As a plus-sized actress in her mid-30s, the odds were stacked against Chrissy Metz ever realizing her dream of Hollywood stardom.
But thanks to her breakout role as Kate Pearson on NBC’s hit show This Is Us, the 37-year-old now has a legion of devoted fans – something her delighted family say couldn’t be more deserved.
Yet the 37-year-old’s road to fame was anything but easy, with the actress’s stepfather, Crayton Hodge, and stepsister Rebecca Livingston, revealing for the first time just how much the odds were stacked against their beloved Chrissy.
She made it! Thanks to her breakout role as Kate Pearson on NBC’s hit show This Is Us, Chrissy Metz is now a bona fide star; the actress is seen on Wednesday in Hollywood
Future star: Chrissy Metz’s family have reveal how the ‘chubby’ bullied trailer-park kid overcame a secret family tragedy to find fame in This Is Us
In an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com they describe how the future star struggled with her weight even as a young child, was bullied by classmates, deserted by her father, and living in a trailer when her mother met Crayton.
They also reveal the secret family tragedy that has Chrissy devastated – with her mother Denise left unable to speak by a devastating stroke in August.
Actress Chrissy, the daughter of Denise and Mark Metz, was born in Homestead, Florida, and relocated with her older siblings, Monica and Philip, to Japan at just six months old.
After spending her formative years overseas, the Metzs returned to the U.S. when Chrissy was eight, but the family was soon torn apart due to her parents’ bitter split.
Opening up: The actress’s stepfather, Crayton Hodge, and stepsister Rebecca Livingston, have revealed for the first time just how much the odds were stacked against their beloved Chrissy
They were living in a trailer by the time Chrissy’s mom met Crayton, now 70, in a bar,
‘Chrissy was about 10 and living in a mobile home with Denise [and her other siblings] at the time, I moved them all into my house,’ he recalled in his interview with DailyMail.com.
He says Chrissy did well in school and was a ‘high C low B average,’ but it was her singing skills which really made her stand out, and she’d often sing along to Mariah Carey’s hits in her bedroom.
‘I knew she had singing talent before I saw her act, wait until they [producers] tap into that,’ he said. ‘I always said singing would be her future. She’s sang a little bit on the show, but she will be doing more.’
Stepsister Rebecca says Chrissy was a confident child, despite being called names by schoolmates.
‘She was bullied at school, not by one person in particular, but a kid would say something every now and again, and it was still hurtful,’ said Rebecca.
‘But I think she was her biggest critic, how she saw herself was always the worst.’
Memories: Chrissy is seen at the pool with her mom Denise, left, sister Monica, back, halfsister Morgana, center, and family friends
Rebecca says Chrissy didn’t overeat during family meal times, adding: ‘I think [her weight] is hereditary more than anything and she doesn’t have the same metabolism.’
Crayton agreed, saying: ‘Chrissy, her sister, and her dad are all built the same, they are short and extremely overweight.
‘I think her mother may have taken her to a doctor when she was younger, but we never put any pressure on her to eat differently or workout.
‘She used to complain about her weight, and I said, “Chrissy, use what you have”, well, apparently she did! And she has a beautiful face, she’s gorgeous.’
Chrissy is now a poster woman for body confidence with 622,000 followers on Instagram and fans around the world, but Crayton believes she would still like to get in shape.
‘She was in a semi-depressed state because of her weight, but when she landed the role in This Is Us things really started to look up,’ he said.
‘The character she plays is a big girl, if she lost all that weight, she couldn’t play Kate, but it might propel her to other roles in Hollywood, who knows.’
He added: ‘I don’t buy that she’s totally comfortable with her weight at all, I think she wants to portray that, “Here I am, moderately successful and I love the way I look”. I think she’s keeping up a facade.’
Childhood home: The future actress was raised in Florida with her siblings
Parents: Chrissy’s mom Denise and stepfather Crayton are seen in an old picture from the family photoalbum
Chrissy worked at a local preschool and afterschool kids program for a number of years after high school, only making the move into the entertainment industry when she accompanied her half-sister Morgana on a trip to LA for a casting years later.
Rebecca said: ‘It was totally by accident how she ended up in California. Morgana is absolutely gorgeous and went to an open audition to be a model. Chrissy went with her.
‘She was shocked when the talent agent came up to Morgana and said, “We’re not interested in you, we’re interested in your sister”. She was like, “Me?”
‘They were looking for some sort of acting part, I can’t remember what it was. Then she ended up on American Horror Story, that was her first big part.’
The family helped to fund her Hollywood dream before she was given the role in This Is Us, and say she paid them back immediately, and they are immensely proud of her success.
What a resemblance! Chrissy at age nine, left, and Mackenzie Hancsicsak, right, who plays the young version of her character on This Is Us
And despite still being worried about her figure, Chrissy has found a man to love her for her — cameraman Josh Stancil, who works on the show and gets on well with her family back home.
She found love again after her marriage to Martyn Eaden ended in divorce in 2014, leaving her heartbroken.
Crayton revealed: ‘She was married for a short while, I don’t know what the deal was there. We didn’t go to the wedding, I wouldn’t travel 3,000 miles, I don’t fly.
‘I never met him. It was a very small wedding, and they split soon after. I bet he’s now thinking, “Boy, did I screw up.”
‘Her new boyfriend seems like a good guy, I couldn’t find a flaw anywhere. He’s too perfect.’
Crayton, a former transport driver for Coca Cola, says he’d love to see her remarry but doesn’t think she’ll have children yet as she’s concentrating on her career.
Chrissy is now based full-time in Los Angeles, but recently rushed back to be with her mother after she suffered a devastating stroke, which left her unable to speak.
Her stepfather recalls the scary moment he caught Denise as she collapsed at their home, saying: ‘She staggered through the door, and I grabbed her to keep her from falling.
‘She opened the door back up and staggered back outside, I was holding her from behind, but she fell right back into me and I sat her on my knee.
‘I happened to have my cell phone in my pocket so I called the emergency squad, and they got here ten minutes later.
‘She can’t speak at all. The doctor said it would get better, but it’s going to be a long time. Chrissy came right here, for a while she was very emotional.’
Breakout role: Chrissy in This Is Us with onscreen boyfriend Toby, played by Chris Sullivan
Denise is now living with Chrissy’s sister and the actress barely sees her birth dad, a navy veteran, who Crayton says recently got back in touch after years apart.
‘She became famous, and now he wants to be close,’ he said. ‘I’d be embarrassed to death to even want to come back into her life.
‘They were estranged I would say. Chrissy doesn’t call me dad, she calls me Trigger, but I’ve helped to raise her.’
Chrissy’s father Mark disputes this version of events, telling DailyMail.com: ‘Did I abandon her? No! I didn’t abandon anybody. If she never contacts me, that’s her business.’
As for Crayton, he says his step-daughter has a ‘very good heart’, and he’s not surprised she’s doing so well in the entertainment business.
Asked what’s next for the talented star, he replied: ‘An Emmy Award. She is the face of that show, I don’t understand how she didn’t win one before.
‘Hollywood is a funny place, she told me she can’t even go to the convenience store now without signing an autograph, what a problem to have!
‘I have no idea how much she earns, she doesn’t like to talk about it, but we went online and read she could be worth up to $60million in the future, I’m tickled to death.
‘Everyone loves her, she’s kept her feet on the ground, and we’re very proud of her. I think she’s a really positive role model for young women.’