Chris Sullivan Gets to the Heart of His Character Toby on This Is Us

Catching Up with Chris Sullivan About Landing On NBC’s This Is Us

When Kate Pearson started to fall in love with Toby Damon on This Is Us, her protective fans wanted to make sure that he was worthy of her affections.

Since then Kate, (Chrissy Metz), and Toby, (Chris Sullivan), cemented their relationship and are currently planning their wedding, amid the trials and tribulations of their family issues.

In the meantime, scores of fans around the world have taken a shine to this big-hearted guy who uses humor and grand gestures to woo Kate, and is now her fiancé.

The highly-emotional award-winning NBC series, which ends its second season on Tuesday, March 13, takes place in the present and via flashbacks at various times in the past. The program details the lives and families of two parents, and their three children who were all born on the same day as their father.

This Is Us follows the lives of three siblings – Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate and Randall, (Sterling K. Brown), who are known as the “Big Three,” and their parents Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore).

Kevin and Kate are the two surviving members of a triplet pregnancy, who were born six weeks premature on Jack’s 36th birthday in 1980; their biological brother was stillborn. Believing they were meant to have three children, Jack and Rebecca, who are white, decide to adopt Randall, a black child born the same day and brought to the same hospital after his biological father abandoned him at a fire station.

Kate, who has battled weight loss and self-esteem issues through-out her life, initially has difficulty trusting Toby. In fact, they meet at a support group for weight loss and have both helped, and hindered, one another with their diet goals.

After the death of her father, Jack, when she is 17, Kate has leaned heavily on her two brothers, who vies for her attention much to Toby’s chagrin.

The show pulls at our heart-strings because the compelling writing and dramatic performances allow the viewers to see their own families: it is like a mirror being held up to the significant little moments in our lives that mean the most to us.

This life-affirming show reveals how the tiniest events in our lives impact who we become, and how the connections we share with each other can transcend time, distance, and even death.

From creator Dan Fogelman, (Crazy, Stupid, Love, Tangled, and Cars), comes this smart, modern and memorable show that will welcome you into a family that you feel like you’ve known for years, and want to continue to get to know better.

The 37-year-old Sullivan was best known for playing Taserface in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, before This Is Us transformed his work life. He first gained attention for his portrayal of Tom Cleary on the Cinemax drama, The Knick.

He also played Benny Hammond in Stranger Things. He has starred in single episodes of various TV series: A Gifted Man, Elementary, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and The Americans.

He also played Sprit in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival nominated movie North Starr, and appeared in such films as The Norman Heart and The Drop, with his Knick co-star Jeremy Bobb.

Much of Sullivan’s early stage experience came in Chicago, where he trained improv at the IO Theater. Among his Chicago stage experience was in the cast of Defending the Caveman  at Lakeshore Theater and the cast of The Ballad of Emmett Till at Goodman Theatre.

He performed in various productions at After appearing as in the Original Broadway cast of Lombardi, Sullivan joined the long-running revival of Chicago in 2011.

Here is a close up and exclusive look with Chris Sullivan about his character, Toby, his friendship with co-star Chrissy Metz, and how his life has been forever changed by NBC’s riveting television show This Is Us.

Are you and Toby alike at all or not alike? Are you romantic?

CHRIS SULLIVAN:  I can be romantic, but not in the same way as Toby. I think we both lead with humor, and use humor as a bit of a shield sometimes. That’s probably the way that we’re most alike.

Does the show make you cry?

CS: Oh, yeah. Yeah, the show gets to me.

How is the relationship offscreen evolved between you and Chrissy, who plays your fiancé Kate, I mean you were this couple pretty early on and now I would suppose that you are good friends?

CS: Yeah. We spend so much time together working. We have our own personal lives that we lead. We don’t spend too much time outside of work together that’s not in like an entire cast setting, but I can’t speak for her, but I know working with her is just about the easiest job I’ve ever had.

How has your life changed from This Is Us?

Chris Sullivan: Well, I got a new Subaru.

Yes. What else can you tell me about?

CS: I’m back in California. I was born and raised here. Lived in Chicago for a while and then New York and now my wife and I are back living by the beach.

With your show being the hottest one on TV, you must have tons of fan stories. Tell me a fan story. Are they calling you Toby?

 CS: Yes.

Do they think your Toby?

CS: Yeah, Toby happens a lot. They know I’m not Toby. Toby happens when they don’t know my name; which happens a lot. One of my favorites is two women are walking by and one woman goes to me, ‘ I love your show,’ and the other woman says, ‘Oh, me too,’ and then turns back to her friend and asks, ‘who’s that?’ And the friend goes, ‘it’s that guy from This is Life. That’s my favorite story right now.

That’s a good one.

CS:  I love that story.

When you were thinking about this career, and I know you’ve done a lot of stage and TV, what’s the difference between what you dreamt and imagined, and the reality of your career today?

CS: It’s impossible to dream this. To say that you dream of being on the number one show on television is frivolous. There’s no point in dreaming of that, because it’s not a good goal to set for yourself. A good goal is to tell good stories and to tell truthful stories and to hopefully affect people’s lives for the better, so it’s easy to say that this is beyond my wildest dreams.

What advice do you think you got early on, or throughout your career, that got you going through the tough auditions and the tough times?

CS: Show up, shut up, do your job, go home.

 Okay, and that still sticks?

CS: It works every time.

Anything you can add to that?

 CS: If you aspiring to become an actor, you should experience as much as you can so you can relate them to other people and characters. So, my best advice is go live life, and enjoy it to the fullest.

Would you encourage young people that you meet like in a workshop or other forum to pursue this type of career?

CS: I would encourage young people to pursue whatever creative endeavor makes them happy and fulfills them and makes them interested. I saw a quote today from Iris Apfel, the pop culture icon, and she said, ‘you have to be interested in order to be interesting.’ So, I feel like with creative endeavors, even if it’s not what you’re going to do for your career, it’s important to keep up in your life if you want to be an interesting person.

If I gave you some time off how would you spend it — reading, watching TV, movies or something else?

CS: I’d be traveling and spending time with my wife, and visiting friends and family.

What do you enjoy doing as a guilty pleasure?

 CS: I enjoy old horror movies; especially the low budget ones because the storyline is simple.

Which one is your favorite?

CS: I would say John Carpenter’s The Thing, starring Kurt Russell when he was young. It is a truly terrifying movie.

 Nice. Does your family watch This Is Us together?

CS: Yes.

Do they bug you for advanced peeks into the show?

CS: No. My parents know better to ask, but yeah, they watch every week.

I do as well. I wait until the house is quiet and watch with a hot cup of tea, a few cookies and keep my tissues close at hand. Do you have projects lined up for the hiatus?

CS: Yeah, I’m getting ready to work on a couple things that I’m not able to talk about just yet.

Anything coming up for movies, TV or Broadway?

CS: No Broadway, but yeah, some movies and TV, trying to figure out what to do, but yeah, more to come.

I see a lot of life lessons in your show. It has reinforced my belief in not taking anyone for granted. It’s something I have known for a long time.

CS: That’s a really good one. Just to be present with the people that you love, and love them the way that they need to be loved as opposed to the way that you want to love them.

This Is Us airs on Tuesdays on NBC at 9 p.m. [ET]. For more information go to: https://www.nbc.com/this-is-us

 

 

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