It's hard to imagine television without Chrissy Metz, but it wasn't so long ago that she was living on unemployment and desperately in search of a new role.
More than a decade ago, the 36-year-old Florida native landed her first gig on television—a cameo—on Entourage. A few one-episode jobs followed until the budding actress was cast as the recurring Ima Wiggles on American Horror Story: Freak Show.
"I'd wanted the role of Ima [Barbara] Wiggles desperately, and after I got it, I thought, OK, awesome, this is a jumping board for my career! But when it wrapped, there was…nothing," she remembered in an interview with Glamour.
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images
After some convincing from her mother, Metz stayed in Los Angeles and kept at her craft, though it would be an uphill battle. "I kept auditioning, with no savings and no money, credit card debt gaining interest. I went on unemployment. I bought ramen noodles at dollar stores. I never had to—God forbid—live on the streets," she recalled to Glamour.
"I moved in with a roommate who told me, 'Stay with me until you can afford rent. Don't give up.' People who supported me were like, 'If you don't have money for food, I'll cook you dinner. You don't have money for acting class? Let's get together and read lines.'"
Then, in late 2015, she was cast in a new comedy-drama series created by Dan Fogelman called This Is Us. It was perfect timing. "When I booked This Is Us, I had 81 cents in my bank account. I could cry right now just thinking about it," Metz revealed.
Now, she makes fans cry as a regular on one of the most successful shows to come out of 2016—a Golden Globe-nominated series already renewed for two seasons. Metz's role, in particular, brought a needed dynamic to the television landscape by candidly portraying a woman struggling with her weight using an actress facing the same battle off-screen.
Maarten de Boer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
"[Food is] the way [my family] showed love—my grandmother would make me a grilled cheese sandwich every time she'd pick me up from school. I really valued that attention. As I got older, that turned into, 'Oh, I'm happy—let's celebrate and eat. I'm sad? Let me eat my feelings.'" the actress explained.
Meanwhile, women across the country were touched by the authenticity of her portrayal.
"I've had women—average women, older women, teenagers—who say to me, 'Your role and this show has changed my life.' That makes all the struggle, all the ramen noodles, all the times when I couldn't pay my bills, all the times where I was like, ‘I can't do this,' worth it," she told the magazine. "Sometimes I cry on the way to the set still. There is something that happens when you are grateful: You continue to keep receiving blessings. So I will always be grateful."
The industry showed its own gratitude to the actress with a Golden Globe nomination, a career first in her whirlwind year. Still, despite how much has shifted in Metz's life, she's used her past struggles to stay grounded.
"Getting the role of Kate has changed everything. It's crazy to go from not having enough money to buy food to getting free dinners...it's definitely a lot more than I was making, but I still live with my roommate—though I pay my proper share of the rent now. Meeting my car payment on time? That's new," she said.
Still, it seems no matter how much everything changes for the star, some things still stay the same.
"I still get buyer's remorse—I just got my first pair of Alexander McQueen shoes; I'm so convinced I shouldn't have bought them, I still haven't busted them out of the box."