Jon Huertas portrays Miguel in the award-winning and critically acclaimed drama, This Is Us. The beloved series is currently finishing its sixth and final season. New episodes of the final chapter air Tuesdays at 9 PM ET on NBC.
Everyone has a family. And every family has a story. This Is Us chronicles the Pearson family across the decades: from Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) as young parents in the 1980s to their kids (the big three), Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) searching for love and fulfillment in the present day along with Toby (Chris Sullivan) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson). This grounded, life-affirming dramedy reveals how the tiniest events in our lives impact who we become, and how the connections we share with each other can transcend time, distance and even death.
I had the pleasure of speaking with the actor after episode 6×15 aired about Miguel and Rebecca’s story, how his own personal experiences contributed to his character, the Somos Nosotros Fund, his favorite moments from the show, and more! Keep reading for everything he shared.
Huge congrats on the final season and the journey you’ve been on with this incredible show. For me, personally, it’s a show that my mom and grandparents introduced me to, I watch it weekly with them, and it’s really rare for me to find a show that all of us can enjoy together. So I wanted to ask, what does it mean to you that your work and the series itself can bring families together like that?
Jon Huertas: I mean, it’s pretty special, right? There aren’t a lot of shows that do that anymore. I think the last show was Castle, I heard that did the same thing for families as well and so it’s really rare. I don’t hear about a lot of other shows where the families actually come together and watch. It just really is a testament to our writers and how they are able to bring so much into an episode where people can feel like they can find themselves in there somehow, find a piece of themselves, find a moment, or a situation that they can personalize to keep them coming back for more every week. It’s really a testament to our writers allowing themselves to bear all in the writers’ room, because a lot of the stories, a lot of the moments come from their hearts and from their own experiences. They also farm that out from some of us cast members, they definitely have with me and it just goes to show that if you can be more personal in your storytelling, you’re going to attract people, because then they feel like you’re sharing a piece of yourself with them. That’s what people want to do, they want to want to share common experiences.
Earlier in the season, I had the chance to speak with the wonderful Mandy Moore and I asked her if there was a question that she was most excited for fans to find out the answer before the show ends. She told me that she was most excited for fans to see Rebecca and Miguel’s story. So I wanted to ask you, what was it like bringing their story to life with Mandy, especially in those scenes when they’re older?
Well, Mandy and I have pretty incredible chemistry, I think. We’ve been chomping at the bit and longing to definitely share that chemistry on screen, and tell the story, the origin story of Miguel and Rebecca. We respect that it took some time and there was a lot of story that needed to be told, and we only have 18 episodes a year to do it, except for last year, when there were only 16. We only were able to do 16 because of the pandemic and that actually put a little bit of a wrench in the gears. We would have gotten to this much sooner if it wasn’t for that, really. But it was great to talk over the scenes and really work out where we were emotionally in each kind of place in the relationship from even when I was back on the porch and telling her I had to leave till this episode that came out, we really tried to just work out the trajectory, emotionally, and really make it as real as possible, put our hearts into it so that it shows on screen so that people can fall in love with them falling in love. I think we did a pretty good job with that. Also, just talking with the writers and giving them as much information as we could that might come from our own personal lives, especially me, and for Miguel. Allowing the writers to take that and mold it into a story for This Is Us was great to see.
You mentioned giving some of your own personal experiences to your portrayal of Miguel. Is there something specific that you added that really stands out to you? Or is there something that you learned from playing Miguel that you feel like you’re going to carry with you for the rest of your life, even after the show ends?
Well, some specifics are being someone who is caught between two worlds, who feels like they don’t really fit in. That is something that came directly from who I was growing up and into life now. It’s still this thing that’s kind of hard to wrap my head around when it’s the 21st century and sometimes I still feel like, they try to fit me into a certain box that I don’t fit into. So that’s something that we worked into Miguel, for sure. Then also, the idea of the hair, where his hair is curly, then it goes straight, and it goes back to curly, that’s a direct correlation to my life. Someone tried to bully me when I was in high school and call me pubic head because they said the hair on my head looked like the hair that was growing between their legs and there ended up being an altercation, in which I came out the victor. Then I was the one getting in trouble. So the solution to that was that I was taken to a salon, and they blew dry my hair straight so that I wouldn’t be bullied by the white kids because I look more like the white kid. And so, I did that every day in high school before school, I woke up 45 minutes before probably every other student just to blow dry my hair straight. Then carried that with me all the way until I went to the military and they just shave it all off. Now, I’m off in the military, I’m getting back to my people, I’m meeting other Puerto Ricans, and when they grow their hair out it’s curly on top, shaved on the sides, and just started wearing it natural.
But then moved to LA and every role for Latino at the beginning of my career was the quintessential really Anglo looking Mexican with the angular jawline, you know, the Latin lover looking Mexican or the gangbanger, so shaved head or slicked back hair, straight hair. So almost back to the same thing until I just decided, “You know what, no. I’m gonna be me, I’m gonna be who I am. If you don’t like my curly hair, if you can’t really figure out that there are people in Mexico, El Salvador, and everywhere else with curly hair, not just in Puerto Rico, Cuba,” like come on. It’s almost been an education that I’ve had to give creatives when you talk about why my hair works for the character. So we did that in the show, we had Miguel start out with curly hair, assimilating into the Lundy world, thinking that this is what he needs to do to work his way up the ladder, is to straighten his hair, look more like they do at the corporate level. Then once Jack dies, Miguel’s in an emotional place similar to– not similar but in his own kind of place, alongside Rebecca, to where he started figuring out who he was. And then when Rebecca finally says to him, “No, I like your curly hair,” when they’re on the speed date, that’s locked it in for him. From that point forward, this is who I’m going to try to be, that man that Rebecca likes, you know? So that was very personal and something that worked we worked in.
I have to talk to you about the episode’s ending. It absolutely devastated me. I was not ready or prepared for it in any way. But when reading the script, did it feel that way for you? Did it make you feel like, “Oh, we’re really at the end now. We’re really saying goodbye,” after?
Yeah, kinda. When reading the script, it was so good that I was just excited to shoot it and I show up to work, I have a job to do. I have to just be present in every scene and think about the emotional kind of levels that this character is going through in the moment. So how do I find those emotional kinds of nuances to bring to the scene in whatever way? So I’m more looking at it like work. It’s clinical but from an emotional place. So it wasn’t until I saw the episode to where I had the same emotions that you guys had, where it was, like, “Oh, wow, this is the end, this is the character, and this is the send-off. We won’t see him again. I won’t see him again. I won’t be him again,” necessarily. But yeah, I mean, that’s when I felt it, that’s when it was like, “wow.”
The episode was such a beautiful way to say goodbye to this character, for now — I’m still holding out hope that you’re gonna appear in a flashback or something. But there was a beautiful moment at the end of Kevin and Miguel’s son spreading the ashes. After playing this character for so long and watching that, how did it feel seeing those moments as sort of a tribute to Miguel?
It was beautiful. I mean, I think it’s very special that Kevin and Andy came together to do it, the two men/boys, that we have experienced the greatest kind of rift between them and Miguel, more so I think with Andy and Miguel than with Kevin and Miguel. I think there’s this thing that happens with the audience where they think that Kevin doesn’t really love and appreciate Miguel for a long time, but there have been some, I think, beautiful scenes between them. When Miguel tells Kevin that he is his father, I mean, if Kevin really didn’t like Miguel, he wouldn’t sit down at the table and have that conversation with him. Then there were a couple of other moments as well. So I wasn’t surprised when Kevin, first of all, reached out to Andy and it was nice that he is now sharing this kind of rekindled love with Andy at the end with the ashes. That was great. Then the other two at the tree, that was also special because that tree meant so much to Miguel, when he said, “you’ll be around,” when he tells Rebecca, “you’ll be around for this to bloom, to fruit.” Yeah, I thought that was beautiful.
I saw that you, the rest of the This Is Us cast, and Dan Fogelman are starting a Latinx focused scholarship fund. As a Latina, I was so touched by that, and I was hoping you could tell me about how it came about and what you hope it does in the future. It’s really a beautiful legacy for the show.
I think, us as a cast had such a great gift in this show and we received great gifts from Dan and the studio, and we wanted to — how can we pay it forward? How can we do some good with this and be selfless, in a way? And so at first, there was an idea, I think it was Justin, that was like, “maybe we could start a charity or give something to charity.” They had brought up to me before the idea that they’ve rarely seen any Latinx writers in the writers’ room and they’ve seen not that many Latinx directors, especially adult male Latino directors, and I was like, “Well, why don’t we do this: why don’t we partner with this organization Nosotros that I’ve been working with, and we call it Somos Nosotros,” which now, our show will have a legacy into perpetuity. We find the next Latinx writers that can become showrunners, writers, writers rooms, executives, possibly directors, like let’s give them a leg up so they don’t go into their professional career with a mountain of debt. So everybody thought it was such an amazing idea. Then I reached out to Joel M. Gonzales at Nosotros and he was very receptive. We as a team, me and him, reached out to AFI American Film Institute and said, “We want to partner with you guys because you guys have an amazing history and track record of finding amazing talent, and this is what we want to do.” And then we worked on it, it happened, we, of course, announced it last week, and now here we go. You may apply for it if you want to get your Bachelor’s in Screenwriting.
Lastly, is there a favorite memory you have from filming this final scene?
I mean, I think my favorite memory from filming is… there’s so many. I mean, directing an episode with this cast is great. I love the idea that they trust me enough to do that. But then, I think one of my favorite moments is the moment on the porch with Mandy Moore, as Miguel and Rebecca, and him saying goodbye. There was so much real, grounded emotion in that scene between me and Mandy, it felt so real and so poignant that it sticks with me. I think that’s probably one of my favorite moments on the show. Also one of my other favorite moments is when she makes that move in the restaurant and decides to just kiss him out of nowhere, unexpectedly to him. I think that is one of my favorite moments that I’ve seen the character experience.