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Four days after wrapping its breakout first season, the cast and creative team of This Is Us reunited Saturday evening at PaleyFest for a packed Q&A at the Dolby Theatre.
Naturally, the events of said finale, particularly the devastating argument between Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore), quickly came up.
“It was like climbing a mountain,” said Moore.
Ventimiglia recalled having to put some distance between himself and his TV wife in preparation for the heated scene. “We separated our chairs [on] the opposite ends of the stage,” he said. “I felt like Jack and Rebecca needed separation.”
Like the show, the panel also an emotional one. While there were several surprise guests who joined the core cast onstage midway through the hourlong panel to huge cheers, there were also a few tears from none other than Ventimiglia. When asked about the inspiration for his character, the actor singled out his dad, who was in the crowd, as tears streamed down his face. “There’s not a moment in my life where I don’t think about how he raised us,” Ventimiglia said of himself and his sisters.
Fatherhood was also the topic of conversation when it came to Randall (Sterling K. Brown) told Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson). In the finale, Randall his wife he wanted to adopt a child. Beyond her initial look of shock and surprise, Beth’s reaction to the bombshell has yet to be seen or heard.
“It’s clearly the beginning of a conversation between a husband and wife. … It’s something that’s on his heart when he reflects back on the loss of William,” said Brown. “He and Beth are just talking about it right now, but it would be an interesting sort of thing.”
Watson also previewed a “big conversation” ahead for the couple in season two. “I don’t know how much she is ready for adoption,” she said. “I think it’s a lovely idea for me, Susan, but for Beth, I think Beth is at a stage in her life where she wants to do other things and maybe not start again and have a baby.”
“Plus, I don’t have a job,” Brown chimed in about Randall’s recent decision to leave his firm after William’s death.
Speaking about William’s death, Ron Cephas Jones opened up about the “overwhelming” reaction from viewers after the “Memphis” episode aired. “I found so many different people that found it healing for them,” he said. “It’s wonderful to get that feedback and see how it’s moved so many different people.”
Kate (Chrissy Metz) also ended the season on a surprising note — pun intended — when she told Toby (Chris Sullivan) she wanted to pursue singing full-time. “Is it a coffee shop? Is it a mini-tour? I don’t know,” said Metz.
Another possibility is a potential mother-daughter duet between Kate and Rebecca, which both Metz and Moore seemed game for. “I’ll slap on those prosthetics in two seconds,” said Moore, although she admitted they make moving her mouth to sing more challenging. “But anything to sing with you, Chrissy.”
Another cliff-hanger presented in the finale was whether Kevin (Justin Hartley) would take the movie role offered by Ron Howard, given his rekindled romance with his ex-wife, Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge). “That’s a hard sell for Kevin,” said Hartley. “Hopefully, he’ll get the girl and the movie. I don’t know.”
Although the finale was eventful, the burning question of how Jack dies was left unanswered. When asked onstage, the entire cast, as well as executive producers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, revealed they all know how the Pearson patriarch passes away. “It happens exactly how you think it is going to,” a coy Sullivan teased the crowd.
When pressed further about season two, both Ficarra and Requa, who also directed the pilot, were tight-lipped about what’s to come. “There have been advanced talks and a lot of logistics discussions,” said Ficarra. “The great thing about the show — I think about it like this spider’s web where we’re able to go into all these directions. … It’s kind of an endless canvas.”
One character that seems ripe for more exploration in season two is Miguel (Jon Huertas), Jack’s best friend and Rebecca’s second husband in the present-day storyline. Midway through the panel, Huertas surprised the crowd — with the Pilgrim Rick hat in hand — teasing the reveals ahead about the sometimes-despised character. “It’s a very important character,” he said. We’re going to see what happens with Miguel later on, and hopefully he’ll prove he’s just as dedicated a husband as Jack.”
Although Huertas and Moore admit they don’t know how their characters ended up together romantically, they’ve both come up with their ideas as they’ve shared more and more scenes together. “We have to have somewhat of a history built in,” said Huertas. “I have an idea in my head; it’s very PG.”
Another special guest was Gerald McRaney, aka Dr. K, who joined the panel shortly after it began, fittingly, with a screening of the pilot episode. “That has been my great joy, associating with this outfit is the pleasure of doing such great words, working with such great people and being able to be part of putting such a remarkable event on television. That’s where all the joy is for me.”
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