Chrissy Metz Had to Borrow Gas Money to Get to Her This Is Us Audition

"I got the part of Kate, and my life has changed so much."

Chrissy Metz
Photo: Dean Foreman

All I’ve ever wanted to do is make people smile. As a kid, I’d make up silly stories and do impressions. I wanted to be Jim Carrey when I grew up. Seriously. I thought stand-up was the way to go, but as I got older, acting became the dream.

After I graduated from high school in Gainesville, my sister asked me to go to a casting call with her. While I was there, someone asked me, “Hey, do you sing, or do you act?” I was terrified, but I thought, “What the heck?” I belted out Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” in front of everybody. One of the managers looked over and said, “I don’t think you belong in Florida.” Deep down I knew she was right. But I’d never even driven on the interstate before. What did I know about making it big?

I started taking acting classes, and eventually, a few of us trekked across the country to Hollywood. I got a two-bedroom apartment with six other girls. We slept on air mattresses, and when one of us had an audition, we’d help each other prep.

I didn’t get many auditions. That first year I had just three, while some of my roommates were getting three a day. The first opportunity that came along was to play Delta Burke’s daughter in a TV pilot called Sweet Potato Queens. I thought, “This is it!” People had always told me how much I looked like Delta. But nothing happened, not even a callback.

I needed to make money, and my agent said I could work as her assistant. It was a good way to learn the business. I began taking her younger clients on auditions, learning the names of the studios and casting directors.

I ended up working as an agent for nine years, and man, was it tough. Commuting two hours each way, working for peanuts, all while putting my career on the back burner to make ends meet. I almost quit and moved home so many times. But having always been a Positive Polly, whenever I would get discouraged, I’d just try to find the silver lining. I’d say to myself, “Chrissy, there are tons of kids sitting on their couches right now who are never even going to make it to L.A. At least you’re trying.”

It was harder still as a plus-size woman, because the roles I was being considered for were so discouraging. You’re always the sidekick, the butt of the joke. My tall, skinny friends were getting audition after audition. I tried to rationalize that quality was better than quantity.

In 2014 I landed a role on American Horror Story, but once my story line ended, I was on unemployment again. I swear, every time I was about to give up, I would get an audition. Or just as my gas tank was about to reach empty, I’d get a residual check from a job I’d done years before. It was as if the universe were trying to tell me, “You can run, but sorry, girlfriend. It’s happening. You’re happening.”

When I got the audition for This Is Us, I needed to borrow gas money to get there. I had 81 cents in the bank. But something felt different. I walked onto the Sony lot, and when the security guard said good morning, I sang it back like I was in a Disney musical. The birds seemed birdier, the sky looked bluer. I put all kinds of good energy into the audition, hoping that maybe this one would turn the tide.

I got the part of Kate, and my life has changed so much. I can take friends to dinner and not have to make an excuse why I can’t go out. If I need groceries, I buy them—I don’t have to choose between that and paying a bill. I also get to do some- thing I love every day, which is the most unbelievable part.

Fans come up to me now to say how much my story means to them, which is so special. I don’t have it all together, but I’m not putting on a façade that I do. I’m proud to be loved for my imperfections and all the ups and downs I’ve been through.

I have pinch-me moments all the time, like when I walk on set and see the names of all the iconic shows filmed there, like That Girl and Laverne & Shirley. They say you’re always one job away from changing your life. I’m so grateful to be proof of that.

—As told to Jennifer Ferrise

Chrissy Metz stars in Breakthrough, in theaters April 17. For more stories like this, pick up the April issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download on Mar. 22.

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