Andrew Garfield doesn't just play an orphan in his Amazing Spider-Man movies — he acts as a real-life ambassador for Worldwide Orphans, a cause that's close to his heart. "We all have something extraordinary to give, some superpower," he told Vulture at Salon De Lafayette on Sunday, where he was previewing some behind-the-scenes footage of a WWO-themed PSA he made in partnership with the Ghetto Film School. "[But] to find out who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to do, the game is set against us for that. The minute we go to school and do standardized testing, the way we are being educated is kind of a generic, mass-minded thing. I was conditioned to believe that unless I was going to be a lawyer, a doctor, or a businessman, I wasn't worth it."
That struggle to find one's path is something that Garfield hopes that the Spider-Man audience — and the kids he visits in orphanages all over the world — can relate to. "If they can get that from a movie, from this movie, even on a subconscious level, I think that would be wonderful," he said. "I think what we're doing in the films is this simple idea that if you're not seen, if you're not heard, if you're not given validation, if you're not given a place in your society, if you're not appreciated for who you are and all the gifts you possess, if you're not even given the opportunity to find out the gifts you do possess, it creates an unhealthy response. It creates a sickness in the psyche, a sickness in the soul."
In real-life orphans, this manifests in a number of ways, including attachment disorder. "The injustice that these infants that can't yet talk and can't yet walk, and they already have difficulty!" he said. "There is a numbness behind their eyes and an inability to engage in life with joy. There's something so profoundly wrong about that."
Fiction is filled with orphans who become either heroic (such as Spider-Man, Harry Potter, or Batman) or an arch-nemesis (Harry Osborn, Voldemort, the Penguin), and "it's obviously a metaphor for the orphan's exiled heart, in all of us," Garfield said. "There is a part of us, in every single one of us, where we have been exiled or cut off or disowned, and it does speak to where that can lead you. Sometimes you do have a choice, and sometimes you get driven to things, and I think it's really important to show people — in terms of valuing themselves and each other — what the fallout could be."
Which is why he's particularly keen on seeing what happens when the Spider-Man saga turns more toward its villains for the upcoming, baddie-loaded spinoff Sinister Six. "The shadow is as vital to acknowledge as the light, the shadow in all of us!" Garfield said, without quite confirming whether Spidey will swing on by to fight all those villains one more time. "Hopefully we can shed some light on the shadow. We'll see how it goes! I'm interested!"