Chrissy Metz has developed a following and received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for her work on the NBC drama “This Is Us” and was playing the lead in the faith-based hit feature “Breakthrough.” But when the film’s producer said they were getting 10-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren to write the end-credits song and he wanted Metz to sing it, she says, she couldn’t believe it.
Then Warren laughs slyly: “Should we tell the whole story?”
“Oh, yeah, go for it, Diane, please,” says Metz, on the other end of a conference call. And Warren winds up.
“OK, so when they asked me to write for the movie, I thought, ‘OK, let’s get somebody — let’s get Carrie Underwood, let’s get any of those other names.’ ‘Cause, you know, Chrissy’s an actress, and when actresses try to sing … ‘Ah, I don’t know about that.’
“Chrissy came in my studio and — I left. Because I didn’t want to sit there and, you know,” Warren breaks up again, “See, I’m a bad liar, so if it wasn’t good, I didn’t want to be in the room.”
Warren eventually returned to hear Metz’s take on “I’m Standing With You,” bracing herself.
“I was just prepared to … what do you say when something’s bad? I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.
“Then when I heard the first notes of the first verse, I was, like, ‘Wow.’ I don’t know what I did. I must have hugged you.”
Metz says, “You said the F-word.”
Warren doesn’t miss a beat. “Chrissy sang this song with so much heart and so much emotion. There’s something so authentic about you, Chrissy, as a singer and as an actress, that you can’t teach. You can’t learn that. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is like Adele.’”
If you can hear someone blush, that’s the sound Metz makes at that comparison. She once fronted a band called Chrissy and the Vapors, and her vocal abilities have been incorporated into her “This Is Us” character, but this is another level. “I’m Standing With You” was even premiered at the Academy of Country Music Awards, with Metz fronting a chorus of top female vocalists.
“I’m still amazed that we’re talking about this,” she says. “Music was my first love. So to be able to be part of something that’s not only so special in the story line, but with Diane Warren, who I have listened to — she’s healed many of my broken hearts, many times over — it’s not lost on me at all.”
“Breakthrough” is about the near-drowning and science-defying recovery of a Missouri boy, John Smith. His mother, Joyce (played by Metz), credits his survival to the power of prayer.
Warren says, “There was this one scene that really stayed with me, when everybody in the congregation is standing up. Not only did Chrissy’s character not lose faith in her son being OK, but basically, the whole community [did the same].”
In the scene, the pastor (Topher Grace) asks those in the church to stand up by groups, based on the belief and support they showed during the ordeal.
“By the time he’s done, literally the whole room, they’re standing. I started singing the chorus, ‘I’m standing with you,’ and I started crying,” says Warren, laughing. “I thought, ‘It would be so cool to have a choir’ … I had the whole vision of the song.
“I thought, ‘This could be a really healing song, to know you’re not alone and someone could share your pain.’ The movie’s about a real-life miracle. We live in a time when we need miracles.”
Metz says, “For Joyce and John, this isn’t a story; this is their real life. So it was a real responsibility to relay that message, to be a conduit of that positivity. I believe in miracles.
“Nobody believed John was going to make it aside from his mother. We all need that one person to stand with us, to believe in us until we can believe in ourselves.”
The song was written for the film, but it’s meant to be universal.
Metz says, “I was lucky enough to sing it at the Disney Hall for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. I was standing in front of 500 LGBTQ people, and one of my dearest friends in the world is also gay. I got so overwhelmed with emotion, I almost couldn’t finish the song. Because what they go through to love who they wanna love, they go through so much heartache and difficulty … I was in tears.”
Warren says, “It was spectacular. Another cool thing — when you sang it on the ACMs ... she sang it with every artist I wanted to replace her with. They sang background for you.”