That Shazam! takes place over Christmas and the season of giving is behind means it’s all the more apropos Zachary Levi considers the role of The Big Red Cheese a real gift. And it had a bigger impact on his life than anyone knew.

Levi poured his heart out on Instagram, revealing at the time he moved to Toronto to film Shazam! the actor was dealing with depression, self-imposed feelings of failure, and also suicidal ideation.

Related: Ezra Miller’s The Flash and Zachary Levi’s Shazam! 2 Reportedly Get Release Dates

Sharing art by Jim Lee in a lengthy and emotional post, Levi talked about his uncertainty when it came to life and expectations he placed on himself:

“Two years ago today I was moving to Toronto, for the 4th time 3 years, to begin working on [Shazam!], one of the single greatest gifts I’ve ever been handed. Ironically, just 4 months prior, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to live anymore. My goals, and visions, and hopes, and dreams, and therefore expectations for myself, have always been a lot.”

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This last year has been fascinating. The last few, actually. Two years ago today I was moving to Toronto, for the 4th time 3 years, to begin working on @shazammovie, one of the single greatest gifts I’ve ever been handed. Ironically, just 4 months prior, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to live anymore. My goals, and visions, and hopes, and dreams, and therefore expectations for myself, have always been a lot. So much so that when I surveyed my life a few years back, I genuinely felt like I was failing it. Failing myself. Failing my family. Failing the world. I didn’t feel worthy of the love that was around me. I didn’t feel worthy of any of the things I had achieved up to that point. And, when presented with an opportunity to audition for Shazam! the first time, I turned down the opportunity as I ultimately didn’t feel worthy of such a role. Then came therapy. Then came the beginning of finally loving myself. And THEN came the miracle that was me stepping into this life changing role. I will no doubt be on the journey of self love for the rest of life, and I’m so grateful for the lessons and strength found thru the darkness. But I will also be forever indebted to @ponysmasher, Peter Safran, @rbpix, and everyone at @newlinecinema and @wbpictures and @dccomics, for believing I was worthy of wearing this cape, even while I was still learning to believe that myself. 🙏 . (Thank you, @jimlee, for this incredible artwork. You’ve always been one of my favorite comic artists. And now you’re my friend. 🤯🙌)

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He continued, writing how badly he thought he was failing everything – down to life itself – and felt unworthy of his achievements.

“So much so that when I surveyed my life a few years back, I genuinely felt like I was failing it. Failing myself. Failing my family. Failing the world. I didn’t feel worthy of the love that was around me. I didn’t feel worthy of any of the things I had achieved up to that point.”

Related – Black Adam: Updates on Director and When He Might Clash with Shazam

When offered an initial audition, Levi turned it down because he “didn’t feel worthy” of that either until he sought help. That’s when his mood began to turn around:

“Then came the beginning of finally loving myself. And THEN came the miracle that was me stepping into this life changing role. I will no doubt be on the journey of self love for the rest of life, and I’m so grateful for the lessons and strength found thru the darkness.”

He said he’s “forever indebted to” producers Peter Safran and Richard Brener, studios New Line Cinema and Warner Bros., and DC for believing in him. In closing, Levi thanked Jim Lee who’s one of his favorite artists and now someone he calls a friend:

“Thank you, [Jim Lee], for this incredible artwork. You’ve always been one of my favorite comic artists. And now you’re my friend.”

Related: Zachary Levi Provides Update on When Shazam! 2 Should Start Filming

Before the lead in Shazam!, Levi had a supporting role in Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok as Fandral of The Warriors Three. He was unceremoniously and swiftly killed off in Ragnarok which dashed any hopes of developing the character or the group. Levi reflected on that last year:

“When I got cast as Fandral in ‘Thor: The Dark World’, though I wasn’t able to do it, I knew that the Warriors Three could be really fun characters if they ever developed them. They just didn’t. They didn’t.”

He added how happy playing Shazam made him:

“If Fandral didn’t die, I might still be under contract with Marvel and I never would have been able to get this job. And I say f— that! This is the coolest thing ever. I’m so happy.”

Related: Shazam! Star Zachary Levi Explains Why He’s Happy to Leave the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Now we know there was more to that story beneath the surface. Levi links to a donation page for Active Minds, a nonprofit raising awareness about mental health, on his Instagram profile.

Zachary Levi will be back for Shazam! 2 in 2022 but his nemesis Black Adam has his movie slated first in Dec. 2021.

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