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Over the course of its six-season tenure, This Is Us has become known for its unexpected twists and turns. As the series prepares to come to a close, showrunner Dan Fogelman and the cast confirm there are still many surprises to come.
On Tuesday evening, the cast and crew gathered at Paramount Studios in Hollywood to celebrate the show’s sixth and final season, premiering Jan. 4 on NBC.
“I think by the end of the season, every fan is going to walk away feeling like they just had a full meal and a dessert,” star and season six director Jon Huertas, who plays Miguel, told The Hollywood Reporter. “The writers are taking such care and getting us there in a very intelligent, emotional and, also at times, scary way, so I think that fans are going to be very satisfied with all of those different types of emotions that they feel throughout the season. They’re not going to feel like they’ve missed anything.”
Sterling K. Brown, who stars as one of the Big Three, Randall Pearson, added of the upcoming season, “I think you can expect more of what you’ve had over the past six years, right? Which includes surprises, because Fogelman loves a good surprise.”
He continued: “I never cease to be amazed at the consistency after six years of a network television show, keeping the bar high. And I’m not saying that because I’m on the show. Because I get a chance to read a lot of stuff, and a lot of stuff you read is so-so, and [This Is Us] is always really, really good.”
Brown — a longtime Game of Thrones fan — has previously been open about his dissatisfaction with the HBO’s show’s finale. But the actor confirmed that the ending of This Is Us will do no such thing.
“I’m not trying to hate, you have to understand this, but I spent like 10 years of my life watching Game of Thrones. And you know during the pandemic and whatnot, I could go back and watch GOT. But I know how it ended, and it’s not the same,” he explained. “I don’t think we’re going to have that same issue [on this show]. I think there’s going to be many years to come where people are going to be like, ‘I just discovered this show and it’s lovely. And it finished perfect.'”
As for his character Randall’s journey in the final season, Brown joked that he “could tell you, but then [he’d] have to kill you.” When it comes to secret-keeping, Brown says he has gotten used to it. “I did Black Panther,” he said. “So it’s like, [Marvel] will kill you. And I don’t want that. We’ve gotten along for six years on [This Is Us], and I don’t want to mess it up now.”
For Milo Ventimiglia, who plays the late Pearson patriarch, keeping the show’s twists and turns under wraps hasn’t been too difficult for the actor.
“You don’t wanna blow the experience for [fans],” Ventimiglia explained. “I think that’s the thing that Dan has inspired in all of us is, ‘Hey, let’s not ruin the experience for the audience. Let’s really make sure that we’re giving people a real experience when they’re watching it for the first time.’”
Despite tight secrets kept on-set, star Mandy Moore — who also directed an episode this season — said that she’s not totally in the dark about the show’s trajectory.
“I feel like we all know what we need to know, so I feel like I’m able to operate with enough information to keep moving forward,” Moore, whose character Rebecca Pearson, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, said. “I don’t feel like I’m in the dark on anything.”
But in the early days of the series, the showrunner was much stricter on secrets.
“When this show had really hit the zeitgeist in a way we weren’t prepared for in the first and second season, I stopped allowing even the studio [and] network to get [the scripts], outside of the core couple of people who read them and did the show,” Fogelman told THR. “I was so terrified that somebody was going to come into our office and see how Jack [Ventimiglia] died. You know, that was a particularly big one. We’ve loosened those rules a little bit because we don’t have that level of a size of a secret [anymore].”
At the end of the show’s last season, audiences were shocked to see that Toby (played by Chris Sullivan) and Kate (played by Chrissy Metz) are headed for divorce. But Sullivan wasn’t surprised at all.
“Somebody on this show was going to have to get divorced,” the actor said. “It wasn’t going to be Beth [Susan Kelechi Watson] and Randall [Brown]. That didn’t leave much. And it’s an important part of relationships to explore, and nobody does that better than Dan Fogelman and our writers.”
He continued: “I think some people are right for each other forever. Some people evolve in the same direction, other people evolve in different directions, and that should be destigmatized, as well. There are seasons in people’s lives, and the end of this show will be the end of a season for Kate and Toby.”
The cast also emphasized the bittersweet nature of the final season’s celebration as they prepare to walk away from a six-year journey together.
“I think as fans of the show are saying goodbye, Rebecca is also saying goodbye in a way, and it makes me emotional to think about,” Moore said of her character. “We’re all grieving the loss of this family and this experience that we’ve all had together for the last six years. [Fans] are saying goodbye to the Pearsons, as well. We’re on these parallel journeys.”
Fogelman added, “When we get to the end of this thing, I don’t think there will be anything left for you guys, who are constantly asking for six years about spoilers, to ask anymore. I hope everything will have been answered.”
As for emotions on-set, the showrunner knows it’ll be a difficult goodbye for all. “We’re in the home-stretch mode, and you start to get that feeling in the back of your throat,” he said. “It’s going to be a mess. It’s going to be a hot, hot mess. I think there’s going to be more waterworks on our set than there will be from people watching, honestly.”
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