Hannah Zeile Talks THIS IS US & Teenage Kate
Hannah Zeile is one of three actors playing the role of Kate Pearson on NBC’s hit series This Is Us. We caught up with her recently to talk about how their performances inform each other, creating her own version of teenage Kate, and who she’d pick for our Nice Boy of the Week.
NGTV: You’re in an interesting position where you’re on a show where there’s an older version and a younger version of you. Does that make it easier for you to play your character in that you have performances you can build off or does it make it more challenging because you’re matching two other performers?
Hannah: I don’t know if I’d say it’s easier or more difficult, but it is a very unique experience. I never have to try and imagine Kate’s upbringing because I get to watch it onscreen. I also never feel pressured to try to match performances because teenage Kate is quite different than her adult and younger self and I enjoy making her my own.
NGTV: When you first auditioned for teen Kate, what did you know about her and the show? Did you know that there would be three versions of the character?
Hannah: When I auditioned, two episodes had already been aired and the pilot episode did feature the younger generation so I was aware that a younger Kate had already been established. However, the audience was still being introduced to these characters at the time, so I auditioned beautifully written scenes without too much context.
NGTV: Do you watch Chrissy’s performances as older Kate? Are there any nuances in her performance that you’ve adapted into your own performance, kind of like a sneaky easter egg?
Hannah: I am definitely a huge fan of the show so I never miss any of Chrissy’s performances. I don’t purposely try to pick up her mannerisms but I guess I have subconsciously. Once Ken Olin was directing an episode and he said my facial expressions were just like hers and asked if I’d been studying her.
NGTV: What was it like the first time you met Chrissy and Mackenzie?
Hannah: Funny enough, I already knew Chrissy because she used to be a commercial agent at the agency I am with. When I saw her in the make up trailer for the first time on set we had a huge embrace and just laughed at how small a world it is. Mackenzie is a ball of energy and super sweet, so we were both excited to meet each other.
NGTV: What do you see as teen Kate’s role in the family? Like, Kevin is the athlete & performer, Randall is the serious, studious one – who is Kate?
Hannah: I think Kate often asks herself that question as well, and that probably feeds into some of her insecurities. I think she tries to be a caretaker even if that’s not necessarily her role. She tends to internalize her own issues and focus on resolving the issues of others in the family.
NGTV: You’re often called on to portray intense emotions. Are you just exhausted at the end of the day?
Hannah: Some of the scene work is emotionally draining but it leaves me feeling fulfilled and blessed to be a part of something so beautiful and powerful. I always want to make people feel something through my performances.
NGTV: Do you watch the show when it airs? Do you cry as much as we do? (e.g. every. single. week!)
Hannah: Yes! Every Tuesday I go over to my mom’s house and we watch (and cry) together.
NGTV: We’re only a couple of episodes into the new season and already we’ve had some pivotal moments for teen Kate. What else can you tease about what’s coming up for your character?
Hannah: I can’t say much, but we do get to explore the different relationships Kate has with her mom and with her dad.
NGTV: One of our most popular features is the Nice Boy of the Week. Care to nominate anyone from your show?
Hannah: It’s so hard to choose because I truly love everyone I work with! How about one of my brothers? Niles Fitch and Logan Shroyer are both good candidates!
NGTV: Do you have a cause or charity you’d like to shout out to our readers?
Hannah: I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at 18 months old, so a shout out to raising money and awareness toward finding a cure!
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.