Pop-Culturalist Chats with Hannah Zeile
Hannah Zeile is a name you may not know (yet), but her face is certainly familiar to millions across the country these days. She plays the teenage-aged Kate Pearson on the hugely popular TV show This is Us. This is the biggest project that the 19 year old actress has worked on, and we’re sure it won’t be the last. We were excited to chat with Hannah about the show and how she approaches creating such a memorable character.
P-C: How did you get started acting?
Hannah: Growing up, actually, I was always into sports. I was an athlete. At my school it was required to do school plays. I really enjoyed it. I told my parents I wanted to try acting, and they were like, “Ok. Well, you have to do a year of classes before we actually do the head shots and the whole shebang.” I really jumped around with things, but I ended up finding my passion.
P-C: On This is Us, you are one of three actors portraying one character. What is that like—sharing a character with other people? What is the process like?
Hannah: It’s really cool. We do see each other often. Whenever we all get together, though, we never discuss the role. We kind of just get to know each other personally. I found it really cool because instead of having to invent your own history for your character and trying to study it or imagine it to get into character, I can watch it on screen. I can watch my childhood. I can watch my future. We kind of all add together to make the whole history of Kate Pearson.
P-C: How do you think that changes how you approach being the teenage version of Kate?
Hannah: I definitely think that my character is her own entity and a character on her own. She has her own identity. I’ve picked up mannerisms from [Chrissy Metz who plays adult Kate] from watching—I’m a fan of the show as well—I watch Chrissy’s performances. I study her facial expressions and how she reacts to things so that I can bring that into her teenage years, but, you know, we all evolve from when were teenagers. Chrissy is definitely cool and trusts me enough to make decisions on my own for my character.
P-C: You’re also part of a different set of three with The Big Three. How did you guys work on creating that sibling dynamic?
Hannah: That just came naturally. Thankfully we all get along really well. We hang out; we do fun things around the set. Through getting to know each other personally, that definitely reads on camera. It all happened really organically.
P-C: What has been the most challenging scene so far for you to film?
Hannah: There’s definitely stuff I can’t talk about that is coming up, but I do think in the season premiere, the scene with me and Randall [Niles Fitch] was hard. I think any scene that is really emotional—like that where you’re sobbing—is really difficult. That was definitely a hard one. There’s other stuff coming up!
P-C: What has been your favorite scene to film?
Hannah: Some recent ones I have coming up were really fun. I really like the scene from season 1 where I’m in the car with Milo Ventimiglia [who plays Jack]. I think it was really cool. It was not that long of a scene, but it was really important to make it very clear how close of a bond Kate and her dad had. I thought it turned out really beautiful.
P-C: Do you feel any pressure to get things just right since This is Us is such a huge hit now?
Hannah: I try not to focus on the pressure because I’m so “One day at a time” and taking everything in. I went from being a recurring guest star to being a series regular— which was already crazy—and then I come to set and have so much fun. We have so much fun making this show. We love what we’re doing so it takes off all the pressure. To hear the feedback that everyone loves it is just a blessing because we’re having so much fun doing it.
P-C: You work with a lot of great actors. Is there someone you’d like to work with someday?
Hannah: I love Jessica Chastain. I love Meryl Streep. I love Bradley Cooper. Those are people I think are super talented.
P-C: Do you have a dream project you want to do down the line? Do you want to go beyond acting at all?
Hannah: I would love to do a film [while I’m] on hiatus. I also love to sing. I really love music. Maybe something La La Land-esque.
P-C: Since music is such a big part of who Kate is, does that come into play in her teenage years? Did you have to sing as part of your audition?
Hannah: Everyone will have to wait and see!
P-C: From your experience working, so far, what have you learned that will stick with you?
Hannah: Something on set that I’ve learned: this is all really awesome, but your personal character and the way you treat people is really important. I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by all the actors [on This is Us] by how kind they are. They show up on time, they work really hard, and are so humble. It’s really cool. I would love to have an amazing career like Milo or Mandy or Sterling or Christy or any of them have had, and they are so kind.
Pop-Culturalist Speed Round
Guilty pleasure movie or TV show
Silver Linings Playbook
Fault in Our Stars
Favorite Play or Musical
I guess singing isn’t really a hidden talent, so…I can make the sound of a dolphin really well.
Photo Credit: Maarten de Boer/NBC