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Chrissy Metz explains how she was inspired by her Breakthrough

Chrissy Metz explains how she was inspired by her Breakthrough
Entertainment
ATLANTA—The word “miracle” sometimes gets thrown around loosely, like “hero” or “triumph.”

But in the case of the real-life story of teenager John Smith, who fell through the icy surface of a St. Charles, Mo., lake in the winter of 2015, the word “miracle” is no exaggeration.

‘I’ve gotten comfortable being uncomfortable,” Chrissy Metz (centre) said, ‘being bullied and having a tumultuous childhood. All of that has been helpful. I can laugh about it now. Getting to the other side has benefited me. I use all of that in my acting.’  (Allen Fraser / TNS)

It took an EMT worker 15 minutes to arrive and get Smith to the surface. He was given CPR, but he wasn’t breathing on his own for 45 minutes. The doctor at the hospital gave Smith’s mom, Joyce, time to say goodbye to her son. Instead, as she prayed for his revival, he came back alive.

While doctors expressed doubt he’d ever fully recover, he did. The film Breakthrough, starring This Is Us star Chrissy Metz, chronicles Joyce’s unwavering faith in God as Smith fought death and walked out of the hospital on his own just two weeks later.

Metz, who was in Atlanta last month for a screening with filmmaker DeVon Franklin to promote the film, said she was thrilled that the real-life Joyce Smith told her she liked Metz’s portrayal of her.

“We captured the energy and the essence, what was important to her and what she valued,” she said.

Franklin, who had box-office success with hit 2016 faith-based film Miracles from Heaven, said he is naturally hunting for great stories, and this one just fell in his lap after a pastor suggested he meet the Smith family. He helped Joyce not only get this movie done but also line up an agent for her autobiographical book, The Impossible.

Much to Metz’s happy surprise, 20th Century Fox insisted that Breakthrough would only be green-lit with Metz as Joyce Smith. Metz, who effortlessly emotes as Kate Pearson on the tear-jerking NBC drama This Is Us, had never starred in a film before, but executives felt only she could anchor the movie properly.

“This is a mother’s story,” Franklin said. “We needed someone who could embody that. That was Chrissy.”

And while This Is Us is a classic ensemble team effort, the film was placed firmly on Metz’s shoulders. She said she took that responsibility seriously.

“I was the first one on set, the last one to go home,” she said. “I put blood, sweat and tears into this. I wanted to make sure people knew this was very important to me.”

While This Is Us certainly paved the way for this particular role, she said she tapped a lot of her own life to channel Joyce’s maelstrom of emotions during a trying time.

“I’ve gotten comfortable being uncomfortable,” Metz said, “being bullied and having a tumultuous childhood. All of that has been helpful. I can laugh about it now. Getting to the other side has benefited me. I use all of that in my acting.”

Indeed, the very first scene Metz shot was a crucial and extraordinarily difficult one: her prayers and tears over her presumably dead son, whose heartbeat popped up while she was talking to God.

Metz said prayer is typically such a private exercise. “It’s hard to pray on camera,” she said. “How do you make that believable?”

Franklin wants viewers walking out of the film to feel inspired.

“It’s a reminder that we all have a place, we all have a purpose. There’s a plan. Sometimes life is difficult. It’s easy to lose sight of things, to become discouraged. My hope is they leave saying, ‘Wow! The impossible is possible!’”
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