Hayley Atwell empowers herself and others through letter writing

The star of the new ABC show Conviction reveals the wise notes she once wrote for her future self.

At the age of 8, Hayley Atwell wrote a number of letters to her future self. On her 21st birthday, she opened one of them and it read: "If there's any aspect of your life that you're unhappy with, know that you have the power to change it."

"It was all quite empowering!" Atwell says now, almost stunned by how wise her younger self was.

That type of acumen has served her well in the years since: the British actress has spent the past decade building up an impressive list of credits in films and TV shows such as Agent Carter, the Captain America movies, Ant-Man and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Now, she is taking some time away from the Marvel universe to tackle a new project, Conviction. Here, Atwell plays a more complicated character named Hayes Morrison, a former First Daughter who is blackmailed into joining a law firm. "This is a great exploration of someone who could be easily misunderstood," she explains.   

As much as those handwritten letters have helped motivate her, Atwell has a knack for writing letters to other people as well. If she's a fan of someone's work, she is bound to send that person a letter. (An example she gives is Canadian director Sarah Polley whom she felt compelled to reach out to after watching the 2012 documentary Stories We Tell.) 

"If young actors or anyone in the creative field is inspired, truly at their core, by a piece of work that someone has done, it's a really wonderful thing to reach out," she argues. "When I meet actors who are genuinely moved by something I've done, it's wonderful — you feel like you're contributing to the community of the art world." 

Atwell, now 34, admits that her eight-year-old self has one more letter for her for when she turns 40 but she's unsure if she'll open it just yet. But one can only assume there's much more wisdom to be discovered in them. 

WEB EXTRA | Hayley Atwell strange hidden talent: ventriloquism.


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