"It's like this huge, massive pivot that you just didn't think it was ever going to really happen," the actress says.
This Is Us - Season 3

In the season 5 finale of This Is Us, a Pearson wedding was called off. But in even bigger news, a Pearson marriage was called off.

Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) have weathered tragedy and rough patches throughout their relationship, ranging from a breakup to a miscarriage to depression to CrossFit. And these still-somewhat-new-to-this spouses — who recently saw their relationship tested through the challenges of raising a sight-impaired son and adopting a second child — have been stuck on a rather shaky course, Lady Kryptonite not withstanding. While Kate was feeling professionally fulfilled for the first time as a music school aide, an increasingly self-defeating Toby had been bottling up his feelings instead of confiding in his wife about his issues with being unemployed and a stay-at-home dad.

Without consulting Kate, Toby pursued a job that would require him to be in San Francisco three days a week. When he finally came clean to her, the couple once again ratcheted up their relationship tension. But just when it looked a little dire, Toby offered to turn down the job, and Kate told him that she wasn't going to quit hers and that they could make this long-distance relationship work. A hug, a kiss, a problem solved! On to the next one?

Not this time. The finale began with Kevin (Justin Hartley) seemingly rehearsing his wedding vows to Madison (Caitlin Thompson). After watching Madison persuade Kevin to call off their wedding at the last minute, viewers would realize that this sequence was actually a flash-forward (five years later), and Kevin was rehearsing his speech to… someone else? But in a second twist, viewers realized that Kevin was in fact working on officiating a wedding/ making a toast for… his sister, Kate, who was dressed in a wedding gown. This was not a renewal of her vows with Toby, though, like Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) did in the episode's flashback story. No, Kate was marrying — even if you waited for it, you wouldn't guess it — Phillip (Chris Geere), her British music teacher boss. The guy who had been so curmudgeonly was warming up to her by charmingly refusing to accept her resignation (a gambit to help her marriage). But apparently, things are about to go from warming up to heating up.

How did Kate's change of heart happen? When will her change of heart happen? What did Metz think of this stunning, disorienting plot turn for one of the show's core couples? Let's put a ring on it — as in, let's ring up the woman at the heart of the finale's biggest shocker.

This Is Us
Caitlin Thompson and Chrissy Metz on 'This Is Us'
| Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First things first: Wow? Wow.

CHRISSY METZ: I'm not sure if people are going to hate me or just have lots of questions. I hope they understand the love that Kate and Toby have for each other and that it's not some willy-nilly thing that happens, right? We can see the sort of unraveling this season. I'm hoping that they'll see through that and not just be so upset that one of their most favorite couples is no longer… fetch. I'm hoping. I'm hoping.

Viewers knew Kate and Toby's marriage had some cracks, and many have speculated that Kate winds up divorced from Toby in the future — if she's even alive. Dan Fogelman [the show's creator] had told you about this divorce a while ago, but how did he break the news to you? And what was your very first reaction?

Well, initially I was like, "Does that have to happen? Like, are you guys sold? Are you sold on that? I don't know. Are you sure?" Because, of course, as a fan of Chris Sullivan's, I adore him, and to know him is to love him. You get so connected to somebody. And selfishly I'm like, "No! This can't happen!" And then I cried. And then as Dan was giving me the particulars as far as this season was going to go, it was just very emotional, because anytime, even if it's a fictitious relationship, I'm attached to the relationship. Especially from everything that they've come through and gone through and how they've grown each other. And regardless if their relationship was a reason, a season, or a lifetime, as they say, there was so much growth.

So it's not for naught, but it still was emotional. I'm like, "Wait! Who is going to be the new person? Is there a new person?" And then of course — I don't want to say the new Chris, but Chris, who plays Philip, couldn't be more lovely and wonderful. It's like this huge, massive pivot that you just didn't think it was ever going to really happen. I mean, it's wonderful storytelling, and I think what's most important is the co-parenting. It's very, very important to do it well, for the children and for the greater good. Not everybody is your forever person — even if you thought they would and you wanted them to be. There's a stigma, this idea of like, "Well, if you marry this person…" Of course you did it because you want to be with them for the rest of your life, but you didn't fail because the relationship didn't continue. So I love that aspect of it too.

Had you been hoping that Kate and Toby would go the distance? Or were you conflicted in that you saw enough disconnect between them that it made you wonder if there was someone else out there for her with whom she could find greater happiness?

When we get into relationships, we have high, high hopes. We want to make it work and we have the best intentions. And what I think is really important in life, even outside of acting, is that if you love somebody, you want them to be happy. If you love them, let them go. It's one of those things where they both helped each other come into who they're supposed to be for that next chapter. It didn't mean that they were supposed to be together.

It's tricky because, of course, we love the relationship so much, and they both have been through a lot in their lives, and Toby is such a great guy, and Kate has had so much hardship, personally, trying to come into her own. And sometimes people are just ushering other people to those places. Of course it'd be really sweet if they stayed together, but I also think what's more beautiful is that you come to a resolve in that — my ex-husband, I care about him deeply, but I just know that I was not going to make him happy, and we just weren't the fit we thought we were initially. People grow together or they grow apart; it's not a bad thing. It's worse to stay in a relationship that you're absolutely miserable in, or that your needs aren't being met from either side. [Exhales] Yeah.

How did Chris Sullivan process the news when you two first started talking about it? Was he understanding when you told him that you'd have to be a little chillier to him on the set?

I haven't been. Because I can't be. It's just never going to happen. I mean, he could kick me in the shin and I'd be like, "It doesn't matter!" I have to say we haven't really talked about it [laughs], because when you talk about it, you make it very real. And because I'm playing into the future a bit and we're still in the present day, it's tricky for me because I honestly feel like I'm cheating on him. Right? I really feel that way when I see him come to set, and I'm like, "Oh, I just finished a scene with this guy that I know I'm going to marry." I feel like I'm cheating on him. I'm sure that's going to be the speculation, and I sure hope that's not the case. I was told that that's not the case. But yeah, it's a very weird feeling. So I haven't quite figured it out. [Laughs]

It's okay, there's time. How surprised was Chris Geere by this twist? It seems like he'll become a key part of the final season.

Yeah. When we read with both guys that they were interested in for the role, Chris and the other gentlemen were awesome. And [laughs] when Dan said in the test, "Hey, um, just so you know, there's going to be a relationship between you and Kate." And he looked like, "What?" I don't think he knew that going into it. He literally told him on the spot during the test, during the chemistry read. So I think that he was pleasantly surprised, but also like, "Oh God, I'm English and America is going to hate me!" And I was like, "No, you're too charming. It's not going to happen. They're going to hate Kate." So yeah, I think it was a surprise to Chris Geere, for sure.

When you first learned that Kate and Toby were splitting up and that there would be another man coming into the picture, did you have any immediate guesses or theories about who it would be?

No, actually. At all. And I know that everyone is so particular with the guest stars and any actor that comes into the fold, and that they have to be really special. And Chris Geere obviously is very special. Very strange that his name is also Chris, but, yeah, I remember when we were checking and testing chemistry, it was like, "Oh, he's so lovely." But my heart was broken, because it's like another chapter, right? The chapter of that book was closing. But I'm dealing with this duality, present and future. So yeah, it was very jarring and shocking — and emotional for me.

Do you have any sense of what we can expect in the present day from Kate and Phillip as they get to know each other? He was so curmudgeonly at first, and then he begrudgingly warmed up to her and didn't accept her resignation.

Well, I was curious, because I thought the audience was going to think, "Oh no, here she goes, letting somebody treat her like crap again. That's her M.O." But I don't know where the turn comes. I don't know if it's that she finds some solace in Philip because they work together. Maybe he shows up for her in a different way while her and Toby are going through it. I don't know the particulars yet.

Kate and Toby committed to make this long-distance relationship work, which by the way would be harder on Kate, having the two kids with her in Los Angeles. From what you understand, is this fracture related to alienation from long distance? Or is it something else?

I don't know all of the meat of everything, but I think what we do know is that there's a lot that hasn't been said — that Kate hasn't been honest with and Toby hasn't been honest with, whether it's Toby not feeling like he's man enough because he was out of a job. And so many people can relate to that, especially after COVID. And also that I think there might be — I feel like while Toby might have wanted to adopt, I don't know if he was as gung-ho as Kate was.

Also there's some things that Kate wasn't honest with when it pertains to Marc [Austin Abrams], and I know that any human being is like, "No, I can forgive this. I can get past this." Sometimes you can and sometimes you can't. So once that trust is broken, you can't unring the bell. I think it opens up this whole thought of, "Hmmm. What else is going on? What else don't I know?" It's a myriad of things that ends up happening in a relationship. And then when Toby says, "I love our kids, but…" there are things as a human being, as a man, as a person who needs to be fulfilled. But unfortunately when you have children, your family should be the priority. So he's really in a tough spot because he needs a job. He needs to support the family, but also it's going to absolutely play into their relationship, because Toby had a [hard] time of dealing with Jack's disability and then with the adoption. It's just challenging for parents. And Kate never feeling like he was a hundred percent in it. Whether that's projection or not, we don't know. I truly don't know as of yet, but I just think there's a lot that has been felt, but not said.

That all makes sense. Just tell me it's not Lady Kryptonite.

I said, "If you tell me right now it's Kara, Cara, Bura, Bara, or whatever her name is, I will be so pissed off!" Because we haven't even seen her! I don't even know what she looks like! Yeah, I asked the same question. [Laughs]

Fans often comment on all the bad things that happen to Kate. Now it'll be: "Here's another one! She's divorced." But she looked so happy in that flash-forward. Is another way to look at this that she finally has found happiness, something that has been hard to come by for her? This year she's made peace with events from her past, and we've seen her more professionally fulfilled than ever. And as Rebecca reminds, "Everything's going to be all right." Maybe this is the happy ending for Kate.

Exactly. And that's why as Kate and Toby co-parent and still care about each other — we're going to see him in the future hopefully happy. It's interesting when people come into their own, and it's not about the other person; it's really like, "What fulfills me?" And the catalyst was really having the guts to go off and tell Marc how she really felt, and was able to process that. That was such a huge part of her and what she was holding on to.

And then what's beautiful is that Toby loved her through it all, and helped her to be in the place of the happiness that she found. Which is such a mind-F, right? You're like, "What?" When you dated someone, you're like, "I made them better! And they went off and they're happier?" That's what relationships are really about. I feel like you leave something better than you found it. And I think that's what Toby did for Kate. Also, she found herself and she finally found the job of her dreams, and her and her mom — there's just a lot of growth and evolution that's happening. As hard as it is of a pill to swallow, it's like, "Oh! Wow. She is [happy]. But Toby did have a hand in it."

Kevin and Madison are so chummy on Kate's wedding day, despite having called off the wedding in the present day. You've mentioned the co-parenting, but can you give any hints on Kate and Toby's relationship in that era — or beyond?

The co-parenting thing is going to happen. I think there'll be, of course, some hiccups and some weirdness initially, because we're human. But I think when people can see outside themselves and see what the bigger picture is about — the livelihood of their children, you're like, "Okay, let's buck up and do this." I'm not saying it's going to be perfect, because it's This Is Us! [Laughs] There's no way that it's going to be a walk in the park! And I have to say, I'm really proud of Madison in that they wrote her to put her foot down, and as much as it would be really nice to have him, it was more important for her to think of herself and put herself first, knowing the bigger picture. Anyway, that's just my side note. But yeah, co-parenting — definitely going to happen.

As we said, fans have been speculating about Kate not even being alive in that deep flash-forward. Is the reason that this clue was being held from us because she's going to get out of that white car with Philip?

Perhaps! I mean, anything's possible! And also, things change. I could tell you one thing, and then four months from now, they're like, "Actually, we decided to go this way."

Do you have a cryptic clue about Kate's journey in season 6?

Well, I do know that we can see how she's continuing to show up for herself in a very different way than she ever did in all the previous seasons. She's really making herself a priority. And I think that's going to continue to happen, but again, I don't know much for what's going on next season yet.

We've got an extra-long offseason now. Fans are going to be asking you a ton of questions. What are you bracing for? Are you going underground?

I think I might need to go into witness protection. Listen, when they thought that Kate was going to leave Toby at the altar, this woman on Twitter goes, "Um, how do I sue NBC if Kate doesn't make it to the altar?" And I thought, "Oh my heavens!" I don't know why, but I feel like people are going to — hopefully they won't, hopefully they'll see the big picture — but I have this idea that people are going to think, "Oh, no. What does she do now? How could she leave this perfect man? Why does she mess this up?" And I sure hope that they can see deeper than that.

But what's cool is you can create your own narrative of what's going to happen — or what has happened five years in the future. But I hope that it brings up conversation about being truly happy in a relationship, but also: What is somebody bringing to the relationship? And are they working at it and working for it? And with [this information in the finale about] Kate and Toby, they think, "Oh my God, what else could they come up against — and also try to work through?" And if it's still not the right thing, then it's not meant to be. Some things just aren't meant to be forever. So I'm hoping I can have those conversations with people and maybe even have people reflective of their own lives. I don't know. I hope it's positive.

The big question for those people is: "How are we going to invest in this relationship in the final season?" After giving the audience five seasons of Kate and Toby, the writers have their work cut out for them.

Yeah. I have a dream of co-writing one episode. Most of the cast wants to direct; I want to write because I have a really, really important idea for the episode. And I think that if we could see the crux of what's going on — there's just so much that hasn't been said, or swept under the rug or like, "Okay, well, this is just who she is. It's just who they are, who he is." I think it's going to be challenge, but also really amazing because we get to see this beginning, middle, and continuing, but sort of the end of a relationship. And that's really cool. You don't always see that on TV, you know? But I have no doubt it's going to be wonderful — wonderfully heartbreaking, wonderfully beautiful, wonderfully sad, all of that.

What does that finale time jump and those revelations mean for the final season? This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman explains here.

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This Is Us - Season 3
This Is Us

NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.

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