Hannah Zeile is now a part of our extended family as teenaged Kate Pearson on This Is Us.
Zeile became a series regular this season and as such, we discovered she's going to play a pivotal leading up to the death of Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) and she's showcasing a vital part of Kate's relationship with her mother Rebecca (Mandy Moore), that Kate carries with her into adulthood.
Zeile took the time to chat with us recently about what it's like to be a Pearson and part of the smash hit, This Is Us.
TV Fanatic: What is it like to be a part of such a tremendously talented ensemble cast.
Hannah Zeile: It's amazing. I learned something new just being on set. I work mostly with Milo and Mandy. They're just so talented, as is the rest of the cast. I feel like I'm always just learning and getting the absolute best experience I could ask for as a young actress.
Do you watch the show yourself?
Oh, yes. Absolutely. I watched this last episode at my mom's house and she was balling crying.
Does it make your job easier or more difficult knowing in such detail what has come before you and what has come after you? Not you, but teenage Kate.
I don't know if it was easier, but I think it's really cool because usually when you do character development, you have to imagine for yourself what isn't written. Dan Fogelman and the writers have shown all the generations, so I kind of know my past and my future, so it kind of helps me get into character.
How much of Kate's immediate future do you know? Do you just go script by script, or has Dan talked to you a little bit about what's coming down the road to prepare you?
At the beginning of this season, because for season one I was a recurring guest star, but when I got stuck for season two as a series regular, the writers actually had all the teams come in and we had a meeting. We kind of, not in full detail, but kind of went over the storyline and some things that were going to be coming for the season.
Because it seems teenage Kate, at least up to now, has been the most stable of the Kates, and yet everything that affects adult Kate is going to stem from a moment that you get to play. What's it like knowing that your role not only portrays any progress that young Kate made, but it's going to form the next 20 years of adult Kate's life?
Yeah. I mean, it's definitely an honor. I think that Chrissy Metz is just beyond talented, so I feel like there are big shoes to fill. I just do my best to, script by script, conquer every emotional scene and challenge that's handed to me so that I can set up a good foundation because Chrissy's amazing.
Your Kate doesn't seem as driven by her body issues at this point as the other Kates. Is that going to be addressed at some point, that some kind of progress might've been made as she grew up and became a teenager, and could it possibly come into focus again after the death of her father?
Also, what you think about the overall challenge of having such a meaningful story for teenage girls all over the world who are affected by weight issues?
I'm not sure, to be honest, if they're going to incorporate that somehow into my storyline. Mainly, right now, Kate's storyline is focused on her relationship with her father and her complicated one with her mother, which I guess does kind of correlate into her weight issues because, with her mom, she just feels inadequate.
Honestly, I feel like it's really cool to be able to have a voice on this topic. I don't think that you have to be a certain weight. I think it's more about the message, and the message is just self-confidence and self-love.
Kate ends up messing up relationships or missing out on opportunities because she's insecure about her weight, but I think as an audience, and as everyone else is watching around her, they can all see just the greatness, but she doesn't see it in herself.
That's a really good answer.
What has been your favorite scene so far to play?
I have something coming up that I can't talk about yet, but I guess from what we've seen so far, I really liked doing the scene in the end of season one in the car with Milo.
It just felt like that wasn't that long of a scene. It wasn't that much intense dialogue, but just through the little nuances in the writing, you were able to see how strong of a bond Kate has with her father. That was a really important foundation to set up for their relationship.
You just mentioned you have some things coming up. What can you tease for fans when it comes to teenage Kate that's on the way?
They have us so lips sealed that I can't say. I think that you're going to see more of Kate have her own personality. I feel like a lot of the time she ends up being a mediator, which she probably always will be.
She's always trying to keep the peace between fighting brothers or between her dad's problems with addiction. She's always trying to mediate everything. You're going to see, I don't know, maybe some teenage angst a little.
Is she going to get to explore maybe a love life?
We'll leave that at no comment and let the readers decide!
Okay, yeah. Let's see what they think.
On This Is Us Season 1, Randall got to play opposite Milo, even though he shouldn't have. If you had the opportunity to play opposite of some other characters, what would you most be excited to play and against who, if you had some sort of strange fantasy sequence?
I mean, I think I would like to be doing a scene with Chrissy, for sure. I always say, "You never know with this show." They're always surprising. I don't know, to have Chrissy see an image of her teenage self or just be reminded of something or a dream sequence. I don't know. I just think that Chrissy is super talented, and I'm playing her, so it would be really cool.
All three of you could be in the same scene, and she could be having a conversation with her teenage self and her younger self, trying to imagine that she told her selves what to do when she got older.
Yeah, I know. If they did some sort of dream sequence or something, it's possible.
Yeah! Let's write that in.
Is there anything else that you would like to say to fans?
Just thank you so much for watching and supporting and loving the work that we put our whole hearts into. We love creating this show, so I'm so happy that people are relating to it.
This Is Us Season 2 Episode 4 airs tonight at 9/8c only on NBC. If you've missed any of this fabulous shows, you can watch it online right here via TV Fanatic!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA), enjoys mentoring writers, wine, and passionately discussing the nuances of television. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.