‘Leave It to Beaver’ Star Tony Dow Opened Up About Depression

by Liz Holland

“Leave It to Beaver” star Tony Dow was a teen heart throb before he could even drive. Being under that level of pressure at such a young age certainly takes a toll on someone. Dow was thrown into the public eye due to his role as older brother Wally on the 1950s sitcom. According to the actor, the attention he got during his formative years while he starred changed his entire life. However, the impact the role had in his life was not necessarily always a good one. 

In a recent interview with CBS News, the star shared how his time as a child actor led to depression. Decades later, Dow still lives with the legacy he created as a young boy. When asked if he thought his role as Wally was going to define him, Dow responds, “No I didn’t, but it did.”

He continues, “I was gonna have to live with it for the rest of my life. I thought, ‘This isn’t fair. I’d like to do some other stuff, I’d like to do some interesting stuff.’ It’s sad to be famous at 12 years old, and then you grow up and become a real person, and nothing is happening for you.”

It’s nearly unimaginable to think about how it changes someone as a person growing up in the spotlight. Pre-teen and teenage years are already such a wild and confusing time, and Dow had millions of eyes on him during that time. “Anger, if it’s untreated, anger turns to depression,” the actor explained. “But depression isn’t something you can say, ‘Cheer up’ about. It’s a very powerful thing. It’s had a lot of effect on my life.” 

‘Leave It to Beaver’ Star Spoke Up About Mental Health In the 90s

This isn’t the first time Tony Dow has opened up about his mental health struggle. The actor spoke up about his difficulties with depression in the 1990s, and has been pretty vocal about it since. In a1993 interview, the “Leave It to Beaver” star explained why the battle with depression as a star comes with special obstacles. “I think the more interesting point might be that so many child stars who would be prone to suffering from depression don’t find any help because they’re treated a little differently,” Dow said. 

The actor continued, “People figure they’re on top of the world, so how can they be depressed? Plus the fact that these people are out in public. If you have anonymity, you can sit in the corner and pout and nobody cares. But if you’re a celebrity, pouting is frowned upon. You tend to mask things more, and maybe that feeds the lack of desire to actually find help or recognize you need help.”

Tony Dow says that these days, his depression his manageable. Dow’s wife, Lauren Shulkind told CBS news how proud she was of her husband for handling his depression. “Well, I’m very proud of him for talking about it, for dealing with it, for sharing it with others,” Shulkind said with a smile.