It wouldn’t be a proper discussion about the consistently tear-inducing hit NBC drama This Is Us, which just wrapped up its freshman season, if crying wasn’t involved - and leave it to star Milo Ventimiglia to make a packed PaleyFest audience at Hollywood’s Dolby Theater weep.
After a fan asked where the inspiration for his character, Pearson family patriarch Jack, came from, Ventimiglia revealed the person was sitting right in the audience. “Here we go. This is the time I cry: my father,” he shared before pointing out his parents in the crowd. Then he credited show creator Dan Fogelman, the writing staff, plus executive producers directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra with creating “this man who loves his wife, loves his kids, and it’s really as simple as that,” he said, getting visibly emotional. “I saw that in my own father,” he continued in a broken voice, “and there’s not a moment in my life that I don’t think about how he raised us, my sisters and I, and what he gave me just as a man.”
The poignant answer wrapped up an entertaining and insightful conversation at the Saturday night panel, which boasted the “biggest turnout for a PaleyFest event,” moderator Kristin Dos Santos of E! News acknowledged at the top of the chat. Joining Ventimiglia were costars Mandy Moore (Rebecca), Sterling K. Brown (Randall), Justin Hartley (Kevin), Chrissy Metz (Kate), Chris Sullivan (Toby), Ron Cephas Jones (William), and Susan Kelechi Watson (Beth), as well as surprise guests Gerald McRaney (Dr. Katowski) and Jon Huertas (Miguel). They covered plenty of ground, touching on topics ranging from that big fight in the series finale to the mystery surrounding Jack’s death.
As expected, Requa and Ficarra had little to reveal about that last part. “The great thing about the show is it’s kinda like this spider web where we’re able to go off in all directions and delve deep into people,” Ficarra explained, adding that the writers get back to work in June. “We got to see Jack from a certain perspective this season, and I think we might get him from another perspective in other characters [next season].”
“There are a bunch of episodes that end in emotion,” Requa joked. “A couple surprises.”
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One of those surprises will likely be how Rebecca ends up married to Miguel - something Requa said he’s “90 percent certain” will be addressed.” “I concocted a story in my head,” Moore admitted, adding she doesn’t yet know how it really happens. “When we’re in a scene together, we kind of have to have some kind of history built into our characters and how we’re approaching our relationship,” Huertas told the crowd. “I have an idea in my head - it’s very PG.”
“What a waste of time that is,” McRaney dryly interjected.
With Miguel being one of the show’s more controversial characters, the cast and crew were forced to say something positive about Jack’s former best friend. While points were given for his “illustrious head of hair,” his compassion, and that confidence-inducing pep talk he gave Kevin, Ficarra got big laughs from the crowd with his take: “Without spoiling anything, I forgive him for killing Jack.”
On the topic, though, Dos Santos presented a list of theories about how Jack dies, Miguel as the murderer being one of them. While that possibility was quickly disregarded, as was the likelihood of Rebecca intentionally or Kate accidentally killing him, one stood out to the crowd: the theory that Jack dies in a plane crash. Dos Santos pointed out some clues many online already have noticed, like Kate’s fear of flying and how Kevin mentioned in episode 6 that he threw away all of the model airplanes he made with his dad following his death. If this turns out to be true, there could be a real-life component to it, too: In 1994 - when Jack and Rebecca’s kids were all teenagers, the same age we see them at their dad’s funeral - a USAir jet crashed just outside Pittsburgh, where much of the show is set. All 132 people on the flight were killed.
While Jack’s death is the big and looming unanswered question, there are plenty of other things to look forward to in season 2, as teased in the final moments of the finale.
“It’s clearly the beginning of a conversation between a husband and a wife,” Brown said of Randall’s newfound desire to adopt, which he previously discussed in this interview with EW. Watson added: “I think Beth is at a stage where she wants to do other things and maybe not start again with having a child, a baby. Does it have to be a baby? ... because if he’s 16, it’s like...”
Meanwhile, Kevin isn’t ready for marriage (again) or kids with ex-wife Sophie just yet. He’s just trying to make the relationship withstand months and thousands of miles apart while he goes to Hollywood to be in a Ron Howard movie. “When you take the history of the characters into consideration, and that’s the exact same thing that happened to them before, I think that’s a hard sell for Kevin to Sophie to say all is going to be fine,” Hartley explained. “I want him to get what he wants. I love him, I really do. I think he’s a great guy ... and I root for him. I wish he was a little better at getting by than he is. Hopefully he’ll get the girl and the movie.”
And as for Kate, she found her voice, so to speak, in the season finale, where she admitted she wants to pursue her singing aspirations. “Is it a coffee shop? Is it a mini tour? Who knows?” Metz said, adding she hopes she will get to duet in some capacity with her on-screen mom.
“I will slap on those prosthetics in two seconds,” Moore excitedly responded. “Anything to sing with you, Chrissy.”