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On This Is Us, Rebecca Pearson is getting things in order.
Amid six, time-spanning seasons spent with Mandy Moore’s matriarch and her sprawling family, viewers of the beloved NBC drama, once again, surely broke out the tissue boxes on Tuesday night while sitting and waiting — just like the Big 3 — to receive Rebecca’s instructions about how to handle what is likely to come.
As Rebecca begins to confront her early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis head-on, her latest move is to sit down her grown children Kate (Chrissy Metz), Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) after Thanksgiving dinner and, with husband Miguel (Jon Huertas) by her side, share with them her wishes for her future amid her ongoing health battle.
“When dad died, it was a shock, right?” she opens, referencing the family suddenly losing patriarch Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) at such a young age. “We were all left scrambling, trying to figure out our roles and how to move on. And the one silver lining of this awful disease is that I have the opportunity to make a plan, to try to ease some of the burden.”
First, she appoints Miguel to make decisions on her behalf, should that day come, and asks her children to verbally agree they will not fight him on the choices he makes. Second, she asks Kevin to include a guest house in the Pearson family dream home he is building for Rebecca so they will have the option to house her long-term care. And third, if Miguel is not around when the time to make these decisions arises, one of her children will need to do that in his place.
“I’ve thought long and hard about who that should be, I just don’t want there to be any confusion or fights. There are a lot of reasons for my decision, I hope that the three of you can respect it,” she explains, before naming Kate as the child whom she wants to take on that role.
With tears in their eyes, her three children then hear out their mother on her biggest demand: To live their lives fearlessly, and not let her diagnosis alter that.
“You will not make your lives smaller because of me,” she insists. “This thing that’s happening to me will not be the thing that holds you back. So, take the risks. Make the big moves, even if they’re small moves. Forge ahead with your lives in any and every direction that moves you.”
The episode, titled “Taboo,” focused on the bond between mothers and daughters, while also traversing time to show how Rebecca and Miguel’s love began, much to the disapproval of young Kevin. When speaking about Moore’s seven-minute monologue during a recent TCA panel, creator Dan Fogelman, Brown, Hartley, Huertas, Susan Kelechi Watson and Ventimiglia praised Moore for her performance, and shared their experience filming the pivotal scene.
“It is very much the set-up for the back-half of the season,” said Fogelman when speaking to reporters, including The Hollywood Reporter, on Feb. 11, while noting the group effort from the writers room. “I lost my mom, and I lost her quickly and unexpectedly. But I sometimes try to get inside of: If it had been a long, protracted illness that she was at the beginning of, what might have been the thing, in a fictional universe, she might have wanted to say to me? And that’s where we drove from a little bit.”
Brown said his first reaction from the scene was to applaud. “I clapped in my seat,” he said. “Not super loud; not trying to distract my actor. And I got up and walked around the corner, because we were in the cabin, and I walked into the kitchen, and did what Mandy would do in season one [getting pumped; throwing arms up] just out of joy.'”
He continued to praise Moore for playing Rebecca across decades. “She’s played herself from 16 to 80something and, without batting an eyelash, being the youngest member of our cast and seamlessly going through time the past six years, she’s a killer and that scene really touched me.”
Huertas noted that the behind-the-scenes moment of Brown applauding actually happened during rehearsal for the cabin family talk. “Before you started clapping, there was this really long breath that all of us took,” he said. “She brought it so hard in just the rehearsal that we were all in awe. Mandy, you really got all of us that day.”
And while Hartley shared his reaction upon reading the script (“I cannot wait to see what she does with this”), Ventimiglia expressed his envy over the scene, noting that “six years in, [I’m] a little sad that Jack’s dead” because he can’t join his actors in the present timeline. “It makes me emotional because I hear you guys all talking about the Mandy moment and, I read it, and I’ve been watching front row for years, so I know she’s going to kill it,” he said. “But also, I’ve had the joy of being on the side, watching everyone do their work.”
Though the panel was virtual, Moore once again resumed the (symbolic) head of the table while taking her turn to be on the receiving end of words from her costars. At the time of the panel, the cast was a little more than halfway through filming the final season, which Fogelman has promised will tell a complete story by its series finale.
“We’ve all had those moments on the show,” she said, humbly. “It’s such a gift to to go to work every day, and tell these stories and get to recite these words. It’s never lost on us — and it’s especially not lost on me as we start to close out this show. I just want to be super present.”
She added, “I get to look in the eyes of these extraordinary people, Justin and Chrissy and Jon and Sterling. And I get the honor and privilege of saying these words. I have this relationship with everyone; we’re truly a family. In that sense, there’s such an ease to it, of just being able to look at each of them and tell them the truth of what these words really are.”
The sixth and final season of NBC’s This Is Us is airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m.
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