Here’s how Hannah Zeile landed the role as teen Kate on This Is Us

This Is Us has been a star-making machine, including young standout Hannah Zeile as teen Kate. She shared the story of landing the role, and it’s one of fate.

Ever since This Is Us premiered almost two years ago, the world immediately fell madly in love with not just the Pearson family but the stellar actors that bring them to life. Clearly, there’s magic at work behind the scenes since the expansive ensemble cast snagged a deserved Screen Actors Guild Award. One particular cast member turned in revelatory performances in the just-wrapped second season: Hannah Zeile as teen Kate.

In Season 2 of This Is Us, the series focused more on the adolescent era of the Big Three as the climax of Jack’s death occurred during these formative years. The events leading up to and immediately following his death took a toll on the family, which upped the call of duty for the young actors. Hannah Zeile stepped up to the task, delivering layered and relatable depictions of Kate’s trauma as it developed. But how did this incredible performer get her start? Zeile sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about her role.

The major perk of This Is Us has been getting to new and underrated talents. Before the series had our heartstrings in an emotional headlock, many of these actors weren’t getting their dues or even on the radar. Thankfully, they’re all household names, known for their gifted to make us cry on a dime. But Hannah Zeile was a fresh face.

Before landing the role as teen Kate, Zeile was working at Chipotle and hadn’t thought about acting in four years. Once she turned 18, she decided acting was her passion and gave her manager a ring. She jumped through the necessary hoops to get back in the swing of auditioning, but she scored her first audition back in the game: This Is Us. Sounds like fate!

The NBC family drama is quite the daunting comeback story, but Zeile more than proved herself over the span of these two seasons. Of course, This Is Us can go to dark places and unsettle tons of emotion. As other cast members have said in the past, that can be a blessing. Zeile tells THR that the fan encounters have made it all worth it:

“I think it’s really cool because the storylines, although they’re tough, they’re sometimes dark and not easy material, but it’s really powerful. I meet women all the time on the streets that are crying. Not just like ‘I like the show.’ They’re really like, ‘I was Kate in high school. I had that experience in the dressing room. I’ve been through this.’”

Now, fans of the show surely have their own routines when coming down from a particularly heavy episode. Some probably turn on lighter fare, while others might escape in a beach read. However, Zeile turns to the healing powers of silence and positive affirmations on the drive home from an intense day at work. Hey, that’s a strategy we need to try in Season 3!

Watch Hannah Zeile reflect on all things This Is Us in the video below.

What did you think of Hannah Zeile’s interview with The Hollywood Reporter? Share your favorite teen Kate scene in the comments, and be sure to keep the conversation going over on Twitter at @thisisuscrying!

This Is Us returns for Season 3 in September on NBC.