Why I Stopped Trying to Be the Main Character and Started Embracing My Inner J.K. Simmons

You’ve likely heard of “main character syndrome”, or the tendency for individuals to act as though they are the protagonists of their lives. While centering your own feelings and experience of the world may be an inevitable part of life, it’s important not to treat others as “supporting characters” and recognize everyone’s fullness and complexity. That’s why I stopped trying to be the main character of my own life altogether, and instead embraced my inner J.K. Simmons, the most prolific and beloved supporting actor of our time.


It’s important to remember that reframing yourself as more of a bit player doesn’t indicate a lack of self-love. After all, who doesn’t love famed character actor J.K. Simmons, who has appeared in over 200 film and television roles, and shows no signs of slowing down? From the folksy dad in Juno to the inexplicably hook-handed teacher in Jennifer’s Body, Mr. Simmons has something for everybody, and I strive to emulate that energy.


The thing about main characters is, we get sick of them. We tire of watching them self-sabotage and make everything about their problems. This is the last way I would want to be perceived. Then take Jonathan Kimble Simmons! Any time he shows up, it’s an absolute treat. Burn After Reading, I Love You, Man, Palm Springs. These titles will make you say, “Was he in that? Oh, yeah!” and that’s how I want people to feel when they try to remember if I was at that party last week.


When I FaceTime my friend out of the blue, I don’t want her to think: Oh great, I’m gonna be a sounding board for their problems in service of developing their character and moving along the plot. I want them to think: What a lovely cameo sure to enrich but not overtake my day! That’s the Simmons’ Effect.



Of course, it can always be tempting to fall into more defined roles. J.K. was lauded for his turn as the psychopathic jazz teacher in Whiplash, and I’ve had my moments of letting my character actor vibe bleed into villainy when I felt like I wasn’t getting enough attention (Stephanie, I’m sorry for what I said about your Instagram birth announcement, your daughter doesn’t look like “Baby Yoda in a bad way”), but that’s just not how I want to lead my life.


So to all you main characters out there, do your thing! But I’m out of the rat race, because I’ve embraced being a zany, delightful, chameleon of a person. Now my only competition is Wallace Shawn!