3:09pm PT by Jean Bentley
'This Is Us': 7 Things to Expect From Season 4
The time-twisting nature of This Is Us means that just because a character is dead doesn't mean they won't appear in the series — but with a three-season renewal under their belt, the cast has even more job security as the Emmy-nominated NBC drama enters its fourth season.
"That's the interesting part about this story — they know how the whole last three seasons go. They've blocked it all out. They know every step of the way," star Chris Sullivan told The Hollywood Reporter Saturday on the red carpet before an early-morning Emmy event. "So they're not taking stabs in the dark. They know what they're doing."
At a "Pancakes With the Pearsons"-themed breakfast, the cast, including the Emmy-nominated Sullivan, Sterling K. Brown, Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia, discussed what's next for their characters when the series returns for season four Sept. 24.
1. Rebecca is ready to embrace California living as she moves to be closer to her youngest grandson, baby Jack
At the end of the season, Moore's Rebecca Pearson committed to moving closer to daughter Kate (Chrissy Metz), a new mom to preemie baby Jack.
"I think she's going to be very conscious of not overstaying her welcome, not stepping on toes. She wants to be there, and I think she's happy about the close proximity. But I think she's acutely aware of not wanting to get on Kate's nerves," Moore told THR. "And I think it's also a fun new chapter for her and Miguel [Jon Huertas]. I want to see her let her hair down a little bit more now that she's out in California. I think when anybody moves from the East Coast to the West Coast, there's just an innate relaxation and enjoying the sunshine. I'm curious to see what that brings out in both of them."
2. Kate will need to try even harder to focus on herself
While new motherhood is a gigantic task in and of itself, it'll be even harder for Kate to navigate that while also trying to keep herself and her aspirations a major priority in her life.
"I think it's really going to be about making herself a priority while balancing her child and her relationship. Time and time again, she has not quite figured out how to put herself first. And that is a challenge I think most people have, not even just women or mothers," Metz told THR. "We're going to see how that's going to go. But I think the biggest thing for her is putting herself first because if you don't have the oxygen mask on yourself you can't help anybody."
3. Toby and Kate will need to focus on their relationship
Said Sullivan, "Each time a child comes into a family, the family becomes a different unit. Things change and relationships change and dynamics shift. I think they were just figuring out how to be married, and now they have to figure out how to maintain a relationship as well as be good parents. And so it'll be interesting to see how they do that."
4. Randall is ready for his new responsibilities as a Philadelphia city councilman
At the end of the season, Randall (Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) decided to move their family to Philadelphia to be closer to his new job.
"It's going to be a lot better without that drive. It's exciting," Brown told THR. "I think Randall, for such a long time, has been looking for a place where he belongs. He knows he belongs to his family, and he's created this wonderful family with Beth and his three girls. But to be able to have direct, regular access to the black community, to have a job where his job is to service that community, I think it's a real interesting step in his progression of feeling whole and feeling like he is enough — if it goes well."
But the new family home won't be without its complications. Teased Brown, "We have a new house, and we've been shooting a few different scenes in the new house. It's an adjustment from the New Jersey pad that we once had. You'll see as time progresses that there's a little bit of growing pains fitting into a new space."
5. Randall and Beth's relationship is on solid ground again
While the couple experienced the most challenging time in their relationship in season three, "I think they're going to be in a realer place" from now on, Brown said. "What I mean by that is instead of glossing over whatever concerns [Beth] may have about what she's looking for, now that she's refound this passion [for dance], he's paying attention. And I think she's vocalizing too. Both things are important: The partner who tends to be the dominant, bigger personality paying attention, and the person who tends to allow that dominant personality to be like, 'You know what, I'm here. And you've got to recognize me as well.' So I think they get a chance to get to a deeper level in their relationship."
6. Kevin will be focusing on his sobriety in the aftermath of his breakup
Kevin (Justin Hartley) and his girlfriend Zoe (Melanie Liburd) parted ways at the end of the season when it became clear that he wanted to start a family and she did not. He'll be dealing with the aftermath of that decision when the show returns — particularly when it comes to keeping his sobriety.
"I think if that falls apart, then everything else falls apart. He's rebuilding his foundation," Hartley explained. "If you think of it like a building, a skyscraper, you've got to start with the foundation and make sure that's solid and firm before you can build on top of that. So hopefully that means relationships, things like that. You have to get that solid ground before you can start adding other pieces to it. But I do love the fact that we're seeing him starting from square one. And then we see where he ends up [with a son in the flash-forward]."
7. There's plenty to look forward to
Each Pearson family member was excited about a different scene they've already filmed for season four. For Moore, it was leaving some of the heavier plot elements behind to see the happy early days of Jack and Rebecca's relationship.
"We start in the time period with Jack and Rebecca right after they get back from that road trip. My first [wardrobe] fitting, it was like a '70s explosion: colored eyeshadows and chokers and hoops. It's the best. I'm like, 'Can we just live here all the time?' It's the most fun to be young and excited about life and there's levity. Nothing bad has happened to her yet. It's just fun to be in love with Jack."
Ventimiglia has "already tapped into all the versions of Jack so far in these first episodes, so just look forward to spending time with the family that you love and that you get inspiration from and that we can all relate to."
Hartley, meanwhile, was impressed by his character's confidence in one scene in particular. "I can't tell you who the players were, but it was confrontational," he teased. "And I remember when I read it, I was like, 'Oh, OK, this guy's growing up.' He's laying it down. It's cool."
And Metz cryptically teased the scene she's most excited to see, which she wasn't even in. "There's a scene with a new character that, I mean, I saw 10 seconds of it and I was sobbing," she said. "So that's probably my favorite so far."
This Is Us returns Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 9 p.m. on NBC.