The first time Hannah Zeile met Chrissy Metz, the grownup model of her character Kate on NBC’s runaway hit “This Is Us,” wasn’t on set, however seven years in the past when Zeile was a 13-year-old wide-eyed aspiring actress, and Metz was a industrial agent nonetheless on the lookout for her massive break.
The 2 noticed one another in passing, however it wasn’t till years later after they reunited within the hair and make-up chairs of “This Is Us” that they had been formally launched and realized that their lives share greater than their similar character. “We were both in the hair and makeup trailer, and she just turned to me and was like, ‘Oh my God! I don’t know if you remember, but I was a commercial agent at the agency that you’re with,’” Zeile says. “I was like, ‘Oh my God! I totally remember seeing you around the office.’ She was like, ‘I used to be in meetings discussing stuff about you.’”
However, Zeile’s relationship with “This Is Us,” the place she performs the teenage model of Kate Pearson, an aspiring singer struggling along with her weight and relationship along with her mother, goes past her fortuitous reference to Metz. The present—which airs its 2d season finale on Tuesday, March 13—performed a major position in serving to Zeile to beat deep-rooted insecurities and the strain to look “model-thin” in her early profession.
“I’ve definitely gained a lot more confidence through this show,” Zeile says. “Playing a role that does deal with body insecurities and seeing that there are so many other people who relate to it, it makes everything feel so much more powerful.”
Raised in Thousand Oaks, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, Zeile was groomed to develop into a big-shot athlete. Her dad, Todd Zeile, was a Major League Baseball participant, whereas her mother, Julianne McNamara, was an Olympic gymnast. “Growing up, I always did sports,” Zeile says. “But I never stuck to one thing. I was always bouncing around. Nothing really kept my focus.”
Zeile’s appearing calling got here when she was 12 years outdated when she binge-watched solid auditions for her favourite present, Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana.” “That’s when it became a reality to me,” Zeile says. “Seeing them in their regular clothes doing the scenes that I watched, it became an obsession of mine, like ‘I can do this. Anyone can do this.’”
Playing a job that does cope with physique insecurities, every part feels a lot extra highly effective.
After taking appearing lessons for a 12 months, Zeile started auditioning, reserving her first-ever position because the daughter of Charlie Sheen’s finest buddy in FOX’s “Anger Management.” At 14, nonetheless not sure if a lifelong appearing profession was for her, Zeile took a break to dwell a extra conventional high-school expertise. However, when it got here time to use for faculty, Zeile knew that she wished to provide appearing one other attempt. Her dad wasn’t so satisfied.
“I just remember telling him, ‘Give me one year. Give me a gap year and let me audition,’” Zeile says. “‘I have this really strong feeling inside I can’t explain, but I feel like I’m going to book something. Give me time.’”
Zeile’s instinct was proper. A number of months later, she landed an audition for a then-unknown drama titled “This Is Us,” whereas working at Chipotle. After the preliminary audition, which was her first since she started appearing once more, Zeile was ringing up burrito bowls when she felt her telephone vibrate. She ran to the toilet to reply it. It was her supervisor telling her that casting for the position was all the way down to her and one other actress and that she wanted to fulfill the present’s creator Dan Fogelman at Paramount’s studios instantly.
“I walked out to my manager and said, ‘I’m so sorry. You’re not going to have a cashier,’” Zeile says. “‘I’m just letting you know that I’m going to leave now.’ And I never came back.” On her Lyft trip house, Zeile obtained a name telling her that she booked the half and wanted to be on set at 8:30 a.m. the following morning. “One of my most memorable days was spent with this random Lyft driver,” Zeile says.
You don’t usually see a extremely heavy character in a foremost position.
Though the audition course of for “This Is Us” occurred over a couple of days, the journey there wasn’t so easy. Growing up, Zeile was made enjoyable of for her small dimension and less-developed physique. “That was my own body insecurity itself,” Zeile says.
Zeile’s insecurities worsened when she grew into her late teenagers and have become extra aware of physique picture, particularly after being raised in right this moment’s social media age, when photo-editing apps and idealistic our bodies are commonplace. “I definitely have found myself comparing and feeling like I’m chasing what they say: goals. Body goals,” Zeile says. “It makes you forget that you have a beauty of your own.”
Beginning an appearing profession when her physique was nonetheless growing didn’t make issues simpler. When Zeile returned to appearing at 18, after a four-year-long break, she seen a distinction in the way in which she was handled and the way she perceived her physique. “It definitely was interesting from being 14 and auditioning and coming back at 18. I definitely looked different,” Zeile says. “There’s a stigma with acting. Like they say, ‘The camera adds 10 pounds,’ so everyone wants to be really thin, and you want to have really clear skin.”
However, Zeile sees a glimmer of hope. With characters like Kate, she believes there’s a shift towards casting actors with extra practical our bodies—as a substitute of the “model-like bodies” she used to see. “Before, a lot of actresses had model-like bodies. You see them in person, and they’re so thin,” Zeile says. “But now, there’s a lot of focus on having average, normal-looking women and men and people who you can relate to and see on the street.”
Social media makes you overlook that you’ve a fantastic thing about your individual.
Zeile’s combat for body-positivity is why she considers it an honor to play Kate, a personality who has helped her push previous her personal self-doubt. ”Kate lets her insecurities cease her from doing nice issues,” Zeile says. “She has a beautiful voice and she has talent, but she holds herself back because she’s so insecure. I’ve learned that that’s an issue, and I don’t want to let my insecurities get in the way of things so I try to push myself, which is what I would love to see Kate doing too.”
However, Kate’s character isn’t the one factor about “This Is Us” that has modified Zeile’s life. Since the present’s premiere in 2016, Zeile received a SAG Award—which she retains on her mantel and has memorialized with an embarrassing quantity of live-TV “Oh my Gods”—and has basically witnessed her life flip 180 levels. “I remember after the pilot thinking, ‘Wow. This is not what I’ve been seeing on TV lately. This is rare. This is captivating. I was already drawn in,’” Zeile says. “But for it to turn into this full, as they call it, phenomenon that it is, there was no way to expect it.”
There is much more to somebody than the form of their physique.
But there are cons too, resembling the quantity of secrecy behind spoiler-prone storylines. Most notably, the long-awaited reveal behind the loss of life of Kate’s father, Jack Pearson (performed by Milo Ventimiglia), which Zeile needed to hold a secret for a majority of the 2d season after discovering out within the premiere. “We had our scripts hand-delivered to us on red paper so we couldn’t photocopy it,” Zeile says. “It was a top-secret thing.”
As for what viewers can count on from teenage Kate in season 3, Zeile teases that the loss of life of her father will spark a shift in Kate from an angsty teen to the extra withdrawn Kate now performed by Metz. The season 2 finale, nevertheless, is saved top-secret. “I can’t say much, but it is definitely going to be more uplifting and hopeful and not so heartbreaking as the last few episodes were,” Zeile says.
Though Zeile is glad that “This Is Us” has expanded the dialog about physique picture and dimension on-screen, she hopes that characters sooner or later aren’t tokenized and seen for under their dimension. “You don’t normally see a really heavy character in a main role. It’d be interesting to see more shows incorporate characters like that and have the storyline not only have to do with their weight,” Zeile says. “I’d love to see more shows where if they do hire someone of a different body shape not to make it only for that purpose. There is a lot more to someone than the shape of their body.”