This is Us is one of the most successful tearjerker dramas of our time, riveting fans every week with its intense emotional scenes, searing pain and rapturous joy that comes with raising a family. One of the show's main characters, Tobias "Toby" Damon, is beloved among fans as a big teddy bear who wins careful Kate Pearson's heart.
Actor Chris Sullivan plays the big silly guy who's faced everything from depression to a heart attack and grew up thinking that he had to bury his emotions to help keep his mother happy. Knowing all of the demons in Toby's past, fans might think they know everything about "Tob," as Kate affectionately calls him, but Jack Damon's dad may have some secrets yet.
10 He Almost Made A Heart Attack Joke
Fans recall the season one Christmas cliffhanger of This is Us when Toby had a heart attack and we all wondered if it would be his "Last Christmas." #PrayforToby was a real trend. But did you know that Chris Sullivan had previously pitched a joke about having a heart attack for the character?
Sullivan revealed that when he improvised his joke several episodes prior to the episode, one of the directors informed him that he would not be allowed to perform a heart attack joke. When Sullivan pressed him for details, he says "the cat was out of the bag" at that point, and he knew that he'd be having the emotional moment on the show.
9 He Wears A Fat Suit
Is it a big surprise to learn that Chris Sullivan is actually a thin man who wears a "fat suit" and face prosthetics to portray Toby Damon? On an episode of The Real, Sullivan revealed that it was "the magic of television" that allowed him to play an obese man when he's actually a thin man in real life.
Some fans feel as though an actual fat actor should have been selected to portray Toby instead. Even though he's adorable and funny, since Chris isn't actually fat they believe we aren't getting the same honest portrayal that Chrissie Metz, who plays Kate, is delivering.
8 An Overload Of Joy Can Trigger His Depression
Our hearts ached when we witnessed Toby experience depression when he ceased taking his medications in order to help his wife conceive their child, but like many emotional components in the show, it helped display how depression can hit anyone at any time. Chris Sullivan pointed out that depression isn't always brought out by sadness, but can be triggered by any emotional time in life, including a joyous one, especially if it also brings about fear or anxiety.
"The interesting thing about depression and anxiety is that, it’s not always wholly negative things that bring them on. Often times, those heavy swings of emotion can be brought on by just anything that is overly emotional."
7 He's The Voice Of The Hump Day Camel
If Toby's voice sounded familiar, it's because he's also the voice of the popular "Hump Day" camel featured in Geico commercials. Yes, the one who demands "Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike" to guess what day it is. Sullivan says that it's the thing most people have seen with him in it, and he loves it.
Sullivan is also famous for several other roles, like the kindly cook, Benny Hammond, who helps Eleven in Stranger Things, and the cringe-worthy villain in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Taserface. The graduate of Loyola Marymount University also founded the band Sully and the Benevolent Folk, which alludes to his nickname, Sully.
6 He's Romantic In Real Life, Too
Toby is known as a romantic man of big gestures that, while not quite measuring up to those of Jack Pearson, remain impressive and help him to win Kate's heart. Chris Sullivan is a big romantic in his real-life marriage with producer Rachel Reichard as well.
Sullivan says that romance is all about making yourself vulnerable and asking how your partner wants to be loved and trying to do just that. "Love is an action verb, and romance is the result of those actions," he explains. Most of his gestures are of the daily variety, involving heartfelt actions like making breakfast burritos and washing dishes.
5 The Heart Attack Scene Hurt
While Chris Sullivan was thankfully not seriously injured during the scene where Toby suffered a heart attack, the actor revealed that he did film it all himself without a stunt person and was feeling the ramifications of it the following day.
"It was a real coffee table, but the entire action was done under close advisement, and we choreographed it out pretty well so there was no unnecessary injury accrued," he said, going on to say that he was sore the next day. He said they did have to film the fall a few times, so it's no wonder it hurt later.
4 He Loved The Ghostbusters
In a revealing episode about Toby's childhood, season three's fifth episode called "Toby," we get to see a young Toby, played by Dylan Gage, cope with his pugnacious parents as well as develop the kind of creativity and humor we expect from him. He does multiple impersonations in the episode, including Rodney Dangerfield and characters from the original Ghostbusters film, Egon Spengler and Peter Venkman.
Those who haven't seen Ghostbusters may not have caught the "crossing streams" reference, as the moment where Toby impersonates the actors in the mirror is only seconds long, but if you look closely you can also see the Ghostbusters t-shirt young Toby wore.
3 His Cast Mates Are Family On And Off Screen
In a drama that carries such an emotional punch, it's no wonder that Chris Sullivan considers his This Is Us family members as part of his own family off-screen as well. Sullivan says that the cast members have a group text that they frequently use. "We've kind of settled into our family life and kind of just enjoy showing up for work, doing the job, telling the stories."
The actor has even written music with Mandy Moore's fiance, Taylor Goldsmith. Sullivan, who also enjoys singing with his wife at weddings, says the two just hit it off and decided to collaborate.
2 He Started Off As Kind Of A Jerk
If you're new to This Is Us and missed Toby Damon's first few episodes, you might consider yourself lucky. Many fans found his crude humor, insistence that Kate date him despite the careful boundaries that she drew, and outlandishly weird gestures off-putting. He seemed more overbearing and controlling than romantic and quirky, prompting many viewers to hope Kate might find love elsewhere.
Luckily the writers cleaned up the character quite a bit, replacing his abrasiveness with tenderness and respect, especially when it comes to things like respecting his wife's feelings about her father and expressing concern about her health. Jack Pearson might not have approved of the original Toby but today he might consider him worthy of Katie-bug. Of course, the only person who needs to approve of him for her choice of husband is Katie herself.
1 He Has A Tough Time In The NICU
If you're not caught up on the show, you might not know that Toby and Kate's son Jack was born prematurely. While Kate is striving to stay optimistic for their preemie as he grows at the hospital, Toby's overwhelm is palpable. Between the tubes, machines and simply how small his infant is, he almost seems like he can't handle the situation at all.
Everyone handles the NICU differently, as it's a very traumatic place, and it's natural for the situation to trigger Toby's anxiety. Prematurity is the number one killer of infants in the world, accounting for a million deaths annually, and it's fantastic that the show is portraying the reality of living with a premature baby is like for many people.