This morning at “Pancakes with the Pearsons”—a brunch at 1 Hotel West Hollywood, in celebration of This Is Us‘s 9 Emmy nominations—series creator Dan Fogelman joined his cast for a series of 10-minute “actor-on-actor” Q&As, providing some new details about what we can expect in Season 4 of the hit NBC drama. “I would say that there’s a lot of secret new cast members who are going to be a big deal, coming up, so that’s one part. I would say there’s going to be a big announcement or release about it at the end of this month,” Fogelman shared. “I would say that in the series, we have what I call little markers, little stakes we put in the ground that serve as grounding points for the whole arc of the whole series, and I would say our first two episodes of this season are two of those. So, it’s a big, bold, potentially polarizing—but in the best possible way—start to the season.”
Over the course of the intimate event’s 90 minutes, cast members Susan Kelechi Watson and Justin Hartley also teased developments to come with their beloved characters, Beth and Kevin Pearson. Seen in the series taking on a new job as a dance instructor—a choice which has created friction with husband Randall (Sterling K. Brown), Kelechi Watson confirmed that we will see more of Beth’s dancing career in seasons to come. “I’m so grateful for that because I just find it so fun. I think it’s the best form of expression without talking,” she said. ” I like to talk, but I’m a big fan of communicating without speech, and so much of the soul can go into that. Things that you don’t have words for, you can say with your body.”
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For Hartley, the major upcoming development has to do with a flash forward seen at Season 3’s end, with regard to Kevin Pearson’s future as a father. Asked by co-star Mandy Moore whether he knows all the details pertaining to this storyline, Hartley explained, “I don’t know all of the surrounding details, but maybe if I’m not an expert on that topic, I would be like expert-adjacent, pretty close. I think things sometimes on our show are in flux, and some things develop that weren’t there before. But I think this is something, from what I’ve heard, that’s pretty set.”
Today’s This Is Us event was split up into six panels, pairing Sterling K. Brown with Watson, Chrissy Metz with Chris Sullivan, Milo Ventimiglia with Michael Angarano, Ron Cephas Jones with Watson, Mandy Moore with Hartley—and finally, Fogelman with his composer, first-time Emmy nominee Siddhartha Khosla, who sang twice for an enraptured crowd, explaining how the series’ signature sound stemmed from his upbringing as a first-generation Indian American.
In conversation with Watson, Brown gushed about his onscreen wife, explaining how much he enjoyed “repping this black love on this show,” while touching on the conflict that emerged between Beth and Randall in Season 3. “There’s something really interesting about this third season. The first two seasons, [viewers] are like, ‘These guys are great. What a wonderful couple. Could they adopt us?’ and so for the both of us, we were sort of looking forward to the opportunity to enter into the nitty gritty of it all,” the two-time Emmy winner explained. “Because there’s no such thing as a perfect couple. Even people who are perfectly matched for one another, you’re going to have ups and downs.”
In conversation with Sullivan, Metz shared that while she’s unsure of what’s to come, in terms of onscreen singing for Kate in Season 4, she, Moore and Sullivan are all putting their own albums together at the moment. Meanwhile, Sullivan touched on the challenge of portraying the anxiety of Kate’s beau Toby in Season 3. “Most of it is just suppressing any kind of urge to screw around, because I’ll take any opportunity to have fun—and if I take a long enough period of time and avoid doing that, and sit quietly, here comes all of the fear, and anxiety, and depression in my past that I avoid by screwing around and making jokes,” the actor said. “So, it sucks. It’s not a fun day. I mean, talk to Mandy, who’s been in that place for three seasons, on and off. Because it bleeds through into real life, and you have to ground yourself in the people that you love. And sometimes, it’s hard to leave work at work, in this situation.”
Later on, Ventimiglia and Angarano paid tribute to Fogelman and the series’ writers, who have been able to fold in layers of backstory into characters like Jack and Nicky Pearson, to the extent that they feel like real people who exist off of the page. “I think it’s a testament to the writing that Nicky always felt like he had a really specific voice to me,” said Angarano, who joined the cast of This Is Us just this season. “He felt like he just existed there.”
Discussing Season 3’s Vietnam flashback episodes involving Pearson patriarch Jack, Ventimiglia noted that he’s based the character to a great extent off of his own father, who did two tours in Vietnam. For Ventimiglia, there was something surreal about putting on an army uniform while shooting on location in Vietnam. “We were in Vietnam and a gentleman goes past and he just kind of double takes me. My co-star starts laughing and I go, ‘What’d he say?’ and the guy said ‘What the hell is an American soldier doing back here?'” the actor recalled. “Still, there’s a wait to all of that. There’s a weight to everything we play in that era.”
A sprawling ensemble series, This Is Us is a heartfelt drama, centered on a unique set of triplets, their struggles, and the parents who left an indelible mark on their lives. With nine Emmy nominations this season, recognizing the work of Brown, Ventimiglia, Moore, Sullivan, Angarano, Cephas Jones, Khosla, and guest actress Phylicia Rashad, and an additional nomination for Outstanding Drama Series, the NBC series wrapped its third season in April and will be back for its fourth go-round on September 24.