On his own journey. When Steve Burns left Blue’s Clues in 2002, many of the beloved show’s young viewers wondered where he went — and now he’s telling his truth.
“I didn’t know it yet, but I was the happiest depressed person in North America,” the former kids’ show host, 49, revealed in an interview with Variety published Wednesday, November 16. “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.”
Burns became the host of the animated series in 1996, when he was 22 years old and working as a voice actor at the time. His easy-going demeanor quickly won over the series’ young audience and earned him a Daytime Emmy nomination in 2001. When he left the show the following year, Burns explained on the show that he was going off to college and that his younger brother, Joe — portrayed by Donovan Patton — would take over.
He continued: “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. 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.”
The Pennsylvania native shared that before his father’s death in 2015 he cared for him while he battled cancer, and the experience changed his outlook on life. He and his father shared an affinity for nature, and after his father’s passing he chose to leave New York for a more remote place to call home.
“It made me think about things I hadn’t thought about, like legacy and the value of the things we’ve left behind,” he shared with the outlet. “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.”
Burns’ disappearance from the public eye led to a series of death rumors circulating online throughout the years. It wasn’t until the 25th anniversary of Blue’s Clues that the actor addressed his unexpected exit from the show in a viral video shared on Nick Jr.’s Twitter account.
“You remember how when we were younger, we used to run around and hang out with Blue … and then I left and we didn’t see each other for a really long time? Can we just talk about that? Because I realize that was kind of abrupt,” Burns reflected in September 2021 while dressed as his iconic character.
After explaining the many challenging and positive experiences that come with adulthood, Burns wrapped up the video by thanking the audience for their support over the years.
“I just wanted to say, I never forgot you,” the musician concluded his address to his grown fans. “Ever.”
Burns is set to reprise his role in the upcoming movie Blue’s Big City Adventure where he will join Patton and the new host Josh Dela Cruz. The film premieres on Paramount+ on Friday, November 18.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.