SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Number Two,” the ninth episode of the second season of “This Is Us.”
Kate Pearson (Chrissy Metz) still hasn’t fully processed her grief or the guilt she feels after her father, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), died decades ago. But now the “glue” that holds the Big Three together on NBC family drama “This Is Us” is trying to process the grief and guilt she feels after having a miscarriage.
“There’s so much shame around miscarriage, and she was so afraid of it happening that she didn’t want to tell anybody that she was right. And she didn’t want to disappoint anybody,” Metz tells Variety.
In “Number Two,” the middle episode in a trilogy where each is centered on one individual member of the Big Three, Kate tried to just move on with her life as if nothing happened in the immediate aftermath of the loss. Less than a day later, she went to her singing gig, and though she tried to call her twin Kevin (Justin Hartley), when he didn’t pick up, she didn’t push things.
But Kate couldn’t pretend nothing was wrong for long. “When she sees that little adorable girl [at her gig] and she understands that she’s not going to have that — at least not for the time being — it all just hits her at once,” Metz says.
In the wake of Kate’s big episode, Metz talks with Variety about how grieving for her lost child compares to grieving for her father, bonding with her mother, and what Kate’s focus will be from here.
How do you the loss of a child compares to the loss of a father for Kate?
I think when you’re a teenager and your father passes away and you feel responsible for it, most teenagers — most people — don’t even know how to process that kind of devastation, but it manifests in a different way for the teenage Kate. I believe that was the start of Kate not wanting to talk about her feelings and putting everybody else first and being the girl in the shadows, self-soothing with food. Similarities, but different in that she really turned to food and to that self-loathing.
Do you think that self-loathing started with her father’s death or was it re-triggered after years of being “Number Two” in the family?
Oh sure, everybody sort of bet on [Kevin], and he was walking first and he’s a tough guy, the Alpha male, and then there’s Kate, and she’s sort of always behind. What we found out was she didn’t walk as quickly as Kevin did, and she was always in the shadows, always trying to catch up. And then there’s Randall, who’s not biologically related but a rockstar in his own way. I have an older sister, and there was a lot of pressure, and I always joke that “I’m the middle child and that’s why I’m an actress — because I never got the attention!” And we have another sister who cannot do any wrong. So I can totally relate to all of those dynamics, and I think a lot of people can, because while my philosophy is that we’re all given what we’re supposed to have, and we learn all of the lessons we need to learn in whatever order we are in the family or fill in the blank, this is a great way of telling different stories from different perspectives.
How did you and Chris Sullivan develop the dynamic between Kate and Toby’s varied responses to their shared loss?
With Ken Olin, who directed this trilogy of Kevin to Kate and Randall, we tried [the scene in the kitchen] a couple of times where we were shouting at each other because there is that misplaced anger and you’re just so disappointed in yourself and you project that onto people you love. But it ended up being much more settled because really there’s just so much pain behind all of it. How could Toby possibly understand what it would feel like? But he lost a baby, too, and there’s also that empathy and so much about life is that empathy. So we just tried to play it in a way where she says, “Listen, I am so beaten and I am so sad,” but then when she hears the other side of the story — because we’re always in our own minds, our own crap, and it’s rare we step outside of ourselves — she realized that yeah, it happened to him, too. Not physically, but he was excited and committed, and there was a loss for both of them.
Initially when Kate and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) talked on the phone, Kate said she didn’t want to talk about the miscarriage, but ultimately she did open up later. What do you think made her change her mind?
I think no matter how difficult relationships can be, you always want your mom — you always want advice or a shoulder to cry on or even Kate might have wanted Rebecca to say, “Buck up, you can handle this!” She didn’t really know how Rebecca was going to respond, but I think innately and intuitively you want to call your mom, especially because she knows she lost a baby in childbirth and was probably the only person she could call to relate to in any capacity.
Do you feel like Rebecca and Kate bonding over their similar losses is a true turning point for their tumultuous relationship?
Yeah, it really is. It’s a huge turning point for them, and that’s what’s really beautiful about the way the scene was written. She just shows up, and there’s no questions asked, and that meant a lot for Kate and for their relationship. She’s solely showing up for Kate — and not because she wants to change Kate but because she wants to help her, to be there and love her through this really hard time. For her to just sit there, and it wasn’t about judgement or feeling inadequate or “You should have done this, you should have done this,” it was just “I’m here for you.” And we see Rebecca open up for the first time about how hard it was for her losing Kyle when she was giving birth and that she never held Kyle, and we [didn’t] know that as an audience yet. Kate says, “How can I be so attached to a baby I haven’t even met?” and that bonding and that common experience is a huge turning point in their relationship and, I think, the foundation of trust. There’s always been love there, but this is trust and understanding of each other.
Kate says she wants to start trying for another baby, so what is in store for her in the next few episodes?
Kate and Toby agreed that they will try again because they’re not completely defeated, and when they put that shower curtain up together, that’s really so reflective of life in that it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it. She’s trying to move forward positively, but her main priority is really getting healthy — mentally, emotionally, and physically. And music is still really important to her, and then of course there is a wedding she has to plan. So there’s a lot going on, and she’s trying to balance it and learn to put herself first and make those deposits in her self-esteem bank. She’s showing up for herself and for Toby and the relationship in ways that she never would have been able to before because she’s started to process her guilt and her grief.
“This Is Us” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.