Fans of the Bill Chott’s mailman on This is Us hope he’ll back on the show in the future. But those who can’t wait for that to happen can check him out in the heartwarming but lesser-known movie Marshall’s Miracle.
After getting to know Bill a little through a previous post and subsequent interview, I wanted to see more of him, so my 10-year-old son and I rented this sweet family movie. (It’s available on Demand and on Amazon.)
Inspired by a true story, Marshall’s Miracle shares the adventure of Finn, a 13-year-old boy who has become the target of bullies at his new school. Finn feels hopeless and lonely until he discovers the injured Marshall being held by a dog-hoarder in deplorable conditions and makes it his mission to rescue him. In the end, Marshall leads everyone to a place of change, forgiveness, and friendship,
The uplifting movie teaches important lessons about bullying and animal cruelty, and it’s great for families and kids. (The worst word in it is “darn.”) Some might find it a little schmaltzy, but I’m a sucker for sentimental and sappy, so I loved it.
Chott captured the hearts of America with his brief but deeply affecting scene on This is Us as the mailman who holds back tears when he learns his friend William had died. Since the episode aired a week ago, he’s been overwhelmed by the response and deep affection millions had for his character. Fans have started a campaign to bring him back to the show.
In the movie, Chott plays a totally different character, gruff and grumpy, stuck in bad situation as his wife keeps bringing home dogs they can’t properly care for. But he shows the same tenderness This is Us fans fell in love with when he worries about the injured dog, Marshall, then defies his wife and lets Marshall go.
“I enjoyed the chance to get a bit gruff and play Gary,” Chott said. “I’m usually the nice guy, and he is a mostly unlikeable guy with a moment of redemption. It’s also my only role with a beard. I grew it to look a bit less like a baby-face and a bit more rough around the edges. I kept the beard for a year, so Gary stuck around with me a while after the role ended.”
Lauren Holly, perhaps best known for Picket Fences, NCIS and Dumb and Dumber, plays his wife.
“That was a really unique opportunity,” Chott said. “She doesn’t often play that kind of character either, so we both had a chance to stretch a bit.”
The disturbing topic of animal abuse is well-handled, and how Finn and others respond to Marshall reinforce the movie’s theme: Don’t give in to bullying. Be strong, be courageous, and be kind.
That message resonated with Chott.
“I grew up being bullied from time to time, since my family moved a lot,” he said. ” I was always the new kid. I like the way Finn’s story echoes Marshall’s story. They’re both victims of bullying and they’re both able to overcome that adversity.”
Chott filmed near his hometown of St. Louis, and he joined the real-life Marshall and his owner, Cynthia Willenbrock, who wrote the book “Marshall the Miracle Dog,” at a Special Olympics event. In real-life, the three-legged Marshall and Cynthia have visited more than 1,200 schools, nursing homes, and children’s hospitals to share his story of courage and the will to overcome. He also encourages people to see beyond a person’s disability to what they are capable of accomplishing.
“Marshall immediately inspires empathy because he wears the scars of his former abuse and neglect on the outside,” Willenbrock told me. “When Marshall so lovingly hops right up to every stranger, he has this way of busting open those internal wounds in all of us. Without words, Marshall lets us know we are all enough, exactly as we are.”
Willenbrock is pleased the book and movie helped spread the anti-bullying message, and she partnered with 4-H to make the Marshall Mentor Program available to schools. You can learn more about Marshall’s impact in this video.
That’s a message we should all remember.
Watch for Bill’s next guest appearance March 28 on Trial and Error, and read more about him here: