Chrissy Metz Gets Support From 'This Is Us' Costars at Premiere of Movie Star Debut 'Breakthrough'
The actress tells The Hollywood Reporter about her first big-screen leading role, a faith-based film based on a true story that also features her singing an original Diane Warren song over the closing credits.
Just hours after Disney outlined its plans for streaming service Disney+ on its Burbank campus, the company's first post-Fox-acquisition film premiered across town in Westwood. Breakthrough, the based-on-a-true-story tale about how the power of prayer helped a mother after her son suffered a tragic accident, was produced by Fox 2000 and Franklin Entertainment, but ultimately wound up as a Disney release.
"To be honest, that doesn't touch me at all. It's something I read in the papers," director Roxann Dawson told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet outside the Westwood Village Regency Theater on Thursday night. "Welcome Disney! I know a lot of them are here tonight, so I hope they enjoy it."
Breakthrough is Dawson's first feature after two decades of television directing, on series including House of Cards, The Americans and The Deuce — and the faith-based story is certainly a departure from the HBO porn drama.
"It's a quite a different subject matter. But you know, in everything that I do and all the shows that I choose, I try to find the message behind what they're saying," she said. "And I think even in The Deuce, you can look at something that is perhaps not the same audience as this — probably, most definitely not the same audience — but there are definitely things about faith, about perseverance, about struggle, about love in that as well. And those are the subject matters and themes that I look for in things that I do."
The faith-based film is the latest high-profile release from Christian producer DeVon Franklin, who has attracted talent including Jennifer Garner and Greg Kinnear for his projects.
"I really dislike the label of 'faith-based,'" Dawson said. "It's actually kind of demeaning when Hollywood uses it, and I'm hoping to change that. I really think of this as an inspirational true story. Obviously there is faith involved because some of the characters have faith, but they also did in It's a Wonderful Life. I mean, Jimmy Stewart's on that bridge praying to God to figure out why he should live, and then snow falls on him and it's God talking to him. There are so many films in the past that weren't called, 'faith-based,' and I wish that Hollywood would kind of let go of that and look at these on their own merit, and not view them with a preconceived notion and judge in that way."
Metz told THR she chose the project simply because "it's an amazing story that changed so many people's lives and the ripple effect is undeniable," she said.
Metz's TV family from This Is Us showed up for her big moment, including Sterling K. Brown, Mandy Moore, Chris Sullivan and creator Dan Fogelman, which she said happened because "we support each other wholeheartedly and I could not be more grateful for that."
The carpet was packed, with at least 100 people milling about outside before the screening — including Metz and her co-stars' real-life counterparts, Joyce and John Smith and their pastor Jason Noble — so many people to usher inside that Franklin and Dawson didn't begin to introduce the film until nearly 45 minutes after the show was supposed to start.
When the lights came up after the screening — and following the closing credits, during which Metz sings an original song penned by acclaimed songwriter Diane Warren — Metz couldn't even make it up the aisle of the theater because too many people were congratulating her, blocking the aisle for at least 20 minutes after the film ended.
Warren told THR that she originally didn't want Metz for the song, "I’m Standing With You," but she quickly came around.
"I had to be talked into it. I didn't believe that she could pull it off," Warren said. "I wanted a star. I wanted it to be, you know, a Carrie Underwood or something, to be honest. And they go, 'No, try her.' I go, 'Yeah, I'll try it. Let's put her with Carrie. Let's put her with somebody else. Kelly Clarkson.' They go, 'No, just try her.' I met her in my studio. I left her with my vocal producer. I came back in three hours and I was blown away. She's a great singer. She has it."
While Metz sings as Kate on This Is Us, she hadn't performed live until last weekend's Academy of Country Music Awards. Now that she has a connection, could she perform one of Warren's many hits on the NBC show's fourth season?
"You've gotta ask Miss Warren that," she cracked to THR. "I do not know!"