The untold truth of Chrissy Metz

Chrissy Metz, born Christine Michelle Metz on Sept. 29, 1980, is the breakout star of NBC's hit TV show This Is Us. Metz has become a red carpet staple and is recognized everywhere she goes, which makes the fact that this is only her second major role all the more surprising. In 2014, Metz snagged a recurring role on American Horror Story: Freak Show, but before that, she was just another actress struggling to make it in Los Angeles, all while trying to keep her weight and mental health in check. Metz's real-life story reads almost like a screenplay. If you're curious to discover more, here are 10 facts you probably never knew about Hollywood's newest A-lister.

She grew up in Japan

Although she was born in Homestead, Fla, a suburb of Miami, Metz actually spent her formative years growing up in Japan. When she was just six months old, Metz, her two older siblings, and her parents packed up everything they had and moved to the Land of the Rising Sun for a whopping eight years while Metz's dad, a Navy officer, was stationed there. As she remembers, she was "a little spoiled with really great toys."

She attended her first audition by accident

After graduating college, a 21-year-old Metz was working as a preschool teacher when, one fateful day, she accompanied her 14-year-old half-sister Morgana to an open casting call. "There was this woman sitting across from me who said to me that she taught theater at my high school," Metz told Glamour. "I was thinking, 'I don't know this woman.' She said, 'You really should audition,' and I'm like, 'Who are you? And how do you know I should audition?' It was so surreal because I never saw her again."

Even so, the mysterious woman's words were enough to convince her to give the audition a shot, and she went for it, choosing to sing Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful." The next day, her sister was presented with a modeling contract while Metz was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles to meet with managers and agents.

She was forced into working as an assistant

While in Los Angeles, Metz found her manager slowly asking her to do more and more tasks that an assistant normally would. As the oldest person in the group of teenage girls who the manager had brought down to Los Angeles, Metz was entrusted with taking others on auditions.

A few years down the line, when her agent was looking to hire a real full-time assistant, her manager encouraged her to take the job. "I was like, 'This isn't fair, I didn't come here for that,'" recalled Metz. But she had no choice — she had to take it. "There just weren't roles," she explained. "And if there were, you [were] the butt of the joke."

She battled with severe depression

Before landing her role on This Is Us, Metz admits to battling with depression, which stemmed from her inability to regularly land roles and get her career to the level she had been dreaming of. "I'd be getting maybe two auditions a year, and I'd always see the same small group of girls," Metz told People.

Struggling to make it as an actress, Chrissy took on a day job and told the mag that putting her dream on hold "was like watching your boyfriend take another woman out every day." That's when she started "eating my feelings" and quickly gained more than 100 pounds.

It took a panic attack to get her life back on track

On her 30th birthday, Metz thought she was having a heart attack and rushed to the hospital. As she soon discovered, it was actually a panic attack, but the scare was enough to push Metz to reassess her priorities and change her whole life around.

She began seeing a therapist and embraced self-help and spirituality, reading books written by the likes of Deepak Chopra. In just five months, she lost the 100 pounds she had put on and confessed to Marie Claire: "When you do put the food down and those feelings come up, you're not being numbed anymore. You're like, 'I got to deal with this.' That is hard."

She would have done anything for her 'AHS' role

In 2014, Metz snagged a recurring role on American Horror Story: Freak Show, playing Ima Wiggles, aka The Fat Lady. As she told Yahoo!, she was such a huge fan of the series and its creator, Ryan Murphy, that she would have done anything for the role.

"I had one night to prepare. I stayed up until 4 a.m. practicing with [dialogue] that had almost nothing pertaining to the actual character or episode," she said. "They sent four tapes to Ryan, and I was the very, very lucky girl he chose." So how did she react to the exciting news? "I was jumping around my house when I heard. I have to pinch myself to believe this is really my life."

Wearing a fat suit had a serious impact on her

For her role on American Horror Story: Freak Show, Metz actually had to wear a prosthetic fat suit to make herself look much bigger than she actually was. The experience gave her a new outlook on life. "It was sobering," she told PEOPLE. "I thought, 'What if I become that heavy and can't walk around or get stuck in the doorframe? I was like, 'I don't want this for me.'"

She was at a truly low point before being cast as Kate

Metz was sure that her stint on American Horror Story would serve as "a jumping board for my career! But when it wrapped, there was nothing. I almost moved back to Florida, but my mom said, 'You can either be miserable here and not pursue your dreams, or you can be miserable in L.A. and at least pursue what you want.' So I stayed."

"I kept auditioning, with no savings and no money, credit card debt gaining interest," she told Glamour. "I went on unemployment. I bought ramen noodles at dollar stores. I never had to — God forbid — live on the streets. When I booked This Is Us, I had 81 cents in my bank account. I could cry right now just thinking about it."

Losing weight is part of her contract

Life imitates art when it comes to Metz's breakout role on This Is Us, and she's totally okay with that. "In our contract, it did state that that would be a part of it, to lose the weight in the trajectory of the character as she comes to find herself," the actress told TVLine, adding that the request wasn't insulting at all. Rather, it was "a win-win for me. Because it's one thing to try to do it on your own. But as human beings, it's an ego thing: We're more likely to do something for someone else."

That being said, at the end of the day, she's looking to lose weight for herself and no one else. "I just have to be very clear, whether or not I lose weight or stay the same, it's purely a choice of mine for health," she added. "Not because I think that plus size, curvy, voluptuous, big bodies aren't attractive — because I think they're awesome and sexy."

Her No. 1 dream is to give back to her loved ones

Getting the role of Kate on This Is Us changed Metz's life drastically and, as soon as she got her first paycheck, she began giving back to those who have helped her. "I paid my friends and my stepdad back," she told Glamour. "And three months ago I finally paid my credit cards off!"

Looking to the future, she wants to give back even more to those who stuck by her all along. "I hope I can be successful enough to provide for those who supported me when I thought, 'I can't do this anymore,'" she told the mag. "This may sound silly, but what I really wanted was my grandmother to have a washer and dryer in her apartment before she passed away. I never got to give it to her. It's heartbreaking. When you've been down on your luck, you can really see that [need] in other people. Now that I'm living more comfortably, how do I share with others? That's what I'm trying to figure out."