“Always be grateful”
One year ago Chrissy Metz, star of Golden Globes-nominated series This Is Us, had just 80 cents in the bank. She plans never to forget where she came from.
igrew up in Florida, US. My parents divorced when I was eight; I never really knew my dad, and my mom raised my older sister, brother and me alone. It was challenging. There were times I’d be nervous walking home from school, thinking, ‘ I don’t know what I’ll do if that red tag from the power company saying our lights are turned off is on the door handle’.
And there were nights when my mom wouldn’t eat dinner. She’d be like, “Oh, I’m not hungry.” I knew she was giving up food to make sure we could eat, but when you’re nine or 10, you can’t help. It was devastating.
In retrospect, I think that’s why food equals love in my family. It’s how we showed love – my granny made me a grilled-cheese sandwich whenever she picked me up from school. I really valued that attention. As I got older, that turned into, “Oh, I’m happy – let’s celebrate and eat. I’m sad? Let me eat my feelings.”
My mom eventually remarried and had two more daughters; she and my stepdad did the best they could. I remember when she couldn’t afford to buy me Keds sneakers, my friend offered to glue her little blue label onto my cheap shoes! I laugh about it now, but it was a big deal to me as a kid.
Comedy was my outlet. I became the class clown, and I gravitated to performing for attention I didn’t always think I was getting at home.
After high school I really wanted to act, but I didn’t know how to start. I didn’t know anybody with connections, I didn’t come from money, I didn’t go to a performing arts school. But I was never afraid of the odds, even though they were stacked against me.
Then my sister – who is skinny, and beautiful – heard about this open-call model and talent search a five-hour drive from home, and she was like, “Will you take me?” We went, and the woman asked me, “Do you sing or act? Just step in here for a second.”
I sang Christina Aguilera’s ‘ Beautiful’ – Lord knows why I chose that big ol’ thing. The following day she called my sister for a modelling contract and told me she would introduce me to managers and agents in Los Angeles.
How’d we get to LA? Some friends and I caravanned from Florida, then lived in a two-bedroom apartment, in California. We were all on a budget – we spent nights playing Uno in our living room instead of going out – but most of the other kids’ parents were footing their bills.
My stepdad helped with my car insurance, but I couldn’t ask for more; they didn’t have anything extra. So I paid my way by nannying and odd jobs. I had two auditions that season, maybe. I cried a lot.
And then in 2014 American Horror Story came up. I’d wanted the role of Ima ‘ Barbara’ Wiggles desperately, and after I got it, I thought, ‘OK, awesome, this is a jumping board for my career!’ But when it wrapped, there was nothing. I almost moved back to Florida, but my mom said, “You can either be miserable here and not pursue your dreams or you can be miserable in LA and at least pursue what you want.” So I stayed.
I kept auditioning, with no money, no savings and growing credit card debt. I went on unemployment and lived on noodles and moved in with a roommate who said, “Stay here until you can afford rent. Don’t give up.”
People who supported me were like, “If you don’t have money for food, I’ll cook you dinner. You don’t have money for acting class? Let’s read lines.” I am so grateful for such an amazing support system. When I booked This Is Us, I had 80 cents in my bank account. I could cry right now just thinking about it.
Getting the role of Kate changed everything. It’s crazy to go from not having enough money to buy food to getting free dinners. Why is it that
“It’s crazy to go from not having enough money to buy food to getting free dinners.”
“When you’ve been down on your luck, you can really see that [need] in others.”
when you really need something, you don’t have it? And when you can afford it, you have a surplus of it?
You may think, ‘Oh, you’re on TV, you must be a millionaire!” No. It’s definitely a lot more than before, but I still live with my roommate – though I pay my proper share of rent now. Meeting my car payment on time? That’s new. I paid back my friends and stepdad. And three months ago I finally paid off my credit cards!
I still get buyer’s remorse – I got my first pair of Alexander Mcqueen shoes and I’m so convinced I shouldn’t have bought them that I haven’t busted them out of their box! I mainly just hope I can be successful enough to provide for those who supported me the times when I thought, ‘ I can’t do this anymore’.
This may sound silly, but what I really wanted was for my grandmother to have a washer and dryer in her apartment before she passed away. I never got to give it to her. It’s heartbreaking.
When you’ve been down on your luck, you can really see that [need] in other people. Now that I’m living more comfortably, how do I share with others? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.
I’ve had women – average women, older women, teenagers – who say to me, “Your role and this show changed my life.” That makes all the struggle, the noodles, the times when I couldn’t pay my bills, the times where I was like, “I can’t do this,” worth it.
I still sometimes cry on the way to the set. There is something that happens when you are grateful: you continue to keep receiving blessings. So I will always be grateful.
“There’s something that happens when you are grateful: you continue to receive blessings.”
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