‘This Is Us’ Star Chris Sullivan Talks Toby’s Parenting Concerns and Living Up to ‘Jack Pearson Mythology’

NBC family drama star also tells TheWrap the “lesson” in his character’s depression-fueled origin story

This Is Us - Season 3
Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

(Warning: This post contains spoilers from Tuesday’s episode of “This Is Us,” titled “Toby.”)

Toby and Kate are finally expecting!

Tuesday’s episode of “This Is Us” ended with that big revelation for the audience, and another big — and scary — one for Kate: her hubby has slipped back into depression after going off his meds for weeks to try and ensure his sperm was unaffected, so she would have a better chance of getting pregnant through their IVF treatments.

But based on how the Season 3 installment, titled “Toby” — an origin story for Chris Sullivan’s character and his years of struggling with depression — closed with Kate calling up Tobias’ doctor, we are optimistic Chrissy Metz’ Katy girl is going to help her partner get the help he needs while she sets out on her pregnancy journey.

Though Toby is certainly happy about the unborn child, Sullivan tells TheWrap that the news might have been too much for him at this very moment — and then there is the Jack Pearson of it all to live up to when the baby arrives. (Don’t you dare even suggest Kate might have another miscarriage. We can’t handle that thought right now.)

“The interesting thing about depression and anxiety is that, it’s not always wholly negative things that bring them on,” Sullivan told TheWrap, in an interview head of Tuesday’s episode. “Often times, those heavy swings of emotion can be brought on by just anything that is overly emotional. An overload of excitement or an overload of joy. So it will be interesting to watch them navigate what that means in what’s supposed to be in quote unquote — as far as we all considered — a very joyous moment.”

“But I think anybody will tell you — at least in the people I’ve talked, to my friends who have kids or found out they’re are pregnant — along with all these joys comes a good deal of anxiety and fear,” Sullivan continued. “Anytime the unknown is brought into our life it’s a pretty well-balanced selection of emotions and joy is one of them, but not necessarily the only one.”

And, yes, Sullivan says the thought of being compared to Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack in the Father Hall of Fame is probably hanging over Toby’s head.

“I think it’s going to be hard for any dad to live up to the Jack Pearson mythology,” the actor said. “I think there is a time in every person’s life where they have to let their parents go and figure out what being a parent means for themselves.”

Rewinding from the big finish for this episode of the Dan Fogelman-created series, the story centered on Toby struggling with depression in different stages of his life, starting in his childhood. While it was a dark tale at some points, Sullivan thinks it was an important one to follow.

“I think it’s helpful too,” Sullivan said. “Not only is it interesting storytelling, but I think it’s interesting to realize the lesson in all of this is, happiness comes and goes, for all of us in different ways and different cycles. And there will always be difficult times that we have to work through and then happiness returns, and goes away again. So if a character is just one note all the time it begins to feel a little disingenuous and deceptive because it’s just not the way people are.”

“This Is Us” airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.