TORONTO — When "This Is Us" debuts its third season on Tuesday, it won't be just fans tuning in with tissue boxes, ready for an inevitable tear-jerker moment to arise in the series that's known to make viewers bawl.
The three cast members who play the younger versions of the main siblings in the multiple-timelined family drama say they, too, are fans of the show and weep when they watch.
"I always know it's coming, I always cry, it happens every time," Hannah Zeile, who plays the teenage version of Chrissy Metz's character Kate, said in an interview.
For Zeile, Niles Fitch, and Logan Shroyer, it's perhaps even easier to get swept up into the storylines when they watch because they don't act opposite the actors who play the older versions of their characters.
So when they catch the NBC show, which airs on CTV in Canada, they're seeing their performances for the first time.
"There's such a difference between reading material and seeing what the actual performers put into their performance. There's no way for us to predict what they're going to do with that scene," said Zeile.
"It might even make it worse for us, because I'm not going to lie — when I see them in a scene, I think my brother and my sister," added Shroyer, who plays the teenage version of Justin Hartley's character, Kevin.
"Not to mention our damp scripts after we read it," noted Fitch, who plays the teenage version of Sterling K. Brown's character, Randall.
The trio say the Golden Globe- and Emmy-nominated drama has "been a huge blessing" for them.
"It's definitely changed all our lives, not only the opportunities that we have and the people that we've met, the connections that we've made," Zeile said.
"That I got to meet these guys, we're all super close, and I think that it's a bond that you don't really have with a lot of people through working."
They've also been proud to present storylines that explore serious social issues including racism, mental health and adoption.
Zeile's character, who struggles with her weight, has sparked discussions around so-called fat shaming and body image.
"I think that's something that's really important that they touch on, because the thing about body image issues is it's not actually about a weight. It's not about whether you're heavy or thin. It's honestly a self-confidence issue," Zeile said.
"Kate lets her own insecurities stop her from seizing opportunities, and I think that's a lesson that everyone can learn — that you just need to power through your insecurities, because you don't want to look back and see that you've hit roadblocks due to your own self-doubt."
The three say they didn't consult with their older colleagues on how to portray the characters but have found themselves adopting similar mannerisms organically.
"On set someone will say, 'Chrissy makes that exact face' and I'll be like, 'Really?'" said Zeile.
With them playing teens, it seems there might be a limit on how long they could continue acting in the roles, but they're not ruling themselves out for a while.
"We do know there's an age where we don't go, but it's pretty old," said Shoyer.
"So the show would have to go long, long, long, long for us to start running into them. But we'll find out."
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press