Breakthrough is based on a true story about a mother whose son was trapped underneath a frozen lake, was proclaimed dead by the paramedics and then, after his mum praying for him, came back to life. What did you know about this story?
I heard about the story when it was in the news almost four years ago. I generally don't like to watch the news because it's mostly depressing but I was like, 'What is this? This is incredible!'
I was reading that in 2017, you had a comparable incident in your life when you and your mum were getting ready to go to the Emmy awards and she suffered a massive stroke and fell to the ground.
Yes. And once we got to the hospital, I said to her doctor, 'You don't know my mom and if you don't speak positive thoughts around my mom, then you don't belong in her room.' Ironically, those words were almost verbatim that my character said to her son's doctors in Breakthrough. So, when I read the script, I realised that I had to be somehow affiliated and be a part of this story. When the doctor told me that my mum would never walk again, all I could was pray and send her love, light and healing thoughts. She made a full recovery.
So, I imagine you believe in miracles?
Yes. In everyday life you can see them if you are open to them. And I of course believe in miracles, because I am one.
Well, on paper, it doesn't quite make sense that I'm sitting in this room talking to you about a lead role in a feature film, coming off an incredible television show [This is Us]. I didn't go to art school, I didn't have 10 years of technical training, and of course, being plus size… So, I'm grateful but I still can't wrap my head around it.
Like all actresses you must have been faced with a lot of rejection?
Yes. This business is a business of rejection. My therapist said, 'You know that you chose that, right?' And I wanted to quit a couple times but I'd call up my mum once I moved to Los Angeles and she'd say, 'Okay, you can either be miserable here in Florida or you can be miserable in LA pursuing your career.' And I remember something Harrison Ford once said, 'You just have to stand in line long enough.' That was frustrating to me because at some point you think, 'Am I delusional? Am I crazy?'
Do any auditions come to mind when you think back to those days?
There was one particular audition that I went up for. I went in and all the girls were very thin, beautiful blondes. And I walk in and the record stopped. Immediately everyone was starting to freak out, checking on their phones, calling people, 'Am I in the right audition?' It was comical really. But yeah, those things would happen. This business is not for the faint of heart.
But then you obviously found the right role as Kay Pearson in This is Us?
Obviously we know I'm a very emotional girl. I stay very vulnerable and wear my heart on my sleeve because I think we don't do that enough.
What's one of the more standout moments you've had with a fan?
Well, I was asked to propose to a gentleman's girlfriend for him on video. And also, I was on a flight to New York and a woman's 10-year-old son came up to me, and he was like, 'Oh gosh, Chrissy!' And I'm thinking first of all, he is 10 years old, how does he know who I am? But that happens all the time because the demographic is so large. So this boy said to me, 'I love you and you really inspire me.' Then his mother told me that he was on his way to an eating disorder clinic. She said to me, 'What you have done for him is to accept himself for who he is.'
How did you react?
Well, of course, I was sobbing on the plane for the rest of the flight! But that was so beautiful. That's why I think we are here, to help each other through this thing called life.
Do you pray often?
I pray every day, probably multiple times a day. I meditate, I do a gratitude list. It's not so much that I go to church. For me, my spiritual practices are about praying and staying grounded.
This is Us is a big weepy which requires the audience to watch with box of tissues. Which of the actors cries most often on set?
I think you know the answer. That would be me!