Chrissy Metz Talks Bringing Kate’s Story to Life on ‘This Is Us’

Chrissy Metz has beautifully brought the character of Kate Pearson to life on screen for six seasons of NBC’s beloved family drama, This Is Us. The award-winning and critically acclaimed drama will air its series finale tonight at 9 PM ET.

Everyone has a family. And every family has a story. This Is Us chronicles the Pearson family across the decades: from Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) as young parents in the 1980s to their kids (the big three), Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) searching for love and fulfillment in the present day along with Toby (Chris Sullivan) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson). This grounded, life-affirming dramedy reveals how the tiniest events in our lives impact who we become, and how the connections we share with each other can transcend time, distance and even death.

Last week after the show’s penultimate episode, I had the chance to speak with the actress over zoom about Kate’s biggest moments in the final season, what she hopes the legacies for This Is Us and her character are, and which item she was able to take from set! Keep reading to find out what she shared.

THIS IS US — “Us” Episode 618 — Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Chrissy Metz as Kate — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

First off, I just have to say a huge congratulations on everything with This Is Us. It’s been a beautiful journey for me to watch and cover this season.
Chrissy Metz: Awww, thank you. It’s really wild to think like today I did my last ADR session for the last episode of the series finale. I was saying goodbye to all the guys in the studio and I was like, “I’m not gonna cry. I’m not gonna cry. I’m not gonna cry.” Of course, I teared up because that’s what I do and it’s weird because it starts becoming real that it’s over, but then we get to talk to each other and see each other. The beautiful story that Dan has created and written is that just because this particular series is finished, doesn’t mean that all the ripple effects and how it all impacts our lives for years to come– it’s never going to end so I find some respite I guess in that.

This is a show that my mother introduced me to and I watch it with her and my grandparents weekly. Last night, we watched the episode and completely bawled our eyes out. The power of this show is just unreal.
Girl, I knew what was gonna happen and I was a mess!

So I want to start off with that because that episode is one of the best episodes of television I have ever watched and to share that with my mother was insane. What was it like for you to read the script? Did you get to watch the episode before it aired? What was that experience like?
Well, when I first read it, I remember Bradley and I were sitting on the couch and he was like, “are you okay?” And I’m like, “I can’t breathe. My nose is so stuffed up.” The same reaction happened when I watched the episode last night in real-time, West Coast time by myself. I was planning on watching it earlier, but then I was like, “You know what, let me watch it as everyone else sees it.” From the moment Beth decided she’d be the first one to say goodbye, I was like, “Okay, okay.” Then all the small tiny details of everything in the train to William, who was like this co-parent, essentially, with her, walking her home basically, and the way that their family and Randall got to walk him home, it was just like, this is too much. Then Dr. K’s speech, seeing all the Randalls together and Randall doing push-ups with Randall. The way that Mandy portrayed this beautiful innocence, but like depth, throughout her sort of reliving her life and uncovering moments, even in the transition of Rebecca’s life, I was like, “this is too much. This is literally one of the most beautiful episodes of television that I’ve ever seen.” You’re right and dammit if Dan doesn’t get nominated and/or win because nobody’s doing what This Is Us has done.

THIS IS US — “Saturday in the Park” Episode 611 — Pictured: (l-r) Justin Hartley as Kevin, Chrissy Metz as Kate, Sterling K. Brown as Randall — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Nobody’s causing these beautiful conversations to be had. How many people are watching it and crying their eyes out with their mothers? Having my sisters call me the moment they finished and then we get to have a conversation. I get so emotional because I can’t believe I got to be a part of the show. I can’t, I’m like, “Oh my God!” So I go in waves of the emotions of just so much gratitude, but also getting to have conversations with people who are genuine fans like I am of all this epic work being shown. So yeah, I mean, everybody’s all in their feels. I know everybody’s wrecked.

The moment that really got me was when it finally registered that when Rebecca was saying she was waiting for someone, she was waiting for Kate.
Yeah, especially because of where their relationship was, where it went to, where it got to, and what that meant to obviously Kate and what it meant to Rebecca that Kate was taking the big swings. She was doing what her mother would want her to do but just making it back in time. I remember reading the script, I was like, “Please let her make it back in time, please,” because Kate had always felt like she always was the third fiddle, forget the second. She’s always the dud, the third fiddle, and what I think that closure meant to Kate.

That’s the thing, the show really is us. It is us as a community, as women, as daughters, as mothers, as a family, and as a society. I know I’m partial and biased, but the show is amazing.

THIS IS US — “Family Meeting” Episode 616 — Pictured: (l-r) Chrissy Metz as Kate, Mandy Moore as Rebecca — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Speaking of Rebecca and Kate’s relationship, what was your reaction to her appointing Kate as the one to make those big decisions?
I remember reading it and I was shocked. It meant so much to me as a person portraying Kate that it was so indicative of where she came and her incredible, wild journey. We all have them but with specifically Kate is that her mom trusted her and her mom believed that she was sort of this glue between her two brothers that was sympathetic, empathetic, and understanding but probably wouldn’t have an ego about ultimately what the decisions were. When it came to her finally standing up to the boys and saying, “Listen, I have an idea. This is what we’re going to do,” then Randall and Kevin coming right in trying to sort of save the day. Of course, we understand where that comes from when it comes from a place of love, but it’s like, “Really, y’all? Really?”

Family dynamics are always so fascinating. Everybody’s always jockeying for different positions and it’s like, those boys were validated so much by their mother, and Kate was too but she never really saw it. She never really felt it. I think her becoming a mother herself and understanding that like through thick and thin literally, no pun intended, but pun intended, she understood her mom in a very different way. Then in order to honor her mother, her mother’s wishes, and her mother’s life, she got to step up to the plate and be this voice of reason that it just culminated everything for me and of course, for Kate. So it was very, very powerful, especially when… it’s weird because I think about and I’m like, “Did nobody believe in Kate or she just didn’t believe in herself, or was it a little bit of both?” It’s up to interpretation really because who’s to say. I mean, maybe it was a little bit of both but yeah, I feel very, very honored to have had that opportunity to play and to round out the series this way.

So, the divorce storyline… what a performance, but I really appreciated how Toby is still part of the family after everything that happened. They are still on good terms. What did it mean to you after being part of this couple and working on their story that even though they didn’t get a “happy ending,” it still ends in such a beautiful way?
Thank you. Well, the thing is, it’s like what is a happy ending? There’s this fairytale fantasy idea of what a happy ending is but a happy ending is when two people are happy. That’s really what Kate and Toby ended up as, and to show another depiction of a divorce and an unraveling relationship in a way that like, yes, there’s hurt, there’s pain, there’s resentment, but to come through it on the other side, knowing that they were friends and that he’s still always there for her, understands her in a way and through her family, understands the family better than anybody could. It’s just so nice to see where them returning really lies and how they show up for each other.

THIS IS US — “Us” Episode 618 — Pictured: (l-r) Chris Sullivan as Toby, Chrissy Metz as Kate — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

What a great blueprint for like, how do we navigate our unraveling of two people who loved each other? How do we get through all the pain and anguish, raise children in a beautiful way, and not feel like we have to stick together in order to make them happy? Because children are so receptive, they feel that energy, they know when something’s up, and nobody ideally wants to get divorced. You don’t get married because you think you’re gonna get divorced, but what an amazing storyline to see that when two people don’t grow together, they grow apart but could come back together in a different capacity. It’s just so real and true to life as well and to play it was very challenging. It was literally like Chris and I’s relationship was coming apart at the seams. Then I also felt like I was cheating on him because I had to do scenes with Phillip prior to the actual divorce. I was like, “I do not like this. This feels strange.”

So I had to really sort of be in two minds and two hearts, but simultaneously be in both places. I think once you love somebody, you never stop loving them. It just might be in a different way. So the fight scene on the lawn, finally getting off your chest something you wanted to say for five years to someone is a really big deal. If she didn’t come through every single thing she came through, she’d never had the strength to do that. It wasn’t because she was trying to put him in the ground. She was just like, “Yo, I’m really telling you how I feel right now, this is how I always felt and now I’m strong enough to do it.” He wasn’t wrong either. They’re both right, they’re both wrong. It was really, really something to see it all unravel and come together at the same time, but it was quite an emotional challenge.

What do you hope the legacies are for This Is Us overall and the character of Kate?
I think I’ll start with the show’s legacy, I hope that it imparts a sense of empathy for whether you’re experiencing a particular storyline through our character or on the receiving end. I think if we had an awareness of being comfortable enough to be empathetic to what people are going through, I think we would be in a very different place in this world. To understand a plight of someone or what they have experienced, what unresolved issues have shaped them, and how they show up in a room and in the world, I feel like it’s just a blueprint of life through a family. I hope the legacy is that there is hope, that there is empathy, and that above all else is love. Love for yourself, love for your family, and love for your siblings in every way.

THIS IS US — “Katoby” Episode 612 — Pictured: (l-r) Baby Hailey, Chrissy Metz as Kate, Jack Jr. — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

For Kate, it’s like… I didn’t have a good relationship with my biological father and having this relationship through the show helped heal some wounds. I’m like, “Oh my God, it was so much more than just a TV show and so much more than a job.” I’m so grateful to Dan and the executives who were like, “Oh, let’s tell a story of a woman that we’ve never seen on network television.” Now seeing people on network television, in movies, in music videos, and as artists of any kind but we’re not talking about their weight. It’s just a person who has a story to tell and it’s not so weight centric, and it’s like, “Oh my God, we were on the forefront.” I feel like Dan is a pioneer and to see this woman who’s been through all the discrimination and all the issues that she had, she’s still deserving of having a life of happiness and of motherhood. She might have done it very imperfectly but I think it really brought hope to people who didn’t look like all the other actors we saw on television for literally ever. Also that if you can educate somebody about somebody else’s issues or life, the fear goes away. Then the fear goes away and you’re interested of like, “Oh, wow, I never saw this person’s perspective before, and now I have such an understanding for it.” I think it helps like the global consciousness, so I just hope that it changes people’s hearts and minds, that’s like the logline, but it’s so much deeper than that. So I hope people feel seen through Kate, heard and loved, genuinely loved.

Did you take anything from set after you wrapped?
I got the piano. It was a very quick shot but it was in the train and I was like, “Oh my gosh!” It got delivered last week, it’s in the room in the front of my house and I’m like, I don’t even want to touch it, but I want to touch it, you know? My friend is coming over later and so I’m like, “you have to play the piano,” because he’s incredible. I didn’t think I was gonna get it, it’s like, “Yeah, I want that, give me it,” but it’s asking for a very big thing. I think Mandy took her ring, the wedding ring and I was like, “Oh, I should have taken the wedding ring.” People took pictures and different things. I think the piano is such a symbol of so many things between obviously Rebecca and Kate; Rebecca’s love for music, Kate’s love for music, the love that she imparts on Jack, and then them playing it together. I’m like, “Am I really gonna get it? Is it real? Let me touch it.” So yeah, I can’t believe it, but it’s true.