What Do You Have To Say?
Chris Sullivan has been winning the hearts of America by portraying the charismatic character Toby Damon on NBC’s hit show This Is Us. Born in Palm Springs and raised in Sacramento, the California-based actor (who is also a musician and plays under the pseudonym Joseph The Spouse) has come a long way from his Jesuit High School theatre start. Two years after starring as Taserface in the blockbuster film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Sullivan earned his first Emmy nomination for his role on This Is Us. “[The nomination] was a great acknowledgment of all the people who took a chance on me or sacrificed their time, energy, and money to help promote this line of work that I don’t take for granted,” says Sullivan, mainly referring to his parents. Having found his footing in the industry, he encourages aspiring actors to “go out and experience the world and become a more well-rounded person” as he believes actors should just “go out and live,” in order to reflect emotions back to their audience.
As someone who has gone out to experience as much as he can and takes great pleasure in his work, with his portrayal of Toby Damon, Sullivan has been able to captivate audiences worldwide and has even been able to relate to his character on a deep and personal level: “I definitely share similar anxiety issues and will use comedy and my humor to put people at ease or build an armor around myself. He’s probably the closest character I’ve ever played to myself,” he says.
When I mention that the show is no stranger to dark and complex storylines, such as struggles with mental health and depression, moreover, he responds, “I was glad for the opportunity to flesh out my character and show that the version we often see of people is curated and one-sided. It’s important to remember that everybody is going through something. The best part of This Is Us is that the characters are all familiar, we know and have met people like them, and thanks to the creator and writing staff, we are given the opportunity to show these different sides that people wouldn’t normally see.”
In addition, with his wife Rachel, Sullivan strongly advocates for To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), a non-profit dedicated to supporting and helping people struggling with depression, addiction, self-harm, and suicide. “Since I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression, it’s a cause very close to my heart, and I think it’s something we should all be talking about,” adds Sullivan. “We put people in this place of shame, and it makes them not want to talk to others and reach out and ask for help. I don’t think we have a mental-health problem in this country, I think we have a mental-health stigma problem.”
Being on one of the biggest TV shows in the nation, as well as in one of the biggest feature films, comes fame, something that Sullivan hopes to use to shed light on often-overlooked issues. “My wife and I want all of our endeavors to speak on behalf of our values,” he affirms. “The most important benefit of being a public figure is that people are looking and people are listening. And so if they’re looking and listening, what do you have to say?”
Writer: Gavy Contreras
Photographer Assistants: Rieko Takagi & Chanchala Singh
Stylists: Lisa Cera & Tyler McDaniel (for Crosby Carter Management)
Videographer: Luis Martinez
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to Asian Box (@asianbox - www.asianbox.com) & EPK Media (@myepk & @epkmedia - epkmedia.com)