Goodbyes are never easy. On a show like This Is Us, they can be downright brutal. (See: the death of William Hill, the death of Jack Pearson, the death of Rebecca Pearson, etc.) When the cast of NBC's time-tripping family drama gathered on a sunny April day in L.A. to pose for EW's digital cover, the mood was... summer casual. (It was a BBQ theme, after all.) But the looming end of the show — which happens to be May 24 at 9 p.m. ET/PT — did come up in conversation two or five times, and things turned a little... well, not necessarily teary, but wistful.
"How do you guys feel about saying goodbye to your characters?" Mandy Moore asked her castmates during EW's Around the Table shoot. "Because that's something that I feel like I've just started digesting and I'm like, you have to actually say goodbye to these people. Like, they will no longer exist anymore."
"And you have to literally say goodbye, because Rebecca really says goodbye in these last couple episodes," Susan Kelechi Watson tells Moore. And she herself felt it a while ago, back when she was co-writing Beth's last showcase episode earlier in season 6 ("Our Little Island Girl: Part 2"). "I remember before we even started," says Watson, "starting to already feel the ending starting to happen, and it was like, 'Oh my gosh, you know? You really do feel like, all the years."
"I don't know how to say goodbye," sums up Moore.
"I'm not going to," Jon Huertas, who plays Jack's best friend and Rebecca's second husband, Miguel, pipes in. "The hair department let me keep the old man wig."
Pat Martin for Entertainment Weekly The cast of 'This Is Us' on EW's digital cover shoot
For Milo Ventimiglia (a.k.a. Jack), the goodbye carried an extra layer of lament. With Jack's scenes taking place in the past (given his premature death), the patriarch and the adult Big Three did not cross paths. (Except when it involved dreams or drugs.) "I've been consistently saying that's the one heartbreaking thing for me," Ventimiglia says, "is I don't get to share time with all of you on set." "But you're always with us," consoles Chrissy Metz.
The wide-ranging, free-wheeling conversation touched on the challenges for Metz and Chris Sullivan (Toby) in portraying — and, well, just accepting — Kate and Toby's break-up. "I didn't expect Kate and Toby to not make it," Metz says. "I knew somebody wasn't going to. I just didn't know it was gonna be Kate and Toby." When Sterling K. Brown (Randall) asks his on-screen sister how she feels about it, she turns to Sullivan and says, "I don't like it. No, that's my dawg. This is my Chris. It's like, I miss you, you know?"
There also was some discussion of who in the cast was the best crier. (And some discussion of what "best crier" even means.) "Either Chrissy or Mandy, they always make me cry every time in the scene," says Brown, master of the single tear rolling down the face.
But as he points out, it was the opposite situation when the cameras weren't rolling. "Backstage is constant laughter," Brown says. "And I don't know if it's just who we are as a group of people, we sort of just enjoy each other. When the show is as heavy as it is, people think we live in that the whole time. I don't think so. I think that would be too difficult to just carry that kind of weight the whole time. So we do what we need to, in order to release." Adds Sullivan: "I've only had a few scenes with Justin [Hartley]. And every single one of them ends with me in tears, trying to hold in laughter." (Okay, so maybe even off-camera there were a lot of tears, too.)
Before the roundtable was over, the cast did offer up a few hints about the series finale. "There's an elegance to its simplicity," Moore says. Sums up Hartley: "Full circle." And there's more intel to be found in the video of full conversation, which may or may not include a story about one Pearson who accidentally passed gas while filming.
Say goodbye to the Pearsons with EW's special This Is Us edition, available to purchase online or wherever magazines are sold.