You probably know Chrissy Metz as Kate Pearson on the hit show This Is Us. The character struggles with her size – and Metz’s journey in real life mirrors that. Over the years, the actress has spoken out regarding how she feels about her body and what might happen in the future. Indeed, her whole story is quite an inspiring one.
Pearson’s weight is a big part of her character on This Is Us, and the program sees her worry about how the rest of the world perceives her. She tries to change her eating habits, goes to a weight loss camp and considers gastric bypass surgery. And on one occasion, Pearson even buys two seats when flying on a plane.
The character of Kate Pearson is actually based on a woman called Deborah – the sister of This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman. In 2017 Metz told Glamour magazine, “[Pearson] is loosely based off of [Fogelman’s] sister and their relationship, where he was very successful as a writer and she was struggling with some issues.”
Apparently, Deborah reads all the scripts for This Is Us and provides her own notes about the character of Pearson. In 2017 Fogelman told The Hollywood Reporter, “Let me tell you, there’s nothing better than telling a roomful of professional writers, ‘My sister had a note on page five.’” Furthermore, Fogelman’s sibling is also Facebook friends with Metz.
Elsewhere, a lot of Pearson’s lines in the show are very powerful. In the episode The Big Three she declares, “It’s always gonna be about the weight for me, Toby. It’s been my story ever since I was a little girl. And every moment that I’m not thinking about it, I’m thinking about it. Like, will this chair hold me? Will this dress fit me? And if I ever get pregnant, would anyone ever notice?”
And Metz really related to that speech of Pearson’s. She told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017, “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 recognize if I’m actually pregnant,’ and going to [Fogelman], in tears, like, ‘These are my fears.’”
Like Kate Pearson, Metz had difficulties with her weight all the way back to early childhood. However, in the actress’ case, she believes [that] some of the problems stem from an abusive family life. In her 2018 memoir This is Me, she alleged some instances of physical violence from her stepfather Crayton Hodge – who she calls Trigger.
Metz wrote in the autobiography, “I don’t remember why Trigger hit me the first time. He never punched my face. Just my body – the thing that offended him so much. He shoved me, slapped me, punched my arm. He would hit me if he thought I looked at him wrong… 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 also alleges that her stepdad insisted on monitoring her weight. She wrote in the memoir, “When I was 14, Trigger began weighing me. He’d get the scale from the bathroom and clang it hard on the kitchen floor. ‘Well, get on the damn thing!’ Trigger would yell. ‘This is what you need to know.’”
The actress went on, “He sat in a chair next to the scale as I got on. ‘Good God almighty!’ he yelled every single time. The number then was about 140 or 130. Most of my friends weighed about ninety pounds. ‘Why are you getting fatter?’ he demanded. I look at pictures of me from that time, and I would be so fine with being that size now. But I thought I was gigantic.”
Poverty didn’t help matters either. In 2017 Metz told Glamour, “My parents divorced when I was eight; I never really knew my dad, and my mom raised my older sister and brother and me alone. It was challenging. There were times I’d be nervous walking home from elementary school, thinking, ‘If that red tag from the power company saying our lights are turned off is on the door handle, I don’t know what I’ll do.’”
At times, just being able to buy food was difficult. Metz said, “And there were nights my mom wouldn’t eat dinner. She’d be like, ‘Oh, I’m not hungry.’ I knew she was giving up food to make sure we could eat, but when you’re nine or ten years old, you can’t help. It was devastating. In retrospect I think that’s why food equals love in my family.”
The actress went on, “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.’”
Having had such a lack of food during her early life, Metz grew to eat things whenever she could find them. She wrote in her autobiography, “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.”
Life for Metz was obviously very hard during those early years. She wrote in the memoir, “I’d get up in the middle of the night and eat. I’d sneak food to eat in the bathroom. Cookies, chips. Things I could eat as fast as possible to avoid detection. Things that would give me the brief bliss of numbness.”
Meanwhile, Trigger himself has disputed that he ever abused Metz. In March 2018 he told Entertainment Tonight “None of it’s true. I love her very much just like I always have and I treat her just like she’s one of mine. I want the best for her.” And for her part, Metz wrote in her memoir that she did still love her stepfather.
As an adult, Metz moved to Los Angeles to try and make at as an actress. Her first big role was as the character Barbara “Ima” Wiggles in American Horror Story: Freak Show in 2014. It was a good first step towards a bigger career, but she found her time on the series difficult because she had to wear a fat suit.
At that point in her life Metz had lost some weight, but suddenly she had to pretend to have more. In February 2017 she told People magazine of the fat suit, “It was sobering. 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.’”
But then came This Is Us, and suddenly Metz’s weight journey was front and center for all to see. It would be so important to the character, the actress told TVLine in November 2016, that “in our contract, it did state that that would be a part of it, to lose the weight in the trajectory of the character as she comes to find herself. That was a win-win for me.”
Metz continued, “So I’m just rolling with the punches… I, as Chrissy, want to do things that mentally, emotionally and physically make me the best that I can be. That’s the intention for our writers and the development of the character.” But, she went on, she didn’t think that Kate Pearson’s weight was necessarily bad.
The actress continued to TVLine, “Whether or not I lose weight or stay the same, it’s purely a choice of mine for health. Not because I think that plus size, curvy, voluptuous, big bodies aren’t attractive – because I think they’re awesome and sexy. So, I’ll just have to make sure that’s known, because I’m not selling out the big girls.”
However, the next month Metz had to clarify what she said about her contract. In December 2016 she told People magazine, “It wasn’t mandated in the contract, and I probably – if I ever said the word contract, I didn’t mean it in that way. I was pitched that the trajectory of [Pearson] is that she’s going to lose weight. That is who and what’s going on.”
Metz went on, “Why not have a motivation beyond me to get to a healthy weight? Every actor does that. We’re chameleons. We change, we grow as an actor… you lose weight, you gain weight, you change your hair or whatever.” But she did also mention, “It’s like all people want to talk about is my weight.”
People also wanted to talk about the possibility of gastric bypass surgery for Metz – since Pearson had considered it on This Is Us. In September 2017 she told the Today show, “The question I wish people would stop asking me is, ‘Are you having weight-loss surgery? Are you gonna be doing a gastric bypass?’ I’m good, boo.”
In October 2018 Metz spoke to Glamour magazine and talked about how she had recently found the courage to wear a swimsuit. She said, “I grew up wearing a T-shirt at the pool. As an adult, I was like, ‘I’m gonna find a bathing suit I like and I’m gonna wear it.’ And there were people, like, ‘Oh my God, look at you! You know I could never do that.’ It’s a backhanded compliment, but I’m doing what I want to do.”
Metz also talked about what she was trying to get across with Pearson. She said, “People who’ve never been overweight don’t understand what it all entails. They think you’re just sitting in the corner and all you do is eat. 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.”
As This Is Us went into its fourth season it continued to show the painful side of being overweight. One 2019 episode shows a scene where Pearson has to accept sub-par seating in a restaurant because she can’t fit anywhere else. Subsequently, the character then has to explain the situation to her husband’s business clients.
Metz talked to People magazine about the scene and she once more mentioned the “void” concept. The star explained, “Everybody, to some degree, fills a void with something, whether it’s social media, alcohol, drugs, overspending [or] overeating. We’re either chasing a feeling or trying to get rid of a feeling.”
And Metz went on, thoughtfully, “But in the long run it never does. It’s just a Band-aid on a really big wound that you have to get to the bottom of, because we don’t like to be uncomfortable as humans. It feels awful, and that’s sort of what [Pearson’s] doing with her overeating.”
On Twitter, Metz received praise for her acting in the restaurant scene. One fan messaged her and said, “… I wish I had your courage. I live the booth nightmare. There are days I have wished myself get hit by a bus rather than deal with the embarrassment horrible people have done to me over it.”
Metz answered the tweet and said, “Your weight does not define you! People’s perceptions are theirs. You are worthy and purposeful no matter what.” Her fan then replied with, “Thank you beautiful lady. I can’t believe you responded. I needed to hear that today and you have touched my spirit.”
Come January 2020 Metz did an in-depth interview with Good Housekeeping magazine and she mused on her childhood once more. The actress said, “My upbringing was very different and often tumultuous, but all those things shaped me to be who I am. I realized those things served me in what I wanted to do, in being vulnerable and having the ability to be very emotional.”
Metz also talked about the relationship she had grown to have with food. She said, “I’ve battled weight issues, but I realize that I don’t have to beat myself up if I have XYZ food. 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 cognizant of.”
The actress said that she had learned not to fall into despair when she made mistakes. Metz explained, “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 spilled and you keep going.”
Metz went on, “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.” Those were some very wise words from her indeed.
The star also talked about her use of social media – her Twitter account has over 260,000 followers. She told Good Housekeeping, “Every single time I post something [I think], ‘What is my intention? Am I seeking validation? Do I want somebody to think I look pretty because I’m feeling bad about myself today?’ I always start with that.”
“Sometimes people come to my page to look for positive encouragement… but the only thing I can do is be myself, and hopefully that inspires people,” Metz went on. And judging by the comments that are sent to her via Twitter from This Is Us fans, it seems like that is very much happening.
Because of her own background, Metz said in the interview, she never wanted to make anybody feel bad about themselves. The actress explained, “I don’t like to make other people feel uncomfortable, because I know what it’s like to be incredibly uncomfortable or picked on or bullied, and I don’t ever want to hurt anyone.”
And Metz said that she had come to find mental contentment. She explained, “It’s peace of mind knowing that I can’t blame other people or make excuses if I’m not happy. Knowing that I feel good because I am being diligent about taking care of myself mentally, physically and emotionally creates self-esteem.”
The actress concluded, “Staying consistent and rigorously honest is hard; it’s a daily practice. But no one is going to do for me what I need to do for myself.” As Kate Pearson of This Is Us has grown and evolved before audience’s eyes, so too has the actress who plays her. And neither the show nor Metz are done yet.