‘Remote Controlled’: ‘This Is Us’ Stars on Jack’s Fate, Time Jumps and ‘Mustache-Gate’

Debra Birnbaum

Welcome to Remote Controlled, Variety’s podcast series featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

This week’s episode features Variety executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum in conversation with several members of the cast of NBC’s hit drama “This Is Us”: Milo Ventimiglia (who plays Jack), Mandy Moore (Rebecca), and Sterling K. Brown (Randall). The actors open up about their reaction when they first read the twist-filled script by Dan Fogelman (“Crazy, Stupid, Love”), whether they relate to their characters, and how they keep track of all of the time jumps.

“It was impossible for your jaw not be on the ground when you finished that last page of the script,” says Moore. “And it was signed M. Night Fogelman,” she adds with a laugh. “After doing pilots three years in a row on network television and being absolutely devastated when things didn’t move forward, I wasn’t really looking to do another pilot. But I just thought, there was no way I could say no to this kind of opportunity.”

Adds Brown, “That pilot, with discovering that we are all one family, it had me at hello.”

Ventimiglia reveals that he keeps an old photo of himself as a 3-year-old with his father in his trailer. Above it is a note that says “Be a good father” and “Be a good husband.” “It’s almost as simple as that for Jack,” he says. “It’s the closest character to my heart in terms of what I know by way of my own father.”

Adds Moore, “I’m not a wife and mother yet, but I hope to be the kind of mother Rebecca is,” says Moore. “She leads with her heart.”

Brown gets emotional when he talks about losing his own father when he was just 10. “I wish my own dad could check this out,” he says. “I wish he could see his grandkids and meet this woman I chose to share my life with. I feel like Randall is on that search as well, because Jack has been absent for … some time.” (And yes, that’s all the scoop we could get out of him on how long Jack has been gone!)

Ventimiglia says Fogelman and the writers have laid out a plan that helps them track the timelines of all of the characters. “We’ve been given a pretty fair amount of information and a really decent road map to know the history of the Pearsons,” he says. “In the writers’ room along the top edge of the wall are milestones for the family. And any moment any of us can get with Dan, he’s more than excited to talk about what’s coming.”

Moore says Fogelman approached her with the idea of playing Rebecca as an older woman a few weeks into filming. “I didn’t know when I signed up for this that I was going be doing quite as much jumping around,” reveals Moore. “But it’s an honor and a gift and I really love the challenge of it.”

Adds Ventimiglia, “I think you nailed it!”

The actors reveal that they’ve shot more episodes of Rebecca in the present day — including holiday episodes where we’ll see the whole family together. “Thanksgiving is Randall’s favorite holiday,” says Brown. “He normally hosts Thanksgiving at his house, so we will have that to look forward to as well.”

And then there’s “mustache-gate”: Ventimiglia’s facial hair choices on the show. “It was a scary moment,” admits Ventimiglia. But he says he told Fogelman, “Your writing is so good that when (Jack) pops up in ’88 with these 8-year-olds that are brand new, too … after two seconds, no one is going to give a s—. You are that good.”

Listen to this week’s podcast below:

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday.

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