Chris Sullivan finally broke through at the Emmys this year with a nomination in Best Drama Supporting Actor for playing Toby on “This Is Us.” This season features Toby going through depression and eventually becoming a father, giving Sullivan plenty of meaty material to work with. Even still, he was not prepared to get his first Emmy nomination. The actor was at his home in Sacramento, working on a hot rod with his father, blissfully unaware it was Emmy nominations morning. He was then stunned to see a barrage of texts and calls congratulating him. “To be fair, my work in the first two seasons was crap,” Sullivan jokes, “and I got my act together for Season 3 and really started trying, really started giving it my all. It really has worked out.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Sullivan above.
Sullivan is submitting the episode “Toby” to Emmy voters as his best work of the season, which features Toby off his anti-depressants to not complicate his and Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) attempts to get pregnant. The episode also features flashbacks to Toby’s life growing up in an unstable household and struggling with depression. Sullivan is happy with the work he did in this episode, especially in how positive the response was from fans battling with depression, bipolar disorder and other mental issues. “They felt that that was an accurate and honest depiction of what they were going through and what they have been through. I was really proud that my performance came off that way for them.” With a history of anxiety himself, Sullivan was able to tap into the weight of a very internal experience. “I’ve experienced crippling anxiety in my life,” he admits. “I’ve tried to avoid it, I’ve tried to ignore it, I’ve tried to numb it, I’ve tried to shove it down, and the only way to deal with any of those things is to talk about it, to ask for help and to connect with other people, to stay out of isolation.”
Most of Sullivan’s screen time on “This Is Us” is with Metz, who he says he had an instant connection with at the first table read. From the beginning, the pair made a deal with each other when it came to their shared scenes on the series: “Between action and cut is our time. We don’t worry about anybody else. We don’t worry about how much time we have, how little time we have, the mistakes we made last time. We try to stay as present and playful in the moment as we can.” He also notes that they both have a good sense of humor and have found trust and respect for each other.
As “This Is Us” proceeds into Season 4, Toby will be adjusting to life as a new dad. Sullivan believes that his character is going to be “a really honest dad,” and is hopeful that he can still be true to who he is moving forward. “I’m interested to see if Toby can remain authentic to himself while continuing to be a good father and good partner to Kate.” The fourth season will start off in a rather unexpected way, according to Sullivan, who teases, “From the get-go, Season 4 is gonna go in a direction that nobody expects. It went in a direction that I didn’t expect and Episode 1 caught me way off-guard.”
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