What you don't know about the kids on This Is Us

This Is Us is the incredible NBC drama that brings its nearly 13 million viewers to tears each and every week. The brilliantly written show spans across multiple decades all within the same family: the Pearsons. The camera follows Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) as new parents to three children — a set of twins and one adopted son of the same age — in the 1980s all the way through to modern day, when the children, Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown), are each 37 years old. 

Of course, a drama that spans so many years would need a variety of actors to depict characters at their varying ages. The cast of This Is Us is amazing, but still, no amount of makeup could transform adult actors into their younger counterparts. That's where the kids who play Kevin, Kate, and Randall come in. You might not know a lot about these child stars who steal our hearts on the small screen, but I think we ought to change that. Here are some phenomenal facts about This Is Us: the younger generations. 

Caution: some spoilers ahead.

Parker Bates (Kevin, age 8-10) feels like Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell

In This Is Us, there is an endearing catchphrase that Kevin, Kate, and Randall recite from time to time that helps the kids to remember their place in the world. It reminds them of their birth order, that they are a family and, as such, they are part of a team. They're "The Big Three." The first born of the children happens to be Kevin. 

Kevin is a multifaceted character — one that has a lot going on just beneath the surface. It seems much of this has to do with his perspective of his childhood. Parker Bates has the difficult task of portraying complicated preteen Kevin, and he does so flawlessly. 

Not only does he have to play the dynamic role of the fairly moody and sensitive sibling, he has to convince the audience that the time period they're seeing is the 1980s — and, for someone who was born in 2007, that can't exactly be easy. That being said, he certainly knows his stuff.

When The New York Post asked Bates for his thoughts on his character's 1980s attire, he replied, "The '80s were full of short shorts, vests, jam pants and crazy patterns! I love it, because I kind of feel like Zack Morris from 'Saved by the Bell.' He is awesome, so I'm totally OK with it!"

Jam pants for the win!

Logan Shroyer (Kevin, age 15-17) doesn't actually have brown eyes

Logan Shroyer picks up the role of Kevin so seamlessly that it's hard to believe he's not actually an aged Parker Bates. Shroyer portrays teenage Kevin, which means his decade is the 90s as opposed to Bates' 80s.

In an interview with KTLA 5 News, Shroyer described the process of transforming into his role for This Is Us, "Essentially I got booked — I go straight to getting my hair fixed to look likes its 90s perfectly." Shroyer continued, "They're very particular about it though. My hair will probably be the same for the next three years." Shroyer even has to get a few blond highlights! Not one to mind, he added, "It's cool though." 

Shroyer's hair wasn't the only thing that needed changing. You may have noticed that adult Kevin, as played by Justin Hartley, has brown eyes. However, Shroyer, like Bates, naturally has blue eyes. Bates' eye color is changed to brown with the use of special effects, whereas Shroyer's are modified using a much simpler process. He explained to KTLA 5 News, "I [as Kevin] have brown eyes so I get contacts fitted."

Mackenzie Hancsicsak (Kate, age 8-10) rescheduled her Hollywood audition to star in her school play

Mackenzie Hancsicsak plays the role of young Kate Pearson. Kate has endured a lifelong battle with her weight. As an adult, she is consistently working to establish a healthier relationship with food. Growing up with an incredibly attractive and thin mom (aka Mandy Moore!) all the while being teased by her peers for being heavier than "average" certainly seems to have diminished some of Kate's self-esteem. The camera follows many of these gut-wrenching childhood scenes and Hancsicsak's acting —complete with puppy-dog eyes — consistently breaks viewers' hearts.

However, Hancsicsak doesn't seem to have the same concerns as her character. Still, acting has presented unique challenges and changed her life in a pretty dramatic way. "It's very hard because they [classmates/friends] don't really get what I'm doing, really, and I usually miss a lot of school," she said in an interview with KHTS AM-1220

Prior to starring on This Is Us, Hancsicsak was honing her acting skills in her own town by acting in a spinoff of The Wizard of Oz called Munchkin Mediation. It was there that Hancsicsak's mother Melinda received the phone call to bring Makenzie to an audition for the hit NBC drama, according to KHTS AM-1220.

Being inexperienced about Hollywood and knowing her daughter was set to go on stage to play Dorothy, Melinda decided to rescheduled the tryout — the tryout with Dan Foeglaman and Ken Olin, two award-winning producers! They agreed and, in no time, Hancsicsak took the yellow brick road from Dorothy to Kate.

Hannah Zeile (Kate, age 15-17) knew Chrissy Metz well before This Is Us

Teenage Kate, played by Hannah Zeile, is another character with a lot lurking just beneath the surface. Zeile divulged some information about Kate's struggles in an interview with Us Weekly, "She has issues with her mom because of it [her weight], because she makes her feel inadequate and makes her feel self conscious about herself. With teen Kate right now, it's a lot about her relationships with her parents."

Zeile, on the other hand, has much less angst than the character she portrays. "I was a recurring guest star in season one. That was already so cool but to be picked up as a season regular and be fully in this family, it's crazy," she continued in her interview with Us.

Definitely cool, definitely crazy. Zeile also recognizes that playing the younger version of Chrissy Metz's character means she has some, as she said, "big shoes to fill." Though, filling those shoes may feel a little less daunting considering the two already knew each other prior to This Is Us.

"[Chrissy Metz] used to work at the agency that I'm represented by so we already knew who each other were," she told Us Weekly. Zeile added, "Knowing her personally, that kind of enabled me to pick up some of her mannerisms. I'm also a fan of the show, I studied her that way as well. It's just wonderful that she trusts me enough to let the teenage version of Kate be my own thing and be my own character."

Don't you just love all the Kates?

Lonnie Chavis (Randall, age 8-10) was nearly kidnapped

I know you're not supposed to pick favorites but… then there's Randall, the expertly written and perfectly portrayed character.

Lonnie Chavis plays the 8-10 year-old version of Randall. Yes, he's adorable, but he's also incredibly talented. Adult Randall is an intelligent perfectionist who suffers from bouts of depression and anxiety, which is something even Chavis has to portray as young Randall. 

When interviewed by Entertainment Tonight (via Yahoo!), Chavis discussed an iconic scene in episode eight of the first season. He said, "As I was shooting it, I was actually about to cry. Because it was such a good moment that — it just makes you feel all tingly inside. You just wonder, like, 'Why am I here?'" 

To think, he's only 9 years old and already has that level of introspection. Like his costar, Mackenzie Hancsicsak, who taps into her feelings to perform, perhaps Chavis, too, pulls from his real life experiences.

Just five months before Chavis premiered on This Is Us as Randall, Chavis was nearly kidnapped by two masked men when he was simply taking out the garbage. "They pushed me on the ground, and the one that pushed me on the ground said, 'Stay down,'" Lonnie reported to ABC News after the incident. 

Thankfully, Chavis was able to make a break for it. A woman a half-mile from Chavis' home happened to be outside gardening when he came barreling down her street sobbing. She returned him home safely and the rest is, as they say, history.

Niles Fitch (Randall, age 15-17) performed on Broadway

Teenage Randall is played by Niles Fitch, who, at 16 years old, already has a flourishing acting career. In an interview with Young Broadway Actor News, Fitch shared how he got his start in the acting world, "[I] started print modeling in Atlanta at 4 years old. My first job was a Back to School ad for Parisian dept. store." From there, Fitch went on to star in the Broadway production of The Lion King.

"At first I was a little nervous because it was Broadway," he explained in the interview, "But when I got on stage it immediately felt natural and fun…. My Lion King tour family was very supportive… made me feel welcomed."

Fitch's career obviously didn't end when The Lion King wrapped up. The young actor moved on to acting in television shows, specifically House of Payne and then Army Wives. Prior to joining the cast of This Is Us, Fitch apparently already knew adult Randall, Sterling K. Brown. "[I] worked with Sterling in Season 7 of Army Wives," he confirmed in the interview. Hollywood can be a small world, after all. 

It seems Fitch will not only continue to advance in his career in television, but also on the big screen. He already has one major motion picture — Roman J. Israel, Esq. — under his belt. You may want to keep your eye on this young man! Don't you just have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot more of him?

Eris Baker (Tess) wanted to act since she was 3 or 4 years old

That may be it for the Big Three, but they're certainly not the only kids stealing our hearts — or the show — on This Is Us. Adult Randall, for example, has two young children, Tess and Annie. Tess, the older daughter, is played by Eris Baker — who is just full of personality. 

In an interview for YSB Now, she said, "[At] about three or four [years old], I told my parents I really wanted to be an actor but I started when I was seven because they're like, 'Every little girl wants to be an actor…' But finally, I was seven, and I was like, 'For Christmas, I want to be on TV.'" At that point, Baker's parents decided she was serious about the acting business. 

"I love acting because it's me," she explained. "It's who I've always wanted to be. It's who I am, and it's just a bonus that I actually get paid for it." Baker's mom helps keep her grounded by urging her to stay true to herself and uses the expression "let your little light shine." Baker elaborated, "That little light inside of me is who I am."

Thank you for sharing your light with us, Eris!

Faithe Herman (Annie) watches every episode of This Is Us

Faithe Herman is cute as a button. What you can't tell from her photograph alone is just how amazing she is at acting. Though her character doesn't have a wide range of dialogue, Herman delivers her lines in the tearjerking manner fans of the show have come to know, love, and even expect.

Herman may be the youngest regular cast member on This Is Us, but she is certainly wise beyond her years. As it turns out, Herman feels the character she portrays is similar to herself in many ways. In an interview with Black Hollywood Live, Herman explained, "My favorite part is that I wear headbands and bows and flowers because I actually dress like that and they really know me. I'm a girly girl and I really like how her name is Annie." She added, "I really like my character."

However, Herman seems to a fan of the show in its entirety. She told AOL Entertainment, "When they show [inappropriate] parts, my mom covers my eyes but I want to know what's happening so, I watch all the episodes." 

Can you even handle the cuteness?

Lyric Ross (Deja) really cut off her own hair

Lyric Ross plays the role of Deja, the 12-year-old foster child of Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson). The role is harrowing one — Deja comes into a loving home, but with her also comes a lot of baggage. Between being in and out of foster homes, learning of her mother's legal issues and resulting jail sentence, Deja struggles to find her footing.

"She doesn't think she can trust anybody," Ross told USA Today.  She added, "It's the opposite of me." It's good to know that Ross has a much sunnier disposition than the character she plays, but one thing you saw in This Is Us was completely authentic — Ross really cut her hair while standing in front of the mirror as Deja. 

"I never wanted to cut it," she further explained to USA Today, "So when they said I had to be willing to cut my hair, I had to think about it, because that was everything. I loved my hair." Ultimately, Ross said yes. Afterward came even more uncomfortable news. She said, "They told me I was going to cut it myself. That was the hard part."

Susan Kelechi Watson was so impressed by Ross' willingness. She told USA Today, "This is a teenage girl being asked to cut her hair off in a matter of, like, 15 minutes. That is a huge deal, especially as a young person (and) as a black woman." Ross' raw performance is everything!

Amanda Leighton (Sophie, age 15-17) lives with her best furry friend Watson

Amanda Leighton plays the part of teenage Sophie, Kevin's lifelong on-again, off-again love interest. While Leighton is considered to have a minor role in the show, she brings a lot to her performance, which makes sense given that she's been acting consistently since 2005. Most notably, Leighton plays Emma on the Freeform drama The Fosters

In an interview with The Hallmark Channel, Leighton shared how she started acting: "For a while when I was little, growing up, I either wanted to be an actor or be a vet — something that had to do with animals." As we know, Leighton ultimately chose acting. However, animals remained an important part of her life.

Sitting beside Leighton during the interview was her darling little French Bulldog, Watson. "I like to think he's the Watson to my Sherlock," she explained, "And sometimes I think it's the other way around because he knows how to outsmart me."

Leighton elaborated on her Frenchie bestie, "I used to drive back and forth from Fresno to L.A. to pursue acting and, when I turned 18, I moved out here [Los Angeles] all on my own and I just always grew up with animals so, I felt like it was, you know, normal to always have a pet around. So, on my way up here, I went, got him, and he's been with me ever since."

Aww, Watson!

This Is Us isn't the only major show for Sophia Coto (Sophie, age 8-10)

The character of Sophie is also depicted as a preteen by the young actress Sophia Coto. At just 10 years old, she is already making simultaneous television appearances. According to IMDB, Coto also stars in the ABC comedy American Housewife as Autumn, in addition to her role as Sophie in This Is Us.

Apparently, acting must run in the family. On Twitter, Coto shared a World Market commercial starring her younger brother, Roman Coto. Oh, and yes, he's somehow just as adorable as his big sister.

Darren Barnet (Jack, age 15-17) was once a billboard model

Jack, as an adult, is played by the handsome Milo Ventimiglia. In order for someone to play a convincing teenage version of Jack, you would need an actor who is not only good-looking, but also someone who can act similarly to Ventimiglia. The actor would have to pull off the strong, silent, and yet also brooding type fairly well. It seems the creators of This Is Us struck gold with Darren Barnet. He not only has the look, but the acting chops too — which is impressive given he only has starred in one-off episodes of television shows since 2011. But what was he up to before he got his start on the small screen?

Apparently, he did some low-key modeling. With the tongue-in-cheek Instagram caption, "Throwback to my career as an extremely famous male billboard model in Atlanta," he shared a picture of the Berry College billboard on which he once appeared.

It seems those billboard modeling days are over for Barnet but, what of his television career? Here's hoping he becomes a recurring character on This Is Us!