The stars spoke with ET's Nischelle Turner about adding their personal touch to Tuesday's episode and being directed by Mandy Moore.
This Is Us continues its final Big Three trilogy with an episode dedicated to Kate and Toby's imploding relationship. It's a special one -- not because it answers questions about how the couple ends up parting ways, but because there is a deeper tie for Chrissy Metz, who co-wrote the hour that is directed by Mandy Moore.
Titled "The Hill," the episode shifts the focus to Kate as she navigates rocky terrain with her marriage to Toby and raising their young kids. In an attempt to try and rekindle the spark between their cooling, long-distance romance, in part due to evolving life/career priorities, Kate flies to San Francisco to spend the weekend with Toby. But scars from her past and issues with their future surface and bring to perspective the doomed reality that they may not be as good of a match now than they were back then.
Metz and Chris Sullivan visited the ET stages on Monday to preview their big, monumental episode and set the table for what's to come for Kate and Toby with their marriage on its last legs. (In a future flash-forward, Kate ends up marrying Phillip, played by guest star Chris Geere.)
"I didn't think I was going to be writing this Kate-centric episode. I was very pleasantly surprised and excited because I was like, 'I know Kate,'" Metz admitted to ET's Nischelle Turner, calling the process "nerve-wracking and scary." (She is credited as a co-writer alongside Casey Johnson and David Windsor.) "And then I was like, 'Oh gosh, I have to say these words and then I have to be committed to saying these words. It made me feel more uncomfortable than I ever had been on set, believe it or not. I was like, 'Oh dear.' But I am so grateful because we do things that scare us because that's how we grow and evolve."
The actress reflected on her previous real-life marriage for inspiration when it came to putting pen to paper.
"My ex-husband and I -- [he] is literally an angel, you can’t find fault in who he is -- we just grew apart and I remember literally crying as we're signing the divorce paperwork," Metz recalled. "I think that is the hardest part is when you can’t hate the person. You can’t find fault or you can’t be mad or angry. It's just two people who grow apart and that was also pulled from other writers' experiences too. Having two people who were there for each other when they needed each other most, Kate and Toby, and then to know that, OK, they no longer are together. There was beauty in all the pain."
Sullivan also had a hand in personalizing the episode, contributing a song that soundtracks the hour. The thematic elements, as he explained, aligned perfectly with the trials Kate and Toby are trying to endure.
"It's a song about perceived endings and how out of every ending there’s a new beginning," Sullivan said. "And then in order for new things to start, in order for us to go on with our lives and to take our acting careers to the next place, This Is Us has to end. It's one of the bright sadnesses [sic] around any creative project -- anything that you love. Things come to an end and it doesn't necessarily mean that they have to end. They have to go down in flames or end badly."
Both praised Moore's directing skills, with Metz calling the entire experience of her co-star leading the charge "incredible." "She's just so kind and she also had a vision and... very detailed," she added.
"We all know each other so well. We are also kind of aware of how we all operate on set and off so it's a natural fit when she steps in," Sullivan said, sharing that they shot on location for a few days in San Francisco. "The three of us working together with our whole crew and writers -- Dan Fogelman came [for] some [of the filming], I think [it's] some of my favorite times shooting in the entire season."
Metz got visibly emotional as she anticipated the end of the NBC drama, confessing that she hasn't yet fully processed that the show will be over May 24, the date set for the series finale. While the cast is working through the final beats of their characters' stories, the actress acknowledged that she's used Kate's journey this season as a bit of a therapy session as she tries to process the end.
"I don’t think we have cry days but I definitely have felt it through the character and through the scenes," she said. "I'm like, 'OK, OK.' I don’t think it will be until hiatus is over and then we won't come back. I think that's when I'll be like, 'Oh, this is -- let me call my therapist right now.'"
Filming is still underway for the cast as they have about three episodes left to film in the series. Metz and Sullivan anticipated a very teary goodbye when that final episode rolls around.
"I think that we're all gonna be emotional don’t you think," an emotional Metz said, to which Sullivan agreed: "Yeah, oh yeah, it's gonna be a big day. The one where we wrap the first person, I'm not sure who it's going to be but... ooh, don't do it here!"
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
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