The children's show star is set to return to screens in 'Blue’s Big City Adventure' on Nov. 18.
In a recent interview with Variety, Burns reveals he was battling "severe" depression outside of his animated, happy-go-lucky world.
“I didn’t know it yet, but I was the happiest depressed person in North America,” he told the outlet. “I was struggling with severe clinical depression the whole time I was on that show. It was my job to be utterly and completely full of joy and wonder at all times, and that became impossible. I was always able to dig and find something that felt authentic to me that was good enough to be on the show, but after years and years of going to the well without replenishing it, there was a cost.”
There was also the inevitable matter of growing up. Burns, who booked the role on the children's series when he was 22 years old, was approaching 30 and losing his hair by the time he left. “I wasn’t going to be boyish anymore," he told Variety.
“My strategy had been: ‘Hey, you got a great thing going, so just fight it!’ Turns out, you don’t fight depression; you collect it," Burns recognized. "After I left Blue’s Clues, there was a long period of healing. It wasn’t until the death of my father that I really started to take things seriously, and my life became so much more manageable.”
In 2015, Burns' father died of cancer. The actor was caring for him up until the time of his death and revealed that the immense grief and loss he experienced led him to make changes in his life.
“I cared for him while he was dying of cancer, and it changed me,” Burn said. “It made me think about things I hadn’t thought about, like legacy and the value of the things we’ve left behind. It forced me to reevaluate and take much more seriously my mental health. And New York City never was much good for my mental health.”
The actor -- who grew up in rural Pennsylvania but had spent much of his career living in Brooklyn, New York -- has lived in a small town in the Catskill Mountains for the past six years.
“I’m most often alone up here, but I’m very rarely lonely,” Burns shared. “There’s much more of me to share here than there was in New York City. I was deflecting all of the stimulus at all times.”
After his departure from Blue's Clues, rumors began to run rampant about Burns -- including speculation that the actor had died.
“I was under the working assumption that most of y’all thought I was dead,” he said. “That rumor was so persistent and so indelible that I assumed it was a cultural preference. I eventually just took the hint. I kept my head down and left public life.”
Now, years later, Burns is set to return to the dual animated and live-action world in the forthcoming film, “Blue’s Big City Adventure,” which drops on Paramount+ on Nov. 18.
Despite the hardships that came with his career-defining role, Burns' reimagined return has never felt more right. “I’ve never enjoyed being Steve more than I do now,” he shared. “I get to wear a trenchcoat. It’s like Grover-meets-Columbo — a clown character. That’s really freeing somehow.”
With a fresh perspective, a new frontier into the Blue's Clues universe and an eager audience awaiting his return, Burns has found peace with his past and excitement for his future.
Comparing his character to his real-life self, Burns said, "Steve became my role model. Because he was not afraid to ask for help.”
Check out “Blue’s Big City Adventure” which drops on Paramount+ on Nov. 18.