Pierce Brosnan‘s son Sean is opening up about his struggle with addiction, the devastating loss he’s experienced — and his eventual path to sobriety.
Brosnan lost his mother, Cassandra Harris, to ovarian cancer when he was only eight years old. “I remember the day my dad told me she passed, and it was a few days after Christmas,” Sean, 35, recently said on the Inner Space with Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen podcast. “He started to cry, but I didn’t cry. I was comforting him at eight.”
“It wasn’t until maybe six months later where I was in school and realized while I was walking to class, she is never coming back,” he recalled. “That is when it transitioned into anger.”
As a middle school student in Somerset, England, Sean began experimenting with drugs, at the same time his father was starring in the James Bond franchise as the famous spy.
“I kind of went from somewhat popular in junior high to an outcast,” Sean recalled of that period in his life. “I didn’t make many friends to start the first couple of years. It was pretty lonely and pretty isolating.”
At age 16, a serious car accident he was involved in led to an eventual addiction to painkillers.
Said Sean: “I was not driving. We were partying and the driver went to prison for a year because he was 18. He had a couple of beers and was just over the limit. I broke my back and shattered my tailbone, my pelvis in five places, my left femur. I pretty much had to learn how to walk again. I tasted opioids for the first time in the hospital.”
Following the accident, Sean said, “I was a drug connoisseur, I never really stuck with anything — just with one substance. Kind of whatever you had, I would take. Alcohol was what stayed with me.”
“Cocaine was very common, it was extremely easy access,” he continued. “Everyone was doing it. After school was drama school, and that was great because drinking and drugs are completely accepted.”
After graduating from the Central School of Speech and Drama in hopes of following in his dad’s footsteps, Sean entered the British Shakespeare Company as he attempted to get sober.
“I had tried to first get sober when I was about 25, maybe a little bit younger,” he explained. “That was more of a cry for help. I had a couple suicide attempts but that was the first half-assed suicide attempt. I wanted help and I was once again in no man’s land.”
As his acting career continued to take off, with roles in the MTV series Dubplate Drama(2005) and the film A West Texas Children Story (2007) opposite Val Kilmer, Sean had difficulty maintaining sobriety. When his half-sister, Charlotte Brosnan, died in 2013 at age 41 of ovarian cancer — the same cancer that killed their mother — he went back to self-medicating.
“I had a bit of time before my sister passed, about a year and a half of sobriety,” Sean recalled. “After she died, I drank on the plane on the way there. The insidious part of the disease was that I almost used it as an excuse. I was like, ‘Oh good.’ Which sounds terrible to say but that is my addict in me saying ‘Yes, I can drink, and no one can blame me.’”
But the actor’s life began to turn around in 2014 after he found love and married actress and producer Sanja Banic.
“I did a bunch of amazing things in that kind of year and it was a very spiritual process,” he said. “It was a healing time and just being by myself, and then with my wife, getting married and driving across America, it was all very free.”
In 2015, Sean had a “turning point” in his life when he and his wife welcomed their first child, Marley.
Now grateful for his sobriety, he has embarked on a new career path using his painful experience to help others.
“In the last two years, I sort of started not finding as much meaning in what I was doing in the film industry,” he said. “The only thing I knew besides the film industry was addiction.”
Now he’s working in the mental health field. As he said on the podcast: “I started as a residence advisor at a treatment center and realized I want to become a clinician and psychologist. That is what I want to do. I don’t know what area — right now I am in addiction but I kind of want to do grief and loss.”
Inner Space with Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, produced by DCP Entertainment, is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Pandora, and all podcasting platforms.