'SOPRANOS' star Joe Pantoliano is encouraging Irish people suffering from mental health issues to speak up and seek help after he suffered in silence for over 50 years.
The 61-year-old has told of how his life-long struggle with "brain disease" led him into acting because he could channel his emotion through his characters.
Half-Italian Pantoliano, or 'Joey Pants' as he is known, flew into Dublin this week to share his story of dealing with mental illness as part of Dublin's First Fortnight Arts Festival, a yearly event that aims to challenge the perceived stigma attached to mental health issues through creative arts.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, he explained how TV and movie projects became a form of therapy for him.
"I didn't want to live any more, I wanted to die. I was dumbfounded by that at the time because I want to leave this Earth having left my mark, evidence that I was here," he said.
"This disease absolutely spurred me on to acting because I found a craft I could master in order to let off steam and all of these unresolved emotional traumas that had occurred throughout my life. I could put into these characters, my emotional pain.
"The reason I came out to talk about it was because I was angry by the stigma and discrimination attached to it all." The Hollywood star is loved by many for his portrayal of Ralph Cifaretto in ' The Sopranos' and has featured in hits such as 'Risky Business' and 'The Matrix'.