The Work-Life Issue

Chrissy Metz Goes Off Script and Reclaims Her Story

As fans of "This Is Us" come to terms with the end of the award-winning show on May 24, Chrissy Metz is also processing parting ways with the storyline, her castmates, and the beloved on-screen character, Kate Pearson, who she portrayed for six years. 

“I am her; she is me. [We] always put ourselves into our roles. And I think Kate is so much of who I used to be. And so now that she's becoming this very empowered woman who’s speaking up for herself, I, in turn, find myself doing that in different ways,” says Metz. 

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Photo: Ryan Pfluger

She is genuine and forthcoming about admitting that Kate allows her to be vulnerable in her own life, which in turn makes her more confident and secure. “That role has helped me to be the person that I am trying to fully realize.” 

Fans feel the Kate-Chrissy connection too, often mistakenly calling Metz “Kate” when they encounter her in public. “And I'm like, ‘Oh, I'm actually not Kate. It's Chrissy.’ [I] am grateful that people are connected so deeply that they think that I am her, but I am Chrissy first.”

Yet separating herself from Kate in a healthy way may take work, admits Metz. “It's really hard to detach from that and also because when you found your new fame or fortune through a particular role or show, and then it's not there anymore, you question—who am I? Who am I without this person? Who am I not playing this character? And it's a bit of a tricky thing to maneuver,” says Metz. 

I am her; she is me. [We] always put ourselves into our roles. And I think Kate is so much of who I used to be. And so now that she's becoming this very empowered woman who’s speaking up for herself, I, in turn, find myself doing that in different ways.

Her faith in a higher power, as well as therapy, helps her navigate the transition; the same coping mechanisms she leaned on for other challenging times in her life. “I'm so grateful that I have access to healthcare—mental health and therapy because I have a lot of conversations with my therapist,” she says.

Therapy became a big part of Metz’s life after she experienced a panic attack on her 30th birthday—a time when she was married and working as a talent agent putting in 70 plus hours per week.

“I was doing something I knew ultimately in my heart wasn't meant for me—I was being an agent. My body was starting to tell my mind, ‘You’re unhappy, something's wrong.’ And then my mind started telling my body, ‘Yeah, something is wrong,’” Metz recalls.

In 2012, while watching a movie with her friend, mom, and then-husband of five years, she suddenly felt like she was going to die. A movie reel played in her head as she struggled to catch her breath. “[Aspiring] actor who never made it dies in the ArcLight. This is literally what’s running through my head,” she says.

Photo: Ryan Pfluger; Animation: WesFilms

Although Metz experienced anxiety throughout her life, she says that incident was the first time it manifested into a panic attack. After years of reflection, she believes the panic attack occurred because it was a time in her life that she was trying not to self-soothe with food.


I was doing something I knew ultimately in my heart wasn't meant for me—I was being an agent. My body was starting to tell my mind, ‘You’re unhappy, something's wrong.’ And then my mind started telling my body, ‘Yeah, something is wrong.'

“Because for sure, it's not about the food. Ever. The food is the symptom…[If] you take the food away, all the feelings you've suppressed come up, and then you have to contend with them because you've never dealt with them,” says Metz.

To cope, she joined a 12-Step Program, which helped her realize that as much as she loved her husband, they weren’t making each other happy. “And it was really hard because much like Kate and Toby…you love each other. We find faults. But you know, you're not growing together; you're growing apart.”

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Photo: Ryan Pfluger

Even though the panic attack was scary and she lived with anxiety for years afterward, Metz is grateful it happened.

“I wasn’t doing what I knew I needed to do to get to that other place in my life," she says. "I needed to understand why I've been hurting my body with food, and all the things that come with that, which means all the past trauma, all my parents' unresolved issues, all of that came bubbling to the surface at 30 years old,” she says.

Metz grew up in an environment where she never felt heard and where she was physically and emotionally abused by her stepdad, who often criticized her weight and forced her to step on the scale.

Speaking to a therapist provided her with a listening ear she longed for, a means to assess her feelings, and guidance to face past trauma. She also leaned on journaling, meditation, and practicing gratitude.

I needed to understand why I've been hurting my body with food, and all the things that come with that, which means all the past trauma, all my parents' unresolved issues, all of that came bubbling to the surface at 30 years old.

“I started to make strides toward what it is that I wanted,” she says. 

A Move Forward With Setbacks

At 22 years old, Metz moved to Los Angeles from Florida with encouragement from an agent who saw her sing Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” at an open audition. Metz took the leap to follow her aspirations of becoming an actress and singer, but her dreams got pushed aside when she found herself settling for a role as a talent agent, representing stars like Ariana Grande and Dove Cameron.

"I'm so grateful that I got to see that side and and understood the business in a way that 98% of actors won't," she says. Though she was good at the job, as nine years went by, she felt stuck on the wrong side of the industry.

“It was difficult because when you want to do something and you feel like you're so close, but so far away, that's how I felt every day. I love rooting for the underdog. I love helping people do what it is that I wanted to do because I have such a passion for TV and film. And it was hard because...what if I’m never getting out of this?”

Video: Micah Hamilton and WesFilms

After her 30th birthday, she started realizing there are many things she was good at, especially if she put her energy into them. This meant she didn’t have to be an agent. She started investing in her first loves and began taking singing lessons and acting classes again. She also tried to cut back on long working hours and reached for balance, all the same.

“When you get off-kilter, the pendulum swings too far. You have to come back,” she says. “I think balance is something that we are not taught generally as a society; It's like 'You better hustle and you better work…until you're blood, sweat, and tears.' And I hope that narrative is changing.”

Her shift worked and in 2011, she was cast as Ima “Barbara” Wiggles on season four of "American Horror Story." Although, to her, "This Is Us" still feels like her real break. “This was sort of my first real job, as far as acting goes, a job that can sustain you and you can actually call it your job and you could have some security.”

I think balance is something that we are not taught generally as a society; it's like, 'You better hustle and you better work…until you're blood, sweat, and tears.' And I hope that narrative is changing.

However, "This Is Us" is more than a big break or a successful job for Metz. Given her experience with mental health, she appreciates how the plots address eating disorders, panic disorders, addiction, and trauma in a meaningful and relatable way. She hears first-hand from fans on the street and on social media about how the show helps to break the stigma around mental illness.

“For me, once you educate somebody, even if it's in a roundabout way on a TV show or a conversation…the fear goes away, and the shame or the guilt goes away, and that is so important in the journey of contending with your own mental health,” she says. “I think ['This Is Us'] is helping…even in ways that we probably don't even recognize now.”

Kate’s journey with food brings to life the complications of an eating disorder, which Metz says is a hard concept to understand if you've never had issues with over- or undereating. She says the way the writers created Kate’s, Toby's, and Madison’s struggles with food gives viewers varied perspectives.

Metz is candid about the ups and downs of having an eating disorder and it's clear that she has spent years in retrospection and continues to analyze and work on her relationship with food. "[Because] whether it's readily available or for me, it was always self-soothing when I was growing up. It was a way to sort of not feel something," she says.

For me, once you educate somebody, even if it's in a roundabout way on a TV show or a conversation…the fear goes away, and the shame or the guilt goes away, and that is so important in the journey of health as far as contending with your own mental health.

On Self-Care and Balance

Metz credits being a Libra (born on September 29) for her drive to find balance. “I have to have balance in my life, but it is something that I'm perpetually chasing,” she says.

With long hours spent on set and other TV-star commitments, she’s found a few things that keep her balanced and prioritize self-care.

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Photo: Ryan Pfluger

“I love to take a bath at the end of the day. I also spoke to a therapist who always would say, at least let the water run down your back and it's like washing the day away. And so, I always have to do that before I go to bed, whether it's a shower or a bath.”

She also listens to music when processing sad or joyful emotions, meditates, and keeps a gratitude journal. Perhaps the hardest thing for her to practice is saying “no” when she feels overstretched, which is a “really difficult thing for someone who is relatively new in the business, who is not a straight-size person, who is a woman to say, ‘Gosh, you know, as much as I'd like to take that, that’s not going to work for me,’ because then you're going to miss out on an opportunity.”

To evaluate if she should take or pass on a commitment, she asks herself if it’s something someone else wants her to do or something she really wants to do. She also figures out if it will bring her joy or if she feels that it’s an obligation to prove herself. “I have to always come back to what is my intention. Now, that's a very cute or pretty way of living life, but it's not always the truth. You know, somedays I say, ‘Fine, I'll do it,' even though I don't want to, but then I bring that energy into the space." That's not balance, she says.

I have to always come back to what is my intention. Now, that's a very cute or pretty way of living life, but it's not always the truth. You know, somedays I'm like, ‘Fine, I'll do it,' even though I don't want to, but then I bring that energy into the space.

Even as her success and popularity keep her in demand and searching for balance, Metz says oftentimes she still feels like an imposter in the celebrity world.

“I don't feel as funny. I don't feel as witty and smart and educated…I still feel like I’m not good enough and I still feel like the new girl in school. Like everybody's been working for 15-20 years,” she says.

In her 2018 memoir "This Is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today," she shares that her "This Is Us" castmates have a text chain with each other yet she always second-guesses herself before engaging because she thinks she’s not as smart or funny as the rest of them.

“And what I came to realize was [that] we are all in different places and times in our lives. You know, we're not all the same age. We didn't have all the same childhoods. We didn't have the same experiences. It's okay that I don't feel a certain way,” she says.

Despite feeling appreciated by her colleagues and close to them, she says her feelings of inadequacy come from not feeling heard as a child. “I am afraid to sort of take up space whether it's in a group text or in an interview, wherever I think I'm not supposed to intrude,” says Metz. 

When impostor syndrome takes root, she reminds herself that nobody else is judging her as much as she judges herself, that no one, no matter who they are or how much money they make, has life all figured out. “[We] might not ever figure it out, and that's okay. But having grace around that and doing it anyway and walking into the fire anyway…even if it's something as silly as a text message, or talking to a co-worker about something that made you uncomfortable, or asking for a raise, I mean, whatever it is…every time you do it, you gain a little more confidence because confidence is just trust in yourself.”

Having confidence doesn’t mean she lets her ego take over, though. Instead, she believes that everyone is deserving, not entitled, to the good things in life. “[I don't] think you're supposed to be anything…I really try to separate myself from my ego in that way, and just be grateful,” she says. 

[We] might not ever figure it out, and that's okay. But having grace around that and doing it anyway and walking into the fire anyway…even if it's something as silly as a text message, or talking to a co-worker about something that made you uncomfortable, or asking for a raise, I mean, whatever it is…every time you do it, you gain a little more confidence because confidence is just trust in yourself.

Ending and Carrying On With Gratitude

Six years with the cast of "This Is Us" brought Metz friendships she’s grateful for, something she expresses with sincerity.

“I mean, I spend more time with them than anybody in my whole life. Yes, playing a role, but you're also super vulnerable and there's only probably a handful of people in our lives that we can be super vulnerable with on a consistent basis. So there's this connection that is so strong, that you probably don't have with other people. You share your lives with them, your ups and your downs and how you're feeling in that moment on that day, what you bring to work and what you try to leave at home,” she says.

She believes they’ll always be connected and have a relationship, but she’ll miss seeing them on a consistent basis. Her sadness around this notion shines through and it's obvious this group means a lot to her. She cherishes the times when the whole cast got together to shoot family gatherings because everyone was on set at the same time. “It's always really fun and we get to be silly together in-between takes.”

Video: Micah Hamilton and WesFilms

But her favorite memory of the crew that will always stay with her is when they won the SAG Award for Best Ensemble in a Drama Series. “I remember Sterling was so excited. He jumped up and ripped his jacket; we all were just staring at each other like they called our name? Are we sure?"

"For a network show to be in contention with other cable shows and streaming shows is a really big deal…not only to be recognized but to be recognized by our peers as other actors, that was something that we were just talking about recently. It was just really, really special,” says Metz.

There are times she lets herself get emotional about the show ending because if she tries to stop herself, she says she might implode. “Because there's so much—it's six years, it's family, it’s friends, it's job security, it's trying to not find your identity in your role, and believing that there are other things that I'm also supposed to do after the show is over,” says Metz.

Because there's so much—it's six years, it's family, it’s friends, it's job security, it's trying to not find your identity in your role, and believing that there are other things that I'm also supposed to do after the show is over.

As she moves on from "This Is Us," the burning question is: what’s next? A question she says can suck the joy out of the present moment. To stay in the moment, she embraces the idea that everything happens as it should and when it should, “and that if you stay ready, you don't have to get ready,” she says. 

Her next chapter includes finishing an album she’s been working on in between takes of "This Is Us." This follows her vocal performance on the Oscar-nominated song "I'm Standing With You" from the 2019 film "Breakthrough."

She's broadened her horizons outside the performing arts as well. In 2021, Metz launched the aptly-named Joyful Heart Wine Company as a reminder of the importance of community.

Also on her bucket list is developing a new TV show and performing on Broadway or writing a Broadway play, something that’s been a goal of hers since childhood. Given her determination to get to where she is today, there's no doubt she'll find a way.

“Everything's pie in the sky until it actually happens,” says Metz. In the meantime, she’ll definitely “[stay] creative and find more balance. That's really what's important to me.” 

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