And then the baton of Pearson pain was passed from Kevin to Kate.
On Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us — the middle chapter in the Big Three-centric trilogy that will close out the fall season — the raw impact and honest aftermath of loss was explored, as her high-risk pregnancy ended calamitously. Kate (Chrissy Metz) had been so cautious about the news, even secreting it away for a while, before finally allowing her beyond-thrilled fiancé Toby (Chris Sullivan) to persuade her to lower her guard and revel in the bliss of an addition to the Pearson family. But now: shock and awful. She tried to bypass grieving by returning prematurely to the stage, but that just resulted in her fleeing from the gig after she saw a family-friendly moment, and then clashing uncomfortably with Toby over how much pain a partner has a right to feel as well. It was only when Rebecca (Mandy Moore) arrived with open arms at her doorstep that Kate was able to open up — revealing that she felt she “took this from Toby” — and to finally move her complicated, loaded relationship with her mother in the right direction. In sharing her own story of loss, Rebecca encouraged her daughter to let Toby into her grief, and by episode’s end, there was nascent light: Kate spoke optimistically with him about their future, and that they would, not yet but maybe soon, try to conceive again.
That’s for another day, though. Right now, read how Metz vividly brought Kate’s pain to life in “Number Two.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: At the beginning of the season, you hinted that Kate and Toby would definitely experience some “lows.” I assume this was the biggest low you were referring to?
CHRISSY METZ: For sure.
Did you learn Kate would become pregnant and that she would miscarry rather quickly in the same conversation with the producers? And what were your initial feelings on those turns for the character?
We found out the middle of the summer when we had our meeting, and, ooooph, of course I was devastated. More so for the audience, because I think they are rooting for Kate and Toby as a relationship for so many reasons. And that it’s a story line that needs to be addressed on network television — not just because of pregnancy, but because of plus-size pregnancy and it’s an unconventional relationship, they’re not married, they’ve just moved in together. There’s so many reasons why I think it’s important. I was a little disappointed, I was like, “Ohhhhhhh. Well, okay.” But I do believe that somewhere down the road, and especially as you learn in the last scene, there’s hope, and they are able to come through this really traumatic life event together, and stronger than ever, and hopeful about the future and conceiving again.
Kate just wants to live her life like everyone else, and, though miscarriages are very common, it’s brutal to see that bit of joy taken from her. But, like you said, the takeaway here was that she won’t be broken by tragedy, and she’s willing to be vulnerable and try again with Toby by her side.
It’s tough because it’s not just about weight, but when you feel like you’re finally going in the right direction and you’re happy, things do happen. And it’s not because you deserve them or because you’re a terrible person, but just life happens. It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it. It’s very hard to deal with and we don’t know how to deal with it most of the time, and Kevin’s not in the picture because he’s dealing with his own demons. It’s really important to see all that unfold even though it feels like her happiness, that one piece of happiness she had for a moment, was taken away. But she won’t let it break her.
Were you as surprised as the audience that such a revelation came not in her showcase episode but at the end of Kevin’s? Were you wondering at first if that might take away some of its potency because the audience is already entering the episode with that news?
Yeah, it’s interesting. I had to pacify my sister and show her my interpretation of giving birth because she was like, “You have to promise me that nothing bad’s going to happen,” and I’m like, “I prom—it’s not.” And she’s like, “Okay, so let’s practice the birthing scene.” So I went through all of this with my sister to then have her text me [while watching last week’s episode] and she’s like, “Poor Kevin,” and I’m like, “Oh, she hasn’t finished the episode yet.” So then when she texted me, she goes, “I can’t talk to you right now.” She literally could not talk to me, she was so devastated and so upset. She’s like, “We practiced together!” I’m like, “I know! I’m sorry!”
To have the conversation with my actual sister about finding out, sort of quickly, and on the tail end of Kevin’s story, I think the bigger picture is not so much the surprise of it happening but how is Kate going to process this and how do Kate and Toby process this, and how is she going to tell her mother — if she’s going to tell her mother. And then we find out that she does, and very quickly, and Rebecca comes to her aid by her side, in such a surprise, and that opens up a whole new level of vulnerability for Kate that we’ve never seen before.
We’ll get to that moment in a minute. How did you fundamentally approach these scenes with Kate trying to handle this loss and process this grief?
I don’t want to say afraid, but I was definitely like, “Okay, this is going to be a challenge,” because I haven’t experienced it personally — I do have friends who have and family who have, but I couldn’t, of course, reach out to them because you can’t tell them anything. So I did process what it would feel like to go through this alone and feel like nobody would understand you, so I used that in the process of just being really in my own head, or in Kate’s own head about it all, and overanalyzing it and feeling inadequate and just being hormonally a wreck because your body still thinks that you’re pregnant. So just trying to have empathy for Kate, and this beautiful piece of joy that Toby and her had and then it was taken from her. I just tried to stay authentic in the heartache and also the process of grief because everybody processes grief differently. I don’t know, personally, I might have gone to town at the Chinese buffet, but she decided that she wasn’t going to do that because it didn’t serve her in that moment. That was a really big deal for her to not go to the food.
That’s an easy and comfortable crutch for her.
Especially with a loaded plate.
Young Kate says that if she didn’t get into Berklee, it would crush her, but she couldn’t deal with disappointing her mother on top of that, which her mother explains isn’t true. Adult Kate tells Toby that she feels like she failed him after the miscarriage, which also isn’t true. What is it about Kate that makes her assume a heavier burden than just processing her own disappointment or grief? She’s very concerned with letting other people down.
I think it’s still that remaining guilt from her father’s death, and also feeling less than. It did definitely start before Jack’s passing, where she’s never going to be as skinny or as talented or as beautiful as her mom, and I think that turns into the guilt, and then there’s resentment, and then it’s like, “Why can’t she just get it together?” She continues to feel less than, and just not equal to anyone in her family and anyone in her life, and she feels like she constantly lets people down, and I do think it has a lot to do with letting herself down.