The sixth and final season of the beloved drama, This Is Us, resumes Tuesday on NBC after a break for the network’s broadcast of the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Cast members Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown and Justin Hartley, along with series creator Dan Fogelman, recently participated in a Zoom press day to reminisce about their long-term jobs exploring the trials and triumphs of the fictional Pearson family.
Here are some highlights from what they told reporters. (Questions edited for clarity.)
Q: Did you know from the beginning that the show was going to be as big of a success as it turned out to be?
MILO VENTIMIGLIA: Yes, I knew. I had a lot of confidence in this group of fine and talented actors. I had a lot of confidence in Dan Fogelman and the fine and talented writers that he assembled. We’ve got a wonderful crew, and we have wonderful people who are incredibly talented, that are doing their best in coming together. Of course, it’s going to succeed. So, yes, I knew it was going to be a success and people were going to be able to connect to it.
Q: How much pressure is there to deliver on this finale?
MILO VENTIMIGLIA: I don’t know if there’s a pressure so much as there’s just an enjoyment. You know, when you have been on this show for as long as we’ve all been doing it, for six years, I think you read the script; you get excited about what you’re going to be a part of. You get excited about what you’re going to watch your friends do when you see the edits and the final cuts. I don’t know that there’s pressure that I feel other than we just keep doing exactly what we’ve been doing for six years. I know there’s expectation. But, beyond that, reading what I’ve already read and what we’ve already had, held in our hands, it’s going to deliver. It’s truly, truly going to deliver.
Q: In Season 6, Episode 7, there’s a memorable scene when Rebecca is talking about what she wants from her kids in the future. Dan, can you just talk about working with the writers on that scene?
DAN FOGELMAN: Yeah. It was written, I mean, our writers, it’s a collective. Like, I tend to get a lot of questions about the writing and probably far too much credit. And, so, that particular script I worked on with our whole group of writers and a young writer, Laura Kenar, who was a writer’s assistant on the show in Season 1 and has now become one of our writers on the staff and is one of the many people I’m very proud of. But we talked about that scene at length. It is very much the setup for the back half of the season. It was one of those scenes that we knew was going to take seven minutes of our 42 minutes and 30 seconds of screen time we’re allotted every week and felt worthwhile. And, yeah, we worked really hard. I lost my mom. … I lost her quickly and unexpectedly, but I sometimes try and get inside of: ‘What if it had been a long, protracted illness that she was at the beginning of? What might have been the thing in a fictional universe she might have wanted to say to me?’ And I think that’s where we drove from a little bit. Mandy was so special that day that our camera operator for the life of the series, James Takata, wrote me a note about how he had never felt that kind of connection with an actor in his career at the moment when he was just kind of completely present and filming Mandy do that monologue, and he had never felt that before as an artist. He’s an artful guy and [is] going to be directing soon. But it was not a kissassy note, because if it was kissassy note, he would have sent it to Mandy and not to me. But it was that kind of scene, and I think we all kind of knew it. I think Justin and Sterling and Chrissy [Metz] felt it that day on set as well, and Jon [Huertas] just being there with her.
Q: Mandy, do you want to weigh in on saying those words?
MANDY MOORE: I mean, those kinds of scenes, I think we all can speak to. We’ve all had those moments on the show. Like, it’s such a gift to be a part of this show. It’s such a gift to go to work every day and tell these stories and get to recite these words. It’s never lost on us, and it’s especially not lost on me, like, as we sort of start to close out the show. I’m like, ‘OK, I just want to be fully present.’ I was super-nervous because it was a huge, like, four pages of a monologue and it was right before Thanksgiving break. I’m like, ‘I’ve just got to get through this and get to the holiday.’ But, you know, I get to look in the eyes of these extraordinary people and Justin and Chrissy and Jon and Sterling. And I, like, get the honor and privilege of saying these words and I have this relationship with everyone. We’re truly a family. And so, in that sense, it’s like there’s such an ease to it of just being able to look at each of them and tell them the truth of what these words really are.
Q: Is there a storyline or a scene that has personally moved you, whether that’s your storyline or a performance that you watch from one of your castmates?
STERLING K. BROWN: Well, it’s a star cast. I get moved all the time. I’m constantly in awe of the people that I get a chance to play in this sandbox with. The scene that we were just talking about this year, as a matter of fact and Justin and Jon can attest to this. We were all sitting around the table, watching Mandy do her thing, and my first reaction was to just applaud. I, like, clapped in my seat. Like, not super-loud. Not trying to distract my actor. And then I got up and walked around the corner, because we were in the cabin. And I walked into the kitchen and I did what Mandy would do in Season 1. She’d do this thing when she’d get ready and she’d throw her arms down and be like (demonstrating). But I was doing it just out of the joy, just like, ‘This chick is [expletive] killing it, son.’ So, that’s a scene that really I was, like, Mandy Moore and I just want to wax poetically about it for a second. She’s played herself from about 16 to, you know, 80something and without batting an eyelash, being the youngest member of our cast, but seamlessly going through time over the past six years. She’s a killer, man, and that scene really, really touched me. So that’s mine.
JON HUERTAS: I will agree with that, Sterling. I think before you started clapping, there was this just really long breath before that that all of us took. Because I think it was [at] rehearsal. It wasn’t even when we were filming.
JUSTIN HARTLEY: Yeah. And I could go on for hours probably about this entire cast and every every it’s like every scene that they do. And, interesting thing, I know, Mandy, you’re probably turning red right now because we keep talking about you. But one of the things that happens on this show, that happened with me for that scene when I read it, is you know the cast and you know the caliber of actor that you’re going to be dealing with, whether it’s Sterling or Milo or Mandy or Jon or Chrissy or Chris [Sullivan] or whoever it might be; and when you read something like that, you look forward to guys, am I right? You look forward to [it.] You read it and go, ’I cannot wait to see what he does with this.’ There is no you’re not going to be like, ‘Oh, that’s a big task.’ I’ll see a monologue that Sterling will have or a monologue that Chris will have or that Milo will have. Milo’s had a few this year. And you look at those and you read them and you go, ‘I cannot wait to see what this actor does with this.’ And you’re impressed every single time, but you’re not surprised. It’s just, it’s impressive. And it’s five or it’s six years now of just pedal to the metal, 100 percent every single time. I don’t think there’s been one moment where anyone’s ever filmed it, at least not that I’ve seen. So, it’s just an honor and privilege to watch what these people do with their work and how seriously they take it.
MANDY MOORE: You guys are very, very unbelievably kind. But I feel the same as you, Justin. It’s like it’s so hard to distill down six seasons of, like, just incredible moments in each and every episode. Like, you and Sterling, your relationship is just like, I feel like, such a glue to this whole show. Milo, like this season watching you break in your mom’s funeral episode is I think because Jack is so stoic and is able to kind of be there for his family, be there for his wife, his kids in every capacity and knowing how just what a strong man you are, Milo. Like, watching you just completely lose it and break is like (sighing). My heart was just in my throat during that particular scene. So, I think you’ve had one other time on the show where Jack has been, like, somewhat emotional, and that was just a real that was a moment that I really, really, really treasure.
JON HUERTAS: Incredible episode, Milo, really. I cried the entire time.
JUSTIN HARTLEY: An incredible journey with that character too because it reminds what you did, Milo, what you’ve managed to do over the course of these six years with your character is a long play and it’s so smart. And when you do things like that on the show, because it’s so rare, it reminds me of it’s like when my mother twice in my life has said ‘[expletive.]’ And when she does, it’s like, I mean, (makes braking sound). Everything stops, right? And that’s what, Milo, you’ve managed to do. And I don’t know if that was planned. It probably was, knowing you. But it’s very smart and just it’s incredible, incredible artists from the writers’ room to the actors. It just… it’s a pleasure to be around everybody. It’s really incredible.
MILO VENTIMIGLIA: I’m still, six years in, a little sad that Jack’s dead and I can’t share a real scene with Susan [Kelechi Watson] or Sully or anybody else without being on drugs or in the hospital or on alcohol.
MANDY MOORE: Hallucination.
MILO VENTIMIGLIA: Yeah. Like, it makes me emotional because, like, I hear you guys all talking about the Mandy moment and I read it and I’ve been watching Mandy front row for years, so I know she’s going to kill it; but also have had the joy of, like, being on the side, watching everyone do their work. And it’s so hard to find a favorite because they truly are. It’s like they’re wonderful and they’re special and they’re unique and they’re not to be compared to anything else that anybody else is doing. It’s like everyone is just so top tier, and I’m just grateful to be a part of it.
DAN FOGELMAN: Guys, I’m getting sad now.