[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 5, Episode 5 of This Is Us, “A Long Road Home.”]
An adult Kate (Chrissy Metz) revealed to her husband Toby (Chris Sullivan) that she’d been triggered by an outing with their birth mother Ellie (Annie Funke), who said she’d considered aborting the child the couple plans to adopt from her. Viewers were left with the implication that Kate got an abortion after an unplanned pregnancy with abusive ex Marc (Austin Abrams) and the show’s 2021 return episode “A Long Road Home” confirmed as much.
Below, Zeile opens up about the riveting storyline, the plot developments in Season 5, Episode 5, and more. Beware of spoilers.
Did you know what was going to happen with the abortion storyline?
Hannah Zeile: In the scene where they show Kate has a [pregnancy test] box that she pulls out of her bedside table, we actually filmed that my last day of work on Season 4. So I was left on my own cliffhanger as well, because I knew that I had gotten the test, but I didn’t know if it was going to be positive or what they were going to do with that storyline. Until they sent these scripts, I didn’t really know where that storyline was going.
That’s a huge cliffhanger to leave you with. How did you feel when you finally learned where the story would lead?
I was definitely a little nervous, but excited just because it’s such heavy material. I felt really excited that the writers and Dan [Fogelman, showrunner] trusted me to portray that and to take that on.
It’s no secret that This Is Us viewers aren’t Marc’s biggest fans. What was it like reuniting with Austin Abrams? Is there anything you can say to dispel the negative feelings people have about his character?
When you have the audience actually hating this person, that’s the sign of an incredibly talented actor. Austin is actually an extremely kind, soft, and awesome guy. The fact that people feel so strongly about him, I’m just like, “You’re doing a great job.” Whenever I see him in other things, taking on other roles, he always adapts to the character so well.
Do you think we’ve seen the last of Kate and Marc together? Kate’s escape from his apartment felt pretty final.
I can never honestly say with this show [laughs], because I think when he left the cabin, it was implied as a farewell, and then obviously he’s back. But it seems like that book is closed.
Kate’s decision to hide this moment in her life from her family wasn’t an easy one. Why do you think she chose to keep it a secret?
I think it’s her carrying shame and guilt that’s really not her own, but that’s what Kate tends to do. This abortion and whole situation, I think, shines a heavier light on the toxicity of the relationship between Kate and Marc, because he programs her to feel that way. He was always manipulating and putting shame on her that really wasn’t hers. It was really on him. So I think that wired her brain to think that way. She’s always trying to help other people and her brothers and be there to solve their problems, but she actually internalizes a lot of her own things. That’s why we see Kate having problems coping with food, she’s holding a lot of it inside.
What do you think drove Kate to visit Marc before her abortion? Was she going there to tell him she was pregnant, or was she checking in to see if she should change her mind about getting an abortion?
I think it just showed, again, how manipulative it is in toxic relationships. She went against her better judgment, because there was no reason to believe that he had changed or that he would be supportive. And I think she went there with her own ideas of how it would go. She wanted to tell him, we see Marc try to draw her back in, but then his real character starts to come back out and she ends up realizing, “What the hell am I doing here?”
Will this event continue to impact Kate’s story moving forward, both past and present?
I really can’t say for sure, but I know that Chrissy’s [Kate] mentioned that [the relationship] definitely fed into why she uses emotional eating and food as a coping mechanism. I’m sure that that continues to affect the way she is in relationships. I think that’s why it’s so celebrated when she finds Toby and their relationship is so important to her, because it’s so refreshing from what she’s experienced previously.
Is there anything you can tease about what’s on the horizon? Has production been delayed due to COVID?
Our production got pushed back a little. I’m just excited for people to watch the season play out during this time, to have something to watch. The fact that the writers and Dan were able to be so quick on their feet and adapt what’s going on in real life to include in the storylines of the show, I think that it’s just been incredible. We all feel extremely blessed that we’ve been able to work and still create television.
This Is Us, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC