Kevin (Justin Hartley) was in deep pain last week on This Is Us, but his twin sister Kate (Chrissy Metz) experienced an even greater tragedy in the broadcast’s final minutes: She and fiancé Toby (Chris Sullivan) lost their baby.
Tuesday’s episode, “Number Two,” returned to the same 24-hour period that we first saw during the Kevin-centric installment, but this time, we followed the aftermath of Kate and Toby’s devastating loss. The couple was undoubtedly excited for their baby on the way, with Kate diligently making a list of pregnancy questions for her doctor and Toby ensuring his fiancée got all her prenatal nutrients. All the while, viewers saw teenage Kate (Hannah Zeile) show her maternal side through the caring of family dog Louie.
However, something went desperately wrong, with no explanation for Kate’s miscarriage. She turned the huge question mark into an assumption that was her fault, perhaps for being overweight or an older expectant mother. The miscarriage tested Kate and Toby’s relationship like never before, all while strengthening Kate’s mother-daughter dynamic with Rebecca (Mandy Moore), who delivered stillborn triplet son Kyle.
So many questions. Thankfully, Metz unpacked the episode with PEOPLE and talked all about breaking the silence of miscarriage on network television, in addition to what to expect from the Big 3 in forthcoming episodes.
How did you get into character for this episode, specifically for the miscarriage scenes? What resonated with you while shooting that sequence?
As a woman, I’ve never been in that situation, so it was difficult for me to be in that space, but because there’s so much empathy, I tried to incorporate so much understanding of when you want something so desperately and you finally conceive a life. You don’t know when to bring it up or how to bring it up. You feel like there was something to be done or that you weren’t good enough to have a child. You lost the baby. It’s not just about conceiving but bringing the baby to term and getting ready, there are so many layers to a pregnancy that just aren’t discussed because people are really afraid to talk about it, and it’s not glamorous and it’s not fun. It’s not something people are ecstatic to talk about.
Many viewers either have experienced a miscarriage or know someone who has. Yet it’s something that is rarely shown on network television.
Network television doesn’t really deal with a lot of our storylines. I think that’s why people are relating to our show so much, because the writers and Dan [Fogelman] have created these characters we see ourselves in every situation. Whether it’s paternity or adoption or family illness or weight or family dynamics and relationships, how do we navigate through life? They continue to be courageous exploring and talking about it because there’s so much shame around it. Our show continues to do what it does, which is bridge that gap between not just creating art but creating discussions between women and relationships and mothers and daughters to talk about. I know so many people, whether they’re strangers or family, will be able to say, “I wanted to tell you that I experienced this but I didn’t know how to tell you.” It’s really allowing people to step up and have courage, because not only other people have gone through it but also a really grand scale like a network television show where it’s being discussed. It’s just so important.
Kate’s miscarriage brought her closer to Rebecca physically and emotionally, finally reaching a breakthrough bonding moment. What will this new direction bring them?
We haven’t seen Rebecca and Kate ever, ever that way. Ever this vulnerable. They’re always so emotionally charged because from such an early age Rebecca has felt that Jack has always let Kate do whatever she wanted to do and that Kate has this bond with Jack that Rebecca is never going to have. So that created a distance between the two of them, and [she] never felt that they could relate on any level, and that they could ever be vulnerable to each other. The complications of anger, fear, sadness and resentment. For the first time in Kate’s life, she needed her mom. Kevin wasn’t there for her because he was going through stuff, Toby couldn’t understand, and we discover that it’s such a beautiful thing that Rebecca just shows up as a mother. As a daughter, you couldn’t ask for anything more. And that she came without any hesitations and without any judgment. And divulged a really, really sad experience with Kyle, that she never held Kyle and that she was afraid to. They could relate to each other on a very different level than they’ve ever before because I think Kate never, ever felt that there was anything her mom could understand about her. And so seemingly for the first time, she’s dropped her guard and needed her mom. Her mom was there to not only support her but to love her and to not point fingers. That was really important for Kate. And for Rebecca to encourage and support her to talk to Toby and finding out that through her mom’s choices of not discussing her sorrows with Jack further along, that you’ve got to talk about your feelings. Because, as people say, [you’re] only as sick as your secrets. You keep those to yourself, and they will literally eat you up inside.
That hug between Kate and Rebecca was much more expressive than any pages of dialogue. The simplest act meant so much to both of them.
Mandy is an actress and a human being, and a gift to work with. Opening that door and the look that she gave me, it was so heartfelt. And of course, I saw my mom in her, and I felt like the little kid. There are so many complex layers to that hug. That acknowledgment that she showed up. It’s a quick little scene, there was so much to be said without any words. That’s such a testament to the trust that the writers have in the actors and for the characters, but also that sometimes things don’t even need to be said, you just know exactly what someone is feeling and what they need. She finally let herself fall into her mother’s arms for the first time.
Another important person in the episode is Toby. This really, really difficult time challenges their relationship and tests if it can survive.
Kate and Toby are constantly tested. And constantly proving that they really do love each other. They love each other through the ups and the downs, just being very exposed. You’re getting to see the raw versions of each of these characters. You still love the person through all of it, that’s true love. That’s the love for someone you want to be with, who is going to show up for you. In turn, you’re gonna show up for them. It’s not just romantic or fun but difficult, really, really difficult. Their love for each other is real.
Will Kate and Toby want to try for another baby?
It’s hopeful in that they are going to want to try again and conceive again. Just like many couples. I’m sure we’ll talk to a lot of them after this episode airs. It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it. You can’t let it break you but hopefully, make you stronger. That’s exactly what this did for Kate and Toby. When the time is right, they’re gonna try again. They do want a family because they want to be together. You just see how committed Toby is to Kate and her happiness. He doesn’t know how to control anything in this situation but the only thing he can preempt is not getting that baby bath delivered to the house. That in turn, he gives away and that helps another family and it’s beautiful on another level.
We saw Kevin ignore the calls from Kate and Toby that day. She really leaned on Toby while her twin brother spiraled. How much guilt is Kevin going to feel?
I think there will be a lot of guilt. But as I prepared and processed the next couple episodes we shot after this one, you have to realize that yes, it’s a huge, huge hurdle in Kate’s life, but Kevin has so many things he’s dealing with. When you have a bond with a sibling or a significant other, you have to have compassion and empathy for what they’re going through, and if he could be there mentally and emotionally, he would, but he was so just entrenched in his pain. Hopefully, he doesn’t take that on and feel worse for it, because that’s not what Kate would want for him.
Each of the three episodes is framed by the home video of the Big 3, and how you can become so fixated on what’s happening in your life that you may miss what’s happening around you and your loved ones. How does this affect each sibling?
That’s a really good perspective. We have blinders on in our own lives. Sometimes it’s to our advantage, and sometimes getting out of our own heads and being of service by showing up for other people ultimately ends up helping us in a much bigger way. I think that’s really cool of them showing not only the dynamic between the Big 3 but how the parents reacted to each of them. Kevin walked first, we see that Kate hasn’t quite got it, she’s sort of in the shadows, always trying to catch up to her brothers. That plays so much in her adulthood with Randall. It’s such an interesting way of quickly telling so much of a backstory. We can get so bogged down in our lives that we miss what’s really missing. But at the same time, it’s so important to figure out what’s going on before you can even show up for someone else. You have to, like they say, put the oxygen mask on yourself first. You just do. You got to love yourself before you love anyone else. And that continues to show up because we see Kate hasn’t had a great relationship with a man until Toby. Kevin can’t seem to keep Sophie even though he wants to, he doesn’t feel like he’s worthy. So all of those themes continue to play through, just diving deeper into the pain of all of that and how do you get through it. It’s very layered.
What can you tease for “Number Three,” the final episode of the trilogy that will focus on Randall?
Kate and Randall are actually really close. They have one of those relationships that like you have a friend that you haven’t seen in a couple months but you pick up right where you left off. That’s always been there. They really understand each other, and there’s that real love between them that they get each other. She’s sort of the glue between Kevin and Randall. In Randall’s episode, we’re gonna see really what shaped him into a young adult in a way we haven’t seen before. It’s gonna be fun and different. Being African American and not being able to relate to an all-white family, and all of the backstory of his biological father, and applying to colleges. It’s going to be really fun to see how he is becoming a young man and how that changes him. It’s going to be really good, I’m excited for it.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.