12:57pm PT by Bryn Elise Sandberg
'This Is Us' Stars, Creator on the NBC Drama's "Surreal" Popularity, Season 3 Plans
Ahead of Tuesday's season two This Is Us finale, the cast and creator of the NBC tear-jerker took the stage at SXSW to talk about the beloved series. Showrunner Dan Fogelman was joined by three of the show's actors — Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia and Justin Hartley — at the Austin festival, which covers the intersection of film, television and tech. The conversation quickly turned to the show's popularity and what it means for the culture at large.
"This show is made by a lot of kind-hearted, nice people and I think you can feel that when you watch it," said Fogelman, who added that he can't stop watching the news right now or help but think about how divided the country is. "Then I look at this show and how popular it's become and the fact that people across all spectrums of life are attaching to a show that's this open-hearted, optimistic, romantic and inclusive, it gives me hope."
For Ventimiglia, the success of the show has been a bit surreal. "It does feel like it's gone in the blink of an eye, so it does make you appreciate those moments when you're there and you're in them, to be present with it, because you know that it's going to be taillights and you're going to be looking in the rearview mirror," said the actor, who plays Jack in the drama. Ventimiglia also acknowledged that while the series usually "gets kicked in the teeth at every awards show we've been to," the cast took home the SAG Award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series in January. "It's good to have moments like that, that you can share with the entire cast," said Hartley.
Indeed, the actors did share the awards with the whole cast, even the kid actors in the show who didn't meet the strict qualifications to be considered part of the ensemble. Not only did the main cast bring the children as their plus-ones to the ceremony, Moore and Ventimiglia took their trophies into a 3D printing store and made six replicas — same exact specs and all, they made sure — for the kids. "It wasn't the real statue but also, from mom and dad, wanted them to know 'hey, we love you guys and you should have a representation siting on your mantel,'" said Ventimiglia, with Moore adding, "You're just as much a part of this as everybody else."
During the rest of the discussion, Fogelman talked about the process of turning the project (which began as a film script) into a TV show, while the actors shared their craziest fan interactions (Ventimiglia told a story in which a very pregnant woman ran after him as he worried she'd give birth then and there) and their favorite scenes of each other from the show. "There are those moments that, as an actor, you wait your entire life to hopefully get one — and it probably isn't going to happen," said Hartley. "We get them every week." Ventimiglia agreed: "This is the kind of job that everything else in your career will be compared to."
In response to a question about if Moore — whose character had dreams of becoming a singer — will take the mic more in the show's upcoming episodes, Fogelman delivered at least one hint about what's to come in the third season. "I think in season three, we're planning on potentially seeing quite a bit of Jack and Rebecca's origin story, of what happened after they met at that bar and what was their courtship life and exploring that period quite a bit," he said, teasing: "And singing, honestly, was a big part of her life back then so I think it's fair to say that there will be some." Moore, for her part, is down with using her vocals. "I would like to sing with Chrissy [Metz] at some point on the series. I think that would be so fun."