Chrissy Metz, the actress behind Kate Pearson on This Is Us, has never shied away from expressing how she feels about body image and weight issues. Show creator Dan Fogelman modelled the role after his own sister’s weight-loss journey — and the authenticity rang through the first time Metz read the script.
‘Here was this woman who was actually dealing with weight. Not like, “Oh my God, I gained a pound”‘ Metz told the Hollywood Reporter in 2017. ‘She was a real woman who was really struggling, and all I could think was, “Oh my God, I’m Kate.”‘
Here’s what the actress has said about self-image and her own weight-loss experiences, and how it’s affected her role on the show.
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On her childhood
Metz spent her childhood in Gainesville, Florida, with her mother, stepfather, and four siblings. ‘There were nights my mom wouldn’t eat dinner,’ she told Glamour last year. ‘I knew she was giving up food to make sure we could eat, but when you’re 9 or 10 years old, you can’t help. It was devastating. In retrospect, I think that’s why food equals love in my family. It’s the way we showed love — my grandmother would make me a grilled cheese sandwich every time she’d pick me up from school. I really valued that attention. As I got older, that turned into, ‘Oh, I’m happy — let’s celebrate and eat. I’m sad? Let me eat my feelings.’
On her stepfather:
‘My body seemed to offend him, but he couldn’t help but stare, especially when I was eating. He joked about putting a lock on the refrigerator,’ Metz wrote in her memoir, This Is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today, per CNN. ‘We had lived with a lack of food for so long that when it was there, I felt like I had to eat it before it disappeared. Food was my only happiness.’
Metz says she found herself getting up in the middle of the night and sneaking food to eat in the bathroom. By the time she turned 14, she claims her stepfather conducted forced weigh-ins: ‘He’d get the scale from the bathroom and clang it hard on the kitchen floor. “Well, get on the damn thing!”‘
(Her stepfather later denied this account, telling Entertainment Tonight, ‘None of it’s true …I love her very much just like I always have.’ Metz now has a relationship with him.)
To Good Housekeeping US, Metz says that she’s been able to use her turbulent background to generate positivity in the present: ‘I realised those things [her experiences] served me in what I wanted to do, in being vulnerable and having the ability to be very emotional … [I] think [to myself], “There’s a reason I went through all these things: to become the person I am and to accept myself through it all.”‘
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On Weight Watchers:
‘I remember going to Weight Watchers when I was like 11,’ she told the Hollywood Reporter. ‘I was the youngest person in the damned room, and it was awkward. My mom was trying to figure it out, but it’s a process.’
On wearing a fat suit for American Horror Story:
After she moved out to LA, Metz landed her first major role, playing Barbara ‘Ima’ Wiggles on American Horror Story: Freak Show. The job required the actress to wear a fat suit on set. ‘It was sobering,’ she told People. ‘I thought, “What if I become that heavy and can’t walk around or get stuck in the doorframe?” I was like, “I don’t want this for me.”‘
‘I thought success and joy weren’t coming to me,’ she wrote in her book. ‘They were inside me all along. Every little act I did of showing up for myself brought me to this moment, right here where I am talking to you. You are hard-wired for this dream, and you will make things happen once you stop waiting for things to happen. Turn all the attention you’re putting toward what other people are saying to what you’re saying. You’ve so got this. Say it: “I’ve got this.”‘
‘Esteemable acts create self-esteem,’ she said on The Jenny McCarthy Show. ‘When I can be kind and of service, when I’m loving, then that creates that true confidence within yourself and you’re like, “None of this matters.” It’s just who I am and how I treat people.’
On playing Kate:
This Is Us fans might remember a particularly meaningful monologue from season one when Kate says, ‘it’s always going to be about weight for me’ — a specific idea Fogelman got from his sister Deborah. ‘I remember reading those lines like, “I’m always going to be afraid of a chair breaking underneath me” or “whether people will be able to recognise if I’m actually pregnant,” and going to Dan, in tears, like, “These are my fears,”‘ Metz said.
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On Kate’s storyline:
‘It can be frustrating in that the weight is not all that I am or all that Kate is, but it’s a really big part of who we’ve allowed it to be,’ she told Vanity Fair back in 2017. ‘And the only way to tell that story is to tell the story.’
Since then, we’ve seen Kate grapple with new issues and storylines. ‘People who’ve never been overweight don’t understand what it all entails,’ the actress told Glamour. ‘They think you’re just sitting in the corner and all you do is eat,’ she says. ‘My thing is, Let’s get to the real issues — because the food is the symptom; it’s not the issue. Everyone’s filling a void with something.’
On her contract with the show:
When the show first aired, Metz revealed that she signed a contract with a clause requiring her to lose weight along with her character. ‘That was a win-win for me,’ she told TVLine at the time. ‘Because it’s one thing to try to do it on your own. But as human beings, it’s an ego thing: We’re more likely to do something for someone else.’
However, she later clarified to Harper’s Bazaar that there’s no goal weight or deadline she’s obligated to achieve. ‘We have a general long-term plan that we’ve all talked about, and we will adjust the plan as needed,’ Fogelman confirmed to the Hollywood Reporter. ‘I mean, that’s life, right?’
On realising no one is perfect:
‘I’ve battled weight issues, but I realise that I don’t have to beat myself up if I have XYZ food,’ she explains to Good Housekeeping US while reflecting on what she’s learned about her eating habits. ‘Instead, I change my perspective and think, “What is it that I’m angry about?” since we tend to want crunchy foods when we’re angry or ice cream when we soothe ourselves. All these things I’m just trying to be cognisant of.’
She continues: ‘If a waiter takes a tray of food and a glass falls and the drink spills, they don’t just throw the entire tray on the ground. You get another cup of whatever you spilt and you keep going. So often if something isn’t perfect, we go “I quit!’” That’s not conducive to forward progress, and it’s really about progress, not perfection. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t have anything to attain or achieve.’
On weight-loss surgery:
‘The question I wish people would stop asking me is, “Are you having weight-loss surgery? Are you gonna be doing a gastric bypass?”‘ she told TODAY in September 2017. For her, it’s a no-brainer: ‘I’m good, boo.’
On her next big project:
After starring in the 2019 faith-based movie Breakthrough, Metz is pumped to produce her own film and drop her debut album in 2020. ‘I don’t want to compromise a sound or a note or a word,’ she tells Good Housekeeping US about the album. ‘I want it to be on my terms, which is new for me.’
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