Emmy nominee Chrissy Metz continues to rise as a performer, completing her fourth season as Kate Pearson on “This Is Us.” She performed “I’m Standing with You” from “Breakthrough” on the Oscar stage earlier this year.
Metz spoke with Gold Derby senior editor Rob Licuria recently about the journey Kate goes on in Season 4 of “This Is Us,” what it was like to perform at the Oscars and why she feels like she’s still needing to prove herself. Watch the exclusive video interview above and read the complete transcript below.
Gold Derby: Chrissy, first of all, Kate’s story has really taken a fascinating turn this season as we explore her being a new mom. What were your initial reactions to finding out that’s where the season was going to take you?
Chrissy Metz: Initially I was afraid. I was like, “A baby? A real-life baby that I have to be responsible for?” But then I quickly realized how important the storyline was going to be for so many people who watch the show, whether they’re having fertility issues or a hard time conceiving or they have a child with a disability. You don’t really get to see that on network television in such a beautiful way, that Dan Fogelman and the writers have created is really special. I feel really honored to take on something that we haven’t seen that is pretty challenging.
GD: You’ve touched on this but we watch “This Is Us” because obviously we’re following this journey with this family but also, a lot of us can relate to various things about family and love and loss and with your character’s story and Toby, if you’ve had fertility issues, I’ve been there, I can totally relate to that and it really resonated with me personally and I’m wondering, did you get a lot of feedback from people out on on the street or in the media about how that particular storyline is touched on?
CM: Oh, absolutely, and even friends who I didn’t know were doing IVF, they were like, “Oh my goodness, I didn’t tell you because we weren’t sure what was gonna happen but now it’s on the show and I feel like I wanna share it with you.” It’s kind of amazing that so many people are contending with an issue and when you want something so desperately and to feel watching a television show you feel less alone, is really special. Yeah, a lot of people reached out whether social media or even in real life. It’s been fascinating to see how people navigate that whole world and then whether they were able to conceive or they weren’t or they end up going the adoption route or whatever, it’s just been able to bring us all together, whether they’re my friends, that we’ve deepened our relationship, or strangers who just wanna share what they’ve been going through. Of course, then it informs me and I feel grateful because you can research all day long but when you get to hear it from somebody who’s actually experienced it, you’re like, “Oh wow, I hope I can do this particular storyline…” there’s a responsibility so I want to honor them.
GD: The other really fascinating aspect about your particular storyline is how… actually, I’ll put it this way. I remember when the season premiered back in September, I just happened to be in Hawaii and we put the kids down to to bed and we thought, “Let’s watch the premiere of ‘This Is Us,’” and I’m still blown away all these months later at how they threaded those different timelines together and then we discover that this musician guy, Jack, happens to be Kate and Toby’s son and he’s blind. We still talk about that episode. It was so well done and I’m just wondering what were your thoughts when you read it and then you were doing that particular episode?
CM: Being a singer myself and knowing how important music is for me and then of course for Blake [Stadnik] who plays Jack, and then for Mandy [Moore] who’s also a singer who plays Rebecca, it’s art imitating life in a way that we can pull from real experiences. Mandy’s had a career, I am having a budding music career, Blake’s been on Broadway, but then as far as the characters go, to know that Rebecca put it on the back burner and then Kate’s put it on the back burner because she wanted to start a family as well, but then to see Rebecca’s grandkid and Kate and Toby’s child pursue what they both wanted, I was like, “Okay, I’m a mess. I can’t handle it.” And then when Dan showed me the clip of Blake singing at the Greek Theatre, I was like, “This is a grainy, terrible video but I’m sobbing, thanks, Dan.” It’s just so beautifully done. Every parent, I believe, wants their child to do better than they did. It just means a lot, and especially because he was contending and is contending with a disability, which we all might have a disability of some sort. Maybe it isn’t always physical or outwardly noticeable but everybody loves that story of triumph, from tragedy to triumph. It really meant a lot to me.
GD: It’s so amazing how this show is able to pick up on those nuances, like the tragedy to triumph is a big one but also as you say, everybody who has children wants their children to succeed. That’s the dream and to see that happen for Jack while his mother and grandmother had to put that particular ambition on the sideline really, really resonates and it kind of resonates throughout the whole show. I wanna change tack for a bit and then we’ll come back to “This Is Us” ‘cause just talking about you being a singer, that’s a really, really big part of your life and your career. It really hit home for many of us who maybe weren’t quite aware of that when we saw the Oscars not long ago. You recently starred in “Breakthrough” which led to you actually singing on the Oscar stage, that would have been firstly such and honor but secondly, terrifying. So I’d like to know all about that particular experience.
CM: It is an absolute honor and I remember watching the Oscars growing up and seeing that stage and how intimidating the room is. I was like, “Oh my gosh, if I could ever be there one day, I only wanna be there if I’ve earned it.” Because “Breakthrough” was, as I always say, the little engine that could, the movie that didn’t really have a huge massive marketing campaign behind it and it was grassroots and then Diane [Warren] wasn’t sure I should sing the song and then I ended up singing the song because DeVon Franklin, our producer, pitched me for it, all of the stars were just aligning, and then for it to be nominated, I remember watching the announcements in my bed in my pajamas freaking out and then to be on the stage singing, it was like, “What?!” I keep telling everybody this but I think everyone around me was more nervous than I was. My nerves definitely manifested physically, like in my stomach, but when I was onstage, I was like, “I’m just gonna sing this to anybody who needs somebody honestly to just stand with them.” Particularly I was singing to my mom at that moment. So I just was like, “Whatever, I’m just gonna be here present in the moment, I’m just gonna sing the song, that’s all I have to do.” Yeah, it was very surreal, and it happened very quickly. I did try to relish the moments, but yeah, I think everybody else was much more anxious than I was (laughing). Rightfully so, I get it.
GD: When the announcements happening and you hear, “‘I’m Standing with You’ has been nominated for ‘Breakthrough,’” if I were you I would be like, “There’s a possibility I’m going to be singing on that stage” and obviously that eventuated. It just made me realize given that your career has gone like this (pointing up) over the last few years, could you ever have imagined you’d be in this particular situation? You’ve got two Golden Globe nominations, an Emmy nomination, you sang on the Oscar stage. That’s a pretty good run.
CM: Don’t make me cry! You know I’m an emotional girl. It’s when somebody puts it together in a sentence, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, all these things did happen.” I really try to live in the moment so when you said it all together, I’m like, “Holy moly.” It’s definitely not lost on me but I never could have really imagined all of this would happen in the span of four and a half years. Yeah. Just so grateful. (Laughs.) Don’t get me emotional!
GD: It’s true, ‘cause you were on “American Horror Story” and there’s so many other actors, you look at the performances of actors that you don’t know and you think, “Wow, what an interesting performance, that’s fantastic, I wonder if I’ll see him or her again,” and then you just happened to maybe catch a lucky break or you were in the right place at the right time and you delivered a great performance or an audition or whatever it is, and you end up in this place which leads me to this. When I spoke to you a couple years ago, it was a really beautiful thing you said to us, it was something like, “I still feel like I’m proving myself,” and then you said you suit up and show up every day for yourself and you always worried about whether you might not be performing properly or perfectly but you just go in there and do your best and see what happens and you try to be authentically truthful. Do you still feel that way?
CM: Yes, I do still feel like I’m proving myself. I’ve really only been professionally acting for like five years. I mean professionally by, like, somebody else paying me. It’s such an honor to be able to do what you love to do but I definitely feel like I’m new, just the new girl on the block, still trying to figure it out, still trying to suit up and show up for myself and deal with all of the things that life throws at you while you’re managing an incredible career. I definitely don’t have it figured out and I’m in it for the long game. I’m just trying to suit up and show up, for sure (laughs).
GD: We’re all like that, whether you’re an actor or you do anything in your profession. You suit up and you show up, and if you don’t and not be authentic, what’s the point? You might as well stay in bed. There’s been a lot of recognition for the actors particularly on this show. Last year at the Emmys, I happened to actually see you walk past me on the purple carpet and I was like, “Wow, look at all these amazing actors who have been nominated in the past, nominated this year, Milo [Ventimiglia], Sterling [K. Brown], Chris [Sullivan], Michael [Angarano]. Ron [Cephas Jones], Phylicia [Rashad] were nominated last year. You were nominated a couple years before that. You got two SAG ensemble awards, which is amazing. What does it do for the cast to be so beloved by their peers and to get together at award shows like that?
CM: It’s so fun because our show isn’t linear. We don’t always get to spend time together unless there’s a holiday, the current Pearsons get together. I don’t get to see Milo and we’re not always in the same room or same storyline so it’s really fun to celebrate. As ridiculous as it might sound, to be nominated is definitely the honor but when you win, especially when you’re stacked up against these cable ensemble shows who have crazy budgets and really no rules or regulations, they don’t have to write for commercials and they don’t have to worry about what they say or what they show or the content, it’s so exciting. I laugh with my best friend all the time about it but when we won last year for the ensemble SAG Award, I screamed like I won the World Cup. It was like a guttural scream of surprise and I’m still embarrassed about it but it’s so fun. It’s so fun to celebrate with people you really love who you know work so hard. When people do things really well, it looks easy but people don’t realize what it all entails. It’s always really fun and really exciting.
GD: I’m gonna see if I can find footage of that scream from that table.
CM: It’s not cute (laughs).
GD: I love it ‘cause the first one would’ve been like, “Wow, we won, what a surprise.” The second one was more like a stamp of approval, “You win again ‘cause we love you that much.”
CM: To be nominated by your peers is always really special.
GD: Talking about the show again, this season’s seen a lot of challenges as we’ve talked about, like every season on this show. It’s a drama so it’s not as if we’re going to spend a day with you guys traveling to work or watching TV but for Kate now, she’s a new mom but she’s also grappling with this weight journey as Toby’s also doing a kind of inverse and especially earlier in the season there was a bit of that conflict. What are your thoughts about how the show’s portraying that aspect of your character’s life?
CM: I think it’s so real. I’ve been previously married and I had a husband who lost a bunch of weight on his own accord. We weren’t battling a fertility issue but it’s always hard when anyone in the relationship decides to walk another journey, especially without their significant other ‘cause you feel like, “Oh, great, here I am just left in the dust,” especially because Kate felt like she was the one really handling Jack’s diagnosis because Toby had his own issues, he was absent and the way he got through it was obviously through exercise. We all fill the void with something and I think it’s really important to show that you can have trials and tribulations in a relationship but you can also come back together if two people are willing to work on their issues. Some people just throw in the towel and they’re like, “Oh forget it,” and sometimes that’s what’s best for them but I love that Kate and Toby are like, “No, no, we’re gonna dig in and do this.” But there are ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys for sure and it was a little touch and go for some time. Everyone was like, “Wait, are they gonna make it? What’s gonna happen?” But I think it shows people, myself included, being honest about what’s really going on is essential to any sort of productive, loving relationship. But throwing a child in, much less one with a disability is something completely different. They both handled it the best way they knew how. People always say when you know better, you do better. I think they’re trying to do that and it’s not perfect.
GD: Yeah, and the other nuance that the show does really beautifully and it’s something I’ve become quite fascinated by — I have a daughter myself — how body issues shaped Kate growing up and how timely and prevalent that theme is for young girls and women today. Hannah [Zeile] and Mackenzie [Hancsicsak] do such a beautiful job in portraying your character as well, the casting’s incredible. But what about how the show does that about how it shaped Kate who she is today, her body issues growing up and how fascinating that is?
CM: Again, another really important topic that whether you’re underweight or overweight, there’s so much pressure to look a certain way, to talk a certain way, to fit into a particular mold or an idea of what society and mass media thinks that women should look like. That comes into play and then, of course, when she loses Jack, her first love of her life, that whole guilt and shame really affects her self esteem and then she in turn starts dating Mark, who is not a very nice human being ‘cause he has his own issues obviously. That, in these very formative years in her life, creates even worse self-esteem. There’s a lot that she’s trying to navigate and we are gonna see next season some other issues that nobody knows about yet that have played a huge role in why she decided to… a lot of people if they’ve been through something traumatic will wanna eat over it whether it’s soothing themselves or they’re trying to create a physical barrier between intimacy with anyone else. We’re gonna see that play out but it’s one of those stories where you could be under or overweight but it’s still the mentality about self-worth and self-esteem. I’ve had so many teenage girls and women alike who are like, “I was Kate. I experienced that manipulative relationship and it really changed me and it’s taken me a long time to get through that.” There’s a lot that she’s been battling. But it’s a very important storyline for women and for men.
GD: Absolutely, it’s universal. Why am I not surprised that we’re going to delve even deeper into these issues? People watching this right now, I guess you should get prepared that there should be more tears as we continue watching “This Is Us.” That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Chrissy, thanks so much for your time and for sharing your thoughts with us and good luck for the rest of the season and for next season as well.
CM: Thank you. So good to see you and talk with you and I appreciate it so much.