As part of the 2022 TCA Winter Press Tour, I attended a panel for the final chapter of This Is Us with Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Justin Hartley, Susan Kelechi Watson, Jon Huertas, and Creator/Executive Producer Dan Fogelman. New episodes of season six return on Tuesday, February 22 on NBC.
During the panel, I had the amazing opportunity to ask the cast about which storylines or scenes personally moved them.
“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,” Sterling K. Brown told me, starting the discussion. “The scene that we were just talking about [in episode 6×07, when Rebecca is discussing what she wants from her kids in the future and all the expectations of that] this year, as a matter of fact. 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 clapped in my seat, not super loud, not trying to distract the actor. Then I got up and walked around the corner, because we were in the cabin, walked into the kitchen and I did what Mandy would do in season one. She’d do this thing when she’d get ready, she’d throw her arms down and be like (demonstrating). But I was doing it just out of the joy, like, ‘This chick is fucking killing it, son!’ So that’s a scene that really I was, like, Mandy Moore, and I want to wax poetically about it for a second. She’s played herself from about 16 to 80 something, 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 didn’t hesitate to agree, “I think before you started clapping, there was this really long breath before that all of us took because I think it was rehearsal, it wasn’t even when we were filming. It was actually just a rehearsal and she brought it so hard in the rehearsal that we were all in awe. I mean, Mandy, you really got all of us that day and that’s probably the thing that moved me the most, especially in the moment.”
“I could go on for hours probably about this entire cast, it’s like every scene that they do,” Justin Hartley answered. “Interesting thing and 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, Milo, Mandy, Jon, Chrissy, Chris, 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 she 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, a monologue that Chris will have, or that Milo will have, Milo’s had a few this year, and you look at those, 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 impressive. It’s five or 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 in, 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.”
“I’ll just jump in and say you guys are very, very unbelievably kind,” Mandy Moore responded to her castmates. “But I feel the same as you, Justin. It’s so hard to distill down six seasons of just incredible moments in each and every episode. Like, you and Sterling, your relationship is, I feel like, such a glue to this whole show. Milo, 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, watching you just completely lose it and break is like — 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 somewhat emotional, and that was just a real moment that I really, really, really treasure.”
“Incredible episode, Milo, really. I cried the entire time,” Huertas added.
“An incredible journey with that character too because what you did, Milo, what you’ve managed to do over the course of these six years with your character is a long play. 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 ‘fuck.’ When she does, it’s like, I mean, everything stops, right? That’s what, Milo, you’ve managed to do,” Hartley expresses. “I don’t know if that was planned. It probably was, knowing you, but it’s very smart and it’s just these incredible artists from the writers’ room to the actors, t’s a pleasure to be around everybody. It’s really incredible.”
Milo Ventimiglia shared, “I’m still, six years in, a little sad that Jack’s dead, and I can’t share a real scene with Susan, Sully, or anybody else without being on drugs, in the hospital, or on alcohol.”
“A hallucination,” Moore commented as everyone laughed.
“It makes me emotional because 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 being on the side, watching everyone do their work. It’s so hard to find a favorite because they truly are wonderful, they’re special, 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,” Ventimiglia stated.
“Guys, I’m getting sad now,” Dan Fogelman said.
Brown then called on his on-screen wife to continue, “Sue K, what you got? What’s your reflection?”
“Oh, jeez. Can you stop moderating, please,” Susan Kelechi Watson joked. “I didn’t want to say anything because I’m listening and everything is just — I just second that emotion on everything. Reading a lot of this right now and hitting you that you only have six episodes left, and there are things that I didn’t even know was going to be the gut punch that it was going to be. I’m reading about what’s going to happen between Toby and Kate, and I felt gutted. Then I was watching Mandy in the last episode, I think it was, and sort of just kind of dance through these different decades and different things happening in her life at different moments, and just this dance that was happening and how beautifully graceful it was.”
The actress continued with “I watch Justin. Oddly, his character feels like between 36 and 41 becomes a man. They kind of put that label on him, it felt like, at a time where he was trying to find it within himself. Then you watch him for six seasons find it in himself and it’s incredible. You watch Jon stand in a place that’s hard to stand in. It was his best friend’s place and make a place for himself, and it’s beautiful. I’ve so many times told Milo of the extraordinary moments that are just small moments, that I go, ‘how did he even find that?’ These nuances and things that are so every day but just make it look effortless. And I have the greatest partner in crime that I get to play with in almost every scene. So that makes my life and my job so much easier.”
“These are all the most beautiful things that I get to witness every day at work, and so it’s hard to put it into words sometimes. And listening to y’all brings me so much joy because it really is the truth of what we experience on the set. Then we get to go home and watch what everybody else is doing in scenes that we’re not in and get blown away all over again,” Watson concluded.
“Amen. It goes both ways to you too, scene partner,” Brown replied. “And I just want to say to before the next question, on behalf of our two castmates who aren’t here right now, Chrissy and Chris, the shit they got coming, it’s different. This shit hits different. Be wary, be on guard, but it’s coming your way.”