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Chrissy Metz talks 'This Is Us' and her painful Florida childhood before coming to Clearwater

Chrissy Metz, the breakout star of This Is Us, is on a book tour for "This Is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today." Each ticket to her Capital Theatre appearance includes a copy of the book. She will be there April 2 at 8 p.m.  Photo courtesy HarperCollins Publishers
Chrissy Metz, the breakout star of This Is Us, is on a book tour for "This Is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today." Each ticket to her Capital Theatre appearance includes a copy of the book. She will be there April 2 at 8 p.m. Photo courtesy HarperCollins Publishers
Published Mar. 29, 2018

Chrissy Metz has a complicated history with Florida.

The breakout star of the weeper hit This Is Us is coming to Clearwater's Capitol Theatre on Monday on a tour with her book, This Is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today, a copy of which is included in each ticket. In it she details the pain of growing up in poverty in Gainesville, abandoned by her father and ridiculed by her stepfather.

In a phone conversation between appearances on The View and The Chew, the actor said returning to the Sunshine State isn't painful because like her own family relationships, "there's been a lot of conversations about forgiveness and progress in the relationship."

"I really, really enjoy coming to Florida," she said. "I come for every holiday. I was there for Thanksgiving and we went to one of the Gator games. I still have a lot of friends and family there."

Like her hit NBC show, which tells the generational story of the Pearson family, the book can bring on the tears. But it is imbued with optimism from a woman who has learned to love herself.

"I would not be who I am without all that I went through."

She details stories of living in a trailer park, of noticing her mother not eating so the kids could fill up, and of the boy who rebuffed her in public after making out in private.

She refers to her father as Mark, not Dad, after he abandoned the family to poverty. Her mother remarried a man whom Metz said often picked on her, the middle of five children. He made her endure humiliating weigh-in sessions, hit her and belittled her constantly, she said. Her stepfather later apologized, and she says she loves him and has found peace with her past.

She used food to numb the pain and became the entertaining diplomat of the family. Discovered by a Gainesville talent agent, Metz packed up and moved to Los Angeles. For years, she barely got an audition until American Horror Story: Freak Show led to the ground-breaking role of Kate in This Is Us. It has earned her Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and a win for the whole ensemble at this year's Screen Actors Guild Awards.

The busy award show season produced a book chapter devoted to her fashion choices and weathering criticism. She rejects the notion of fashion rules.

"I've never been a part of the norm, so it's normal for me to be out of the norm."

Metz flatly denied reports that her contract requires her to lose weight as part of her character's story arc. She finds the topic tiresome.

"I think people should talk about the actual talent or the fact that I've been nominated for awards. Instead it becomes, 'Lets talk about how much weight we think that she should lose,'?" she said. "I think all of us want to be healthy but health is not just physical. It's also mental and emotional health, and I make decisions based upon that."

As for This Is Us, Metz said that Mandy Moore, who plays her mother in childhood flashbacks and is made to look 30 years older in modern-day scenes with Metz, watches out for her. Even though Moore is younger at 33 than Metz, 36, she has from the very beginning been maternal toward her, Metz said, in part because Moore is far more experienced in Hollywood. And Milo Ventimiglia, who plays her beloved and heroic father Jack, "is pretty darn close to perfect."

Readers should find hope from the story of a woman who had 81 cents in her checking account when she finally caught her big break, she says.

"I want people to read it and get a sense of hope and inspiration that they are good enough and have a purpose in life just as they are."

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com. Follow @SharonKWn.

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