This Is Us fans can’t imagine anyone other than Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, and Chrissy Metz in the roles of Jack, Rebecca, and Kate Pearson, but casting for the hit NBC drama almost didn’t play out that way. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke revealed that a significantly thinner actress was almost cast in the role as the Pearson daughter. According to Salke, it was down to Metz and one other actress for the This Is Us role, and a final audition in front of top NBC executives sealed the deal.
“The other actress was a sort of ‘Hollywood overweight person,’ struggling with losing, maybe, 20 pounds,” Salke told THR.
Salke and her network colleagues were impressed by Metz and the authenticity she could bring to the role of Kate, and the rest is This Is Us history.
Chrissy Metz has been vocal about the fact that the This Is Us role came her way when she was at rock bottom financially. Metz only had 81 cents in her bank account when she auditioned for the breakout NBC drama. Before she landed the role of Kate Pearson, Metz’ biggest acting credit was “the fat lady” on American Horror Story: Freak Show. This Is Us marked a major breakthrough for Metz, who was intrigued by the Kate character loosely based on showrunner Dan Fogelman’s sister’s weight-loss journey.
“Here was this woman who was actually dealing with weight. Not like, ‘Oh my God, I gained a pound,'” Metz told THR. “She was a real woman who was really struggling, and all I could think was, ‘Oh my God, I’m Kate.’ ”
Chrissy Metz isn’t the only This Is Us star who almost didn’t get cast. Fogelman’s original vision for the Jack Pearson character was a “doughier” actor to play a regular-guy type. According to Entertainment Weekly, producers did not initially envision Jack “as dreamy and handsome” as Ventimiglia, but the actor won casting directors over when he showed up at his meeting with his long hair, beard, and a motorcycle helmet in hand.
During an appearance on The Talk, Milo revealed he was told by producers that he needed to acquire more of an ’80s dad look for the role.
“This was the first time in my career, in 21 years, where the producers said, ‘Stop working out,'” Milo told the host of the CBS talk show. “They didn’t want me to work out because they wanted to make sure I didn’t look too modern of a man.”
And while Fogelman admits he sees his late mother in Mandy Moore’s portrayal of Rebecca Pearson—so much so that sometimes “the hair on my arm stands up,” he told EW—that doesn’t mean the actress was a shoe-in for the job. While it’s true that Moore became friendly with Fogelman after they worked together on the animated film, Tangled, the This Is Us showrunner wasn’t sure if the young actress could pass for a 66 year-old-woman in the show’s present day scenes. Fogelman seriously considered hiring another actress to play the older Rebecca.
“Honestly, there was a lot of talk,” Fogelman told Digital Spy.
“We were starting to make casting lists, in case we had to cast quickly and shoot those scenes with an [older] actress – and then at the same time, we were fine-tuning the makeup tests and shooting them and seeing how that felt. We were working on the makeup and fine-tuning it until the last week or two before shooting, so there wasn’t a lot of time to make the decision.”
Fogelman admitted it was very important that viewers recognized the older version of the character as Rebecca when she first appeared on camera, so in the end, it’s a good thing that all they needed was prosthetics and not a second actress for the role.
This Is Us returns for its second season on Tuesday, September 26 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.
[Featured Image by Ron Batzdorff/NBC]