Special Edition Series | Episode 02
Chrissy Metz from “This Is Us” and Her Breakthrough Moment
We always like to mix it up a little bit here in For the Love Podcast world, and we hope you’ll be the happy beneficiaries of this bonus episode! We got the chance to catch up with one of our faves–the beautiful and talented Chrissy Metz–who plays the role of Kate Pearson on the beloved, boo-hoo-every-week hit television show, This Is Us. Chrissy shares a little about how she got her start, and in the process cheers on the late bloomers among us and those who may be tired of living in the shadows. She goes on to talk about the powerful movie she recently starred in called Breakthrough. In this true life story, she plays the role of a mother, who after everyone told her her son wouldn’t survive a terrible accident, decided to believe that he could. Chrissy experienced a similar situation after her own mother suffered a stroke, and relates how the role echoed her real life crisis. Chrissy is a champion for being vulnerable–as an actor, and as a woman–and is a model for what it means to finally believe in yourself and take a leap of faith.
Narrator: Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people, every week, on this podcast. Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen: Hey everybody. It’s Jen Hatmaker, your very happy hostess of the For the Love Podcast. Welcome to the show.
You guys, today I’m bringing you a really fun bonus episode of For the Love. I am over the moon to bring you our next guest. I’ve wanted to talk to her for a really long time. You’ve wanted me to talk to her for a really long time. And I am thrilled to bring you today, the beautiful and talented Chrissy Metz.
So, when Chrissy landed the role of Kate Pearson in This is Us, you guys, she had 81 cents in her bank account. It’s a great story. She’s going to talk about it a little bit.
Since then, we’ve watched her give brilliant, vulnerable Emmy and Golden Globe nominated performances on This is Us over on NBC. And we’ve laughed with her. We love her witty banter with her show husband, Toby. Our hearts bloomed as we watched her prepare for motherhood and care for her rescue dog, Radio. And of course, we’ve cried buckets as she struggled with identity and self worth, and navigating the strained relationship with her mom, lost relationship with her father. Chrissy just has this real special way of bringing us into the world of Kate, and of reflecting our own feelings like in a mirror. It’s actually hard to believe there was a time when she was not lighting up our Tuesday nights.
And so one thing that’s exciting, I’m happy to tell you that Chrissy is now bringing her talents to the big screen, which we’ll talk about. It’s a new movie called Breakthrough. I’m telling you right now, you guys are going to love it. Because sometimes my job has perks, I already watched an advance copy of the film, and she really shines. I mean, this is the best of what Chrissy does, honestly. This is based on a true story. Chrissy stars as Joyce Smith. She’s a small town Indiana mom, who essentially just shows the power of tremendous faith after her kiddo falls in an icy lake. It’s heartrending and hopeful and beautiful. And it gave me a lot of feelings, and you’re going to want to watch it when it comes out. Josh Lucas stars as Chrissy’s husband in it. And Topher Grace plays kind of this young, cool pastor. Talk about a fabulous cast.
Also, P.S., if you need more Chrissy in your life, who doesn’t? She’s written a pretty amazing biography called This is Me. It was a number one New York Times bestseller. And this would be a fabulous gift for any Chrissy Metz fan girls out there. She was so gracious to stop by the For the Love Podcast for a few minutes. You are going to fall even more in love with her than you already are. I guarantee it after hearing this interview.
I am so pleased to welcome actor and author, Chrissy Metz, to the show today.
Jen: Chrissy, how are you?
Chrissy: I’m great. How are you?
Jen: I’m so happy to be speaking to you. You are so very beloved to me and my community. We are just tickled to have you on the show today. Thanks for being here.
Chrissy: Oh, wow. Thank you. No, thank you for having me.
Jen: Listen. I said on social media today, I’m like, “Guess who’s coming on the show today. Wait until you guys hear this one.” And my entire laptop just went up in flames. I mean, my people went bananas for you. So if you need a little dose of self esteem, hop over to my Instagram or Facebook page. You will just see how loved you are. They had a lot of questions for you, not the least of which is your skincare routine. I saw that one about three dozen times.
Chrissy: Wow. That’s amazing because I’m still trying to figure that one out. When I know, I’ll let them know.
Jen: Listen, whatever you’re doing, just keep doing it because it’s amazing.
Look, we love you, Chrissy, really, sincerely, and have just been delighted to follow your career the last couple of years and get to know you and your characters and who you are as an actress, as a writer. You’re a quadruple threat. And so my listeners know a lot about you already. And we love the projects that we get to follow you on for sure. But I wonder if just for a second, for any of my listeners that are new to you, or just getting to know your work. Could you talk to us just a little bit about your road to Hollywood? Where are you from? And when did you decide that you wanted to act? You kind of took a wobbly, meandering path to get there.
Chrissy: Yeah. Yeah, I definitely did. I took a couple detours.
Chrissy: I originally am from Gainesville, Florida by the way of Japan. I was a Navy brat. The youngest kid, turned middle child, who really sort of struggled to feel understood. And when anything would ever go awry in the family, or somebody got in trouble, or they were crying, or they were upset, I would become sort of the entertaining, I would say, the entertaining diplomat, and just act silly, or tell stories, or do impressions. And I thought, “Oh, this is really fun to bring joy and happiness to people’s lives,” especially in my family, especially if they’re crying their eyes out.
And then I realized that I never really felt understood. I don’t know if anybody knew where I was coming from. And I thought, “I want to be able to do that.” And so I didn’t know how to do it. But I went to an open call with my sister, found a manager, and moved out to LA, and then became my agent’s assistant for nine years, and then turned into a talent agent, and really put my dreams and my aspirations on the back burner, and thought, “Maybe this isn’t what I’m supposed to do.” Maybe what I’m supposed to do is help others and be of service in that capacity. And while I absolutely believe that is one of the majority–one of the main reasons why I got to do what I did as a talent agent, was to help others and help them reach their goals. I realized that I was not fulfilled, and then I thought, “You know what, if it’s not going to happen for me,” because I probably had maybe five to 10 auditions in several years…
Chrissy: But I also knew that I wasn’t putting all my effort and energy into acting. And how could I expect my clients to–how could I expect that of my clients if I wasn’t doing that for myself?
Chrissy: Then I thought, “Maybe I’ll just be an agent.” And then luckily, had a bit of a break with American Horror Story.
Then a whole year passed and nothing happened. And then I think the universe was like, “Okay. Are you ready?” If you’re not ready then … Oh, you’re not ready? You’re still not ready? And so it wasn’t until I literally was on unemployment, had 81 cents in my bank account, and was like, “I don’t think I can do this anymore. I am really miserable and unfulfilled.” And my mom said, “Okay. You can be miserable in LA or back here in Florida, so maybe you should just stay there a little longer.” And not but two weeks later did I book This is Us.
Chrissy: Bananas, BA-nanas. I just hope that it inspires and encourages other people that you really, the 11th hour, the senior year, the don’t give up, don’t give up because we never know what’s really around the corner.
Jen: That is the best story. And it’s so hilarious to hear people kind of say, “Well, Chrissy just sort of popped up overnight.” That is never true. They’ve not seen all the years grinding it out, eating ramen noodles. They don’t know.
Chrissy: They don’t know.
Jen: No! Before we jump into the movie, which I’m excited to talk to you about, I wonder, you bring up, of course, This is Us, which was most of our introduction to you. I mean, talk about a show that just came in like a wrecking ball. I mean, unbelievable what This is Us has become, just unbelievable.
I’m trying to think of a show that took on such mammoth proportions so quickly–became so incredibly beloved. I mean, I will say until I’m dead, that never, ever will there be a better pilot episode for any show ever. I am still in awe of it.
I wonder if you could talk a little bit about Kate just for a second because she means so much to so many of us. And I wonder how it feels to you to portray Kate. And what’s your favorite part of her? And do you have a favorite story line that you’ve gotten to portray on her behalf? And even a favorite scene, or the hardest scene. We just would love to know what it’s like to be inside Kate’s brain.
Chrissy: Yeah. It’s so interesting because Kate is loosely based off of Dan Fogelman, our creator’s, writer’s sister, and sort of their dynamic. I, of course, being an assistant, and then a junior agent, then an agent–I knew what it was like to be the second fiddle. And I knew what it was like to live in the shadow of other people and not to pursue, just sort of watch from the sidelines because I was afraid to sort of step out on faith and step out on what I knew in my heart was meant to be, but just too afraid. And I so relate to Kate on that level because she’s always been living in Kevin’s shadow.
Jen: That’s right.
Chrissy: What, of course, we come to find out is that she has so much shame and so much guilt about her father’s death, and she’s been holding onto something for so long. And I think we can do that in any way, as humans, is that we hold onto stuff. It doesn’t serve anyone. And so to be able to see this really flawed, vulnerable character with this really big heart trying to navigate her life as an adult woman is so moving for so many people because whether we talk about it or not, I think people are either starting to empathize or relate to being imperfect, or saying, I don’t have it all together. I am going to be in a terrible mood. And I don’t know how to handle miscarriage. And I am going to fall apart if …
She tried to draw her healthy boundaries with Toby in the first season. And he was like, “Oh, no. It’s fine.” And trying to handle life on life’s terms. And so she’s just going through all of it and trying to navigate her way, as we all do. And I think people relate, of course, to her, but of course to every single character because we can all see ourselves in them. Every scene that Dan or the writers have written has always been very complex.
Chrissy: It’s never perfect. There’s always so much stuff going on.
Jen: That’s true.
Chrissy: The whole miscarriage episode for me was very challenging.
Jen: Oh, my gosh.
Chrissy: Because I wanted to make sure that it was grounded, and also real, and not put on, or over dramatized, but just present. And that was very challenging, also not being able to talk to my family or my friends who might’ve unfortunately experienced that, because we can’t tell secrets on the show.
Jen: Of course, it’s under wraps. Yeah.
Chrissy: Yeah, so those things are challenging. Just being able to be that vulnerable as an actor, as a woman, as plus size woman, as a human, is always I think, a challenge. And that’s what people relate to is, or what I relate to as an actor when I see a particular actor. And I’m like, “Wow. They don’t care what they look like when they’re crying, or blubbering, or naked, any of those things.” Being vulnerable consistently is–I mean, I’ve always been comfortable with being uncomfortable, so I guess it lends itself, but being vulnerable generally gives me a challenge because to not get in your head about what you look like, or what you sound like.
Jen: You deserve all the credit for what you bring, not just to Kate’s character, but these really challenging storylines that fall largely on your shoulders. I have a pretty large community, and we en masse watch the show. And I’ve noticed after a couple seasons that it’s typically, if I just had to do it by the numbers, you and your acting ability, and then the storylines you bring to life that resonate the most. Those seem to be the ones that crack into our hearts. And so it’s not just Kate’s storyline, it’s your acting ability. You really bring her to life, and you give a lot of touch points for people who’ve suffered in so many of the same ways, and struggled in so many of the same ways. You just deserve all the credit for what you bring to that character. I mean, it is really, really a marvel and just a joy to watch you. I mean, honestly, we are so over–we’re just over the moon about you.
If you don’t mind, let’s talk about Breakthrough for a minute. You’re in a new movie with a pretty stellar cast. I mean, this is not a shabby cast here. You’ve got Topher Grace. Of course, your husband is Josh Lucas. He’s so dreamy. Dennis Haysbert, I mean really, this is an outstanding crew.
Chrissy: Mike Colter.
Jen: Yeah, that’s right. I watched a bit of it today. And I had goosebumps from head to toe. Can you tell my listeners a little bit about what it’s about.
Chrissy: Yes. Breakthrough is based on a true story. Joyce Smith and her son, John Smith, and of course Brian (Josh Lucas). It’s about–he’s 15 years old and just a normal day, hanging out with his friends. And he falls through an icy–they’re playing on a lake–he falls through an icy lake. The two boys are rescued, but [John] is pronounced dead. And it is the entire journey of what that means to their family, how Joyce’s faith is just completely shaken, but also rooted. And no one else believes that he’s going to make it out of this tragedy. Above everything and everyone else, she believes that he will. And it’s just the music, the story, it’s just so beautiful. And it’s so moving. As a person who always believes in miracles, I love these kinds of stories. It’s very, very special. And it’s not just for moms. It’s not just for, you know…
Chrissy: It’s for anybody who wants to either be inspired, or who wants a really beautiful, feel good movie with their family. Anybody can relate to it.
Jen: Absolutely. I can only imagine that right now the opportunities in front of you are vast. I bet you have a lot of choices at this point in your career. Was there something specific about this writing, or the cast, or the director, or even just the specific role and storyline that made you pick Breakthrough as this big, huge movie project?
Chrissy: Yeah. It was sort of everything, DeVon Franklin, who is an incredible human being and also producer, is of course the producer of the movie. And Roxann Dawson, who directed–I was so excited to work with a female director on a film. And also, because I related so much to Joyce in that my mom had a stroke a year ago, and it was really touch and go. And the doctors said, “If she makes it out of this, I don’t know if she’ll ever be a functioning human being. She might not ever even walk again.” I was like, “Okay, thank you for your prognosis. However, you don’t know my mother. And you don’t know what she’s capable of. And you can’t speak any negative words because that has power. And we are only going to speak positively over my mom and about my mom, even in her room, whether she can believe you or not, or hear you or not, excuse me.” Those are the things that Joyce verbatim says to her son’s doctors. And I was like, wow, if this isn’t a coincidence, and if this isn’t meant to be, I don’t know what is.
Chrissy: My schedule happened to all sort of just align at the right time. And I just know that it all happened exactly as it was supposed to. And because I was so close to the material in that capacity, I just knew I had to do that, to portray this incredible woman and the story.
Jen: Well, my community is going to love it. It kind of has so many elements that matter. It’s just a lot of shared values that we have with that, and your portrayal is really marvelous. I know that some of that must’ve been really hard to film and act, but you just did a lovely job.
Chrissy: Well, I’ve always wanted to do a period piece. I’d love to play English. I don’t know why I’m sort of drawn to that. I guess because it would be a challenge. But for me, I just want to continue to play roles that make people think about how they feel about themselves, or about others, and just make a difference in a positive way. Music, for me, has always been my first love and really exciting and important. There might be a little song on the soundtrack of the movie.
Jen: Might there be?
Chrissy: It’s very, very exciting. And then I’m just working on some personal music. I want to do that.
Jen: That’s great.
Chrissy: Maybe further down the line, just produce.
Jen: Yeah. I was hoping you would say that.
Jen: I’d love to see you turn sort of your eye for characters and roles just to the camera, go behind the camera a little bit. I would love to see something you would produce. We will be watching with excitement if you decide to jump into that spot for sure.
Okay. Your time is so limited. Let me just wrap this up with you. And so let me just ask you, this is just quick answers. Can you think or tell us what is the most memorable gift someone’s ever given you?
Chrissy: Most memorable. Well, this is going to sound silly, but there was a bike that I wanted. And I knew that it probably wasn’t going to be the easiest thing for my parents to purchase with all the kids. And it just meant a lot to me that they would sacrifice that. And they knew how much I wanted it. I took care of that puppy, that bike lasted forever. And that meant a lot to me.
Jen: That does not sound silly at all. I remember when I was in 7th grade, I wanted a shirt, a Forenza shirt from The Limited. And my parents had too many kids and not enough money. And the fact that they got me that Forenza shirt, I’m still talking about it. I’m 44 years old. So no, it does not sound silly.
Chrissy: I know.
Jen: Okay. How about this? Do you have a charity that you love, that you believe in, that you love to give to?
Chrissy: Yeah. I have Operation Smile, which is, they provide surgeries for either third world countries or people underprivileged for these sweet little babies who are born with cleft lip or cleft palates. And my nephew was born with one, both, so it’s very near and dear to me.
Jen: Good for you. Okay, last question. We ask every guest on this show this question. And it can be as serious, or as funny, or as silly, or big, or small, as you want it to be. And this is the question. What is saving your life right now?
Chrissy: What is saving my life right now? You know, I love my bed.
Jen: Yes, I relate to this.
Chrissy: Yes. I never had a really nice bed. Growing up, it was sort of like whatever we could afford, as I was younger. It took three weeks for me to buy this bed. And it doesn’t wake me up in the morning and make me breakfast, but it is like–
Jen: It’s so close.
Chrissy: It’s just so comfortable, and I’m so grateful for it, really, really grateful. So, my bed.
Jen: Oh, my gosh. That’s so amazing and so relatable.
Okay. Chrissy, thank you so much for your time today. Thanks for being on the show. We can’t wait to send everybody to rush to see your movie–really proud of you. And just–we are your fans–so just know we are out here cheering you on in every possible way. Thank you for representing so many of us and just giving us a lot of joy and hope.
Chrissy: Thank you.
Jen: You’re welcome.
Chrissy: Thank you so much. It was so nice to talk to you.
Jen: She’s a good one, you guys. What fun to talk to her. I could’ve talked to her for 10 hours. I wish we had more time. I just appreciate what she brings to the table here.
Guys, over on the transcript page at jenhatmaker.com underneath the podcast tab, I will have all things Chrissy Metz linked over there, in addition to the transcription of our interview. We’ll have links to her books and to her show, the movie, the trailer, all the things. If you want to get a little bit more info on the stuff we talked about today, just jump on over to jenhatmaker.com. I’ll also have all of Chrissy’s links to where you can follow her on social media. She’s really fun on there. You’re going to really love her Insta stories if you don’t already follow them. She does this Southern lady voice that is my favorite thing. So anyway, for sure give her a little follow over on the Insta.
Anyway, what a delight to have her here today. So fun, we get the most amazing, interesting people on the show. It’s just so much fun for me to meet them and interview them, and then ultimately to bring them to you. It’s you I’m always thinking of. And who would you like to hear from? And what interview would be interesting to you? And what questions do we have? What are we wanting to hear?
So anyway, we do love you, podcast community, so on behalf of my producer, Laura, her crew, Amanda, my assistant and partner, who all just work around the clock on this podcast. You guys, they work so hard on it. It brings us a lot of joy to make you happy, so thanks for all your great feedback. And thanks for listening so faithfully, and subscribing and rating and reviewing the show. It’s just great, great, great, great. You’re great. Okay, everybody. Have a fabulous week, and we’ll see you next time.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!