Chris Sullivan interview: ‘This Is Us’
“The final arc for [Toby and Kate] was interesting because the writers didn’t fall into any of the dramatized or sensationalized tropes of a marriage ending,” declares actor Chris Sullivan while discussing the final season of “This is Us” on NBC. Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby’s divorce was one of the many heartbreaking storylines in Season 6. “It was two people who were growing in different directions, who wanted different things, who couldn’t figure out how to put their fear and their anxiety aside to connect. And that’s how things dissolve over time.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
The final episode for “This is Us” will air on Tuesday, May 24, after six seasons on network television. The family drama was created by writer and executive producer Dan Fogelman and follows the lives and families of two parents, and their three children, in several different time frames. The series has won four Primetime Emmy Awards including Best Actor for Sterling K. Brown and Best Guest Actor for Gerald McRaney and Ron Cephas Jones (twice). Sullivan has earned two Best Supporting Actor bids for his role as Toby Damon. In 2018 and 2019 the cast was awarded Best Drama Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
“I certainly was grateful for the challenge,” Sullivan admits while discussing the darker, more gut-wrenching storyline for Toby this year. “To take a guy who was fairly clownish and transform him into somebody with real responsibility and some maturity, it’s an interesting thing to talk about. People change. People evolve. People grow, and sometimes that’s a problem. Sometimes people don’t change and people do not evolve and people do not mature and that’s a problem. Sometimes both are okay. It just depends on the relationship at hand. It just wasn’t working for Toby and Kate.”
Sullivan also stepped behind the camera this season to direct his first episode, “Heart and Soul.” “It was an incredible learning opportunity for me,” he says. “Not only learning how to direct an episode of television, but fully understanding all of the different phases of pre-production and post-production. It’s a very comfortable and safe place to learn and to make strong decisions and to take risks and to know the ‘This is Us’ family is going to be there to guide you and answer questions. I learned more about acting in that three-week process than I have in years. So it was extremely helpful for me to be on that side of the camera.”
As the actor looks back over his six seasons on “This is Us,” he appreciates all the series has done for him. “It has increased my self-confidence,” he says. “Being a part of the show has imbued upon all of us an amount of respect. Not because of who we are as individuals, but because of this project that accomplished a certain level of storytelling. It has the highest level of integrity, from the pilot to the finale.” Sullivan also notes how his life has been “changed forever” in many ways. “I’m in a house for the first time. For the first time in my life I’m not sharing a wall or a ceiling or a floor with somebody. As an actor, that’s kind of one of the last things you expect when you start out in the theater in Chicago.”