How Katy O’Brian Got Ripped for ‘Love Lies Bleeding’—While Dealing With a Major Health Scare

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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About two years after my diagnosis, I was cast in my dream role of Jackie, a bisexual bodybuilder in this darkly romantic psychological thriller directed by Rose Glass. It was supposed to be my first day of shooting, and they’d sent me home because I tested positive for COVID. It turned out to be a false positive, but I was already feeling like I ruined the film when my GI doctor called and said I needed surgery immediately. I always get a full medical exam before I start filming, including a physical, blood work, and scans—and my scan revealed some serious issues.

Even though I felt fine, the imaging showed five centimeters worth of scar tissue in my small intestine, which was putting me at major risk for an obstructed bowel. Scar tissue forms adhesions, which can cause your intestines to become twisted and blocked, almost like a garden hose with a kink.

My doctor was shocked that I wasn’t in severe pain. I was freaking out, thinking there was no way I could have surgery and still play Jackie. Then I met with a surgeon who said I could wait until filming was complete to have the surgery, as long as I wasn’t in pain.

After we wrapped up filming, I had to reshoot Ant-Man, and as soon as that was done I underwent an ileocecal resection, which is when they surgically remove part of your small bowel. I had it done laparoscopically, which is a lot less invasive than the alternative, more traditional method, but the recovery wasn’t easy. Everything I read online said it would take several weeks, but it took me about six months for me to get back to normal. Even now, over a year later, I’m still rebuilding my core strength.

Overall, though, I feel so grateful that the surgery went well, my Crohn’s is under control, and that I get to live this life. I certainly don’t consider myself an expert on living with an autoimmune condition, but these are some of the strategies that have helped me manage the physical demands of long days of filming, weight lifting, and doing martial arts.

1. Get super clear on your why.

Working on Love Lies Bleeding meant so much much more to me than just a chance to play a starring role on the big screen. It’s my hope that people in the queer community will watch this movie and see reflections of themselves and their experiences. While the drama centers around Jackie’s romance with Kristin Stewart’s Lou, the movie is about so much more than their sexuality. And I think it’s so important for people to see queer characters with these rich, complex interior lives doing more than just being gay on screen.

I also wanted to be visible as an actor taking on a very physical role while successfully managing Crohn’s. My character, Jackie, is training for a bodybuilding competition, so in addition to filming gym scenes and some pretty intense action scenes, I had to work out for multiple hours every night once I got home.

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