day, it's very freeing.
This doesn't apply to everyone, but I think [this affirmation is] good for women, especially when we're learning to speak up or articulate our opinions in a patriarchal society. A good [affirmation] that I like is: What's best for me is best for the team. That may not be the case if someone's an extreme narcissist, let's say [laughs], but it's good for people who [tend] to be like, “Ooh, I hope no one gets mad at me for articulating my knowledge and what I can see in the situation.”
And I've had my apartment look like a self-help crime scene before. I've got index cards with dumb shit all over my walls. I think it's good if people who have low self-esteem, at a certain point in their life, collect compliments that they've received and kind of recheck and look at them every day to be a good anchor or reality list. But don't worry about doing things that look “crazy” that are actually quite helpful. If you need to tape some dumb shit on your mirror every morning, like “you're great,” “you can do anything,” you know, really bad clichés … get it done. [Do] whatever you gotta do to break whatever little cycle you're trying to break in your brain.
WM: What's something that you do for your mental health on a regular basis?
GG: It's very remedial, but I eat food. There were definitely times when I didn't, so it's like, don't forget to be a human. I play with my dogs. I take medicines if I need to take them. And I try something every day … I always have some sort of goal that doesn't seem too lofty of an attempt that I'm trying, even if I think of it midday. Like, Damn, I should probably clean or I should read. Make it something small. Make it an article instead of a whole book, you know? And you can try five minutes before bed, even if you didn't do anything that day.
WM: If you could go back and give your younger self some advice, what would it be?
GG: Get out, like Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Keep doing what you're doing and get out of this town where you don't belong that is really racist and weird. We don't choose where we're born, and we don't necessarily choose our personalities or what we're meant to do. So sometimes being unconventional can feel very lonely and very isolating. But for so many different professions and so many different types of people, it's really important to maintain the bravery of not being comfortable and continuing to seek more people like yourself and not worry about being so completely different than your environment. I would be like, “Keep going, girl.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.