The 37-year-old actress talks to ET about the biggest moments from Tuesday’s episode and the Kate-Rebecca reunion: 'It definitely cracked open something new for them.'
Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you haven’t watched Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us, titled “Number Two.” If you have, you may continue…
How do you move on after experiencing an unimaginable loss?
In Part 2 of the Big Three trilogy on This Is Us, titled “Number Two,” Kate’s devastating miscarriage was front and center on Tuesday night's episode, and Kate and Toby have very different ideas on how to react. Unable to process her loss, Kate does everything possible to suppress her emotions by going through with a lunchtime gig, while Toby wants nothing but to process their life-changing event.
Things looked bleak for Kate until an unlikely person from her family came through at her most desperate moment of need: Rebecca. Ahead of Tuesday’s episode, ET jumped on the phone with Chrissy Metz for a complete breakdown on Kate and Rebecca’s emotional full-circle moment, what Jack would’ve done if he were still alive and why Kate isn’t shutting the door on motherhood just yet.
ET: When you first read the script for this episode, what were you looking forward to tackling?
Chrissy Metz: We knew about it over the summer when we had a production meeting, so I knew it was coming. I just didn’t know how the story was going to be told. Initially, I was like, “Nooo! Oh no, no! The fans are going to be so bummed that Kate and Toby are going to lose the baby!” I knew that the bigger picture in the story was how they would react to it in life. She was able to conceive once and there will be hope that they can conceive again. Instead of ruining their relationship, it brought it to a new level, and how that also plays into her and Rebecca’s relationship. There were so many new layers that were really important that Kate and Toby needed to figure out before they start a family.
Did you have a friend or family member who went through something similar to what Kate is going through with her miscarriage? Did you seek out any advice?
I couldn’t because we couldn’t talk about what’s to come, but I have a family member who has been through the same thing and I’ve had friends [who have too]. I did some research and I watched some documentary-style conversations. It was hard because I would have loved to have shared it with a family member, but for me, it was more so about the sorrow and the sadness and the guilt and the layers of emotions that Kate is feeling that she’s internalized. She feels guilty because she believes she’s the reason why she has a miscarriage, but it’s not, of course, the truth. It happens and it’s natural -- one in five women will have a miscarriage and even more so will have multiple. It’s not anything you can necessarily prevent and there’s no point in putting blame. There’s so much shame surrounding miscarriage because everyone internalizes it and feels like they’ve done something wrong when that’s not the case at all. That was really important to bring up, as well as the grief that Toby goes through as a man. Even though he didn’t experience it physically, he still was grieving in his own way.
The vignettes of Kate reliving the moment when she felt the pain in her stomach for the first time in the bathroom -- the instance when her life changed forever -- really struck me as powerful. What was it like getting into that headspace?
All of us, in some respect, have had those moments, whether it was a loss of a loved one or a miscarriage or even Kevin’s character, when he realizes he’s not going to be the football star he always believed he was going to be and finding your identity in something. It’s really hard, because you can’t live in that space. Not only is it not productive, you can’t live inside of that guilt because you’ll paralyze yourself and so everybody processes grief differently. For Kate, she was internalizing everything, she didn’t want to talk about it. When Rebecca shows up, they are vulnerable together. It’s just something that you can’t prepare yourself for. It’s something that people don’t want to experience and will do everything in life to prevent those traumatic experiences or sadness. People go to all sorts of lengths to deflect any pain or sorrow, and it’s not easy. It’s even difficult to talk about, much less experience. Having that over and over replayed in your mind, in your soul, in your spirit, is not really hard and really taxing on you as a person.
Kate and Toby’s massive fight could have unraveled their relationship for the worst, but thankfully, it didn’t. That in itself is a big deal. What does that say about where they are in their journey together?
I love how they wrote the scene with them in the kitchen. They were communicating, but not necessarily effectively. So much of our feelings we project on other people. Toby knows Kate genuinely loves her and she knows he genuinely loves her. When you can express those really hurtful things and sift through what the real message is, it just affirms that they really do love each other and they’re going to get through something this terrible together because they want to be together. A relationship takes work, effort, understanding and patience, you name it, and they’re both willing to do that work and that’s what makes a productive relationship.
Does this effectively accelerate their wedding plans?
I think it necessarily accelerates the wedding; moreover, they’ve got to get their bearings as individuals and, of course, as a couple. I think they can take a step back and say, “OK, what is it that we’ve got to focus on to be our best selves and to be the parents that we want to be?” should the universe grace us with another conception. I don’t think it’s accelerated any plans, but I do think that they are excited to eventually have a wedding.
Kate and Toby don’t shut the door on being parents and they even say they want to try to conceive “soon.” How much more cautious will they be knowing what could happen?
That I’m not so sure of yet, because it hasn’t been discussed. Playing this character, I would imagine that she would be cautious in that she’s going to do everything in her power to be of sound mind and to be emotionally stable and physically as well as she can be to be the best mom that she wants to be. Getting those ducks in a row will be very important for the both of them.
This episode really illuminated the complexities of Kate and Rebecca’s mother-daughter relationship, especially the scene in the hospital where Rebecca confesses she doesn’t know where things went wrong between them. Though you weren’t in the scene, what struck you about that conversation?
Teens evolve, and they sometimes don’t know how to effectively communicate, especially to their own parents. It’s important to see that they’re both trying. Sometimes you’re not on the same page, but they’re both trying to be. There’s hope in that.
I lost it when Rebecca arrived at Kate’s door and gave her a huge bear hug, even after Kate hung up on her after reluctantly telling her she lost the baby. It really was a full-circle moment that harkens back to when Rebecca told a teenage Kate she’ll always have her arms open waiting for her to “someday fall inside.” How big of a step was that for those two characters?
It definitely cracked open something new for them. I think that, at least in my preparation, Kate called Rebecca to say, “Listen, I lost the baby. I don’t want to talk about it,” because she didn’t want her mother to say, “Well, you shouldn’t have done this, you shouldn’t have done that. Why did you do this?” It was Kate reaching out but afraid to know how Rebecca would reach out in return. And also, she doesn’t want to talk about it because she still can’t figure out how to process it. When Rebecca shows up at the door, it’s like 37 years of a relationship all kind of coming to a head, and Rebecca proves to Kate that not only is she a priority and that she loves her unconditionally, she’s not there to cast judgment but to be there to love her and support her through this. Of course, we find out that they have more in common than we ever knew and that Rebecca never held Kyle, and she has her own sorrow and her own grief that she had to process her way. She can, as a mom, provide advice and clarity on how to communicate to your significant other and how that affects your relationships. That was such a great scene to shoot with Mandy, but also, so nice to see that they’re trying to really take a step in the right direction in a relationship. Forget a functioning relationship, but a relationship. They were so exposed and raw.
If Jack were still around, what would Kate would want him to say to her?
I think that she would expect to him to show up as Rebecca would have and did, and that he would be there and supportive of her in her time of need. It’s such an interesting dynamic because we don’t know how they would have been as adults and how that shift might have taken place. Maybe she would’ve been closer to Rebecca and not so much Jack or Jack might’ve let her make more of that connection. I would expect Jack would just be there for his daughter and love her through all of the pain and never once question anything that she did or didn’t do.
Kate, at one point, unsuccessfully tries to call Kevin to tell him about her devastating news, not knowing that he was spiraling himself. How do you think Kate will react to finding out that Kevin’s been facing demons when that comes to light?
She pushed that rock up the hill for him. She was like, “Something’s going on. You’ve got to sort this out.” We start to see a pattern: Kate has food issues, Kevin’s relying on pharmaceutical drugs and Jack was an alcoholic, and what does this mean for the larger dynamic of the family? What is Randall’s position in all of this? It’s all coming to light now. We definitely will see the outcome of how this has all affected everybody. Things are going to be said and I’m sure many apologies. It’s really just diving deeper, because Kate can understand Kevin feeling inadequate after finding an identity in football, because she never had an identity because she was always in the shadows and trying to figure it out. She’s going to understand with a lot of empathy and know that it wasn’t personal [when Kevin ignored her call], that he had to sort through his stuff and show up for himself first.
On a lighter note, the scene where Kate lists off all the random questions she has for the doctor was quite funny. Two of my favorites were: “If I take a hot bath, will it burn the baby?” and “Will the smell of my fiance’s head make me gag the whole nine months?” How much of that was already scripted or did you make any suggestions?
It’s really cute! They were actually written. We might have thrown in one or two things. But it is nice because it’s uncharted territory. You have no idea. You can’t possibly understand what is good or what isn’t good. You hear all these crazy things and you make yourself crazy by Googling these potential theories or questions, so it was really cute that they put that in there.
Justin Hartley just shared his first scene with Milo Ventimiglia last week, which means you’re the last of the Big Three to do so. Is that day coming soon?
I hope so! We talk about it. I have my dream idea...
Because I think about the unimportant stuff: When Kate retrieves the shower curtain/rod from the trash and reinstalls it in the bathroom, did they wash it or sanitize it? I hope they did!
OK, this is so funny. Initially, I was like, Why would they take from the trash? Granted, it was on top of the trash bins, but I’m certain that they did. I’m certain that they washed and sanitized it, otherwise, I don’t think Kate was putting it up. No! (Laughs.) I get it, I totally get it.
Looking ahead to Randall’s episode next week, can you give us a tease for what viewers are in for?
We’ll definitely see the young man that Randall is becoming through Niles [Fitch], who plays young Randall. He’s applying for colleges and learning more about who and what in his life has shaped him to be the man that he is. You’re definitely going to feel many things and understand and relate. It is a trilogy, as we’re calling it. It’s definitely going to be emotional.
What did you think of tonight’s episode? Tell us your thoughts by tweeting Philiana Ng over at @insidethetube!
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.