TCA: Executive producer Dan Fogelman and the cast teased what to expect when the Emmy-nominated drama returns for a second season.
“This Is Us” is moving closer to revealing the show’s biggest mystery: How Jack died.
Creator Dan Fogelman promised reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour on Thursday that the Season 2 premiere will include “a giant piece of the puzzle that gives momentum towards that storyline,” and that over the course of Season 2, viewers will get some answers as to what happened to the character, played by Milo Ventimiglia.
Fogelman said plotlines introduced at the end of last season will continue, including Randall and Beth (played by Susan Kelechi Watson) pursuing adoption and Kevin (Justin Hartley) getting his big movie break. And in one big piece of news, Fogelman announced that Kevin would be joined by real life movie star Sylvester Stallone for at least one episode.
Stallone will be play himself, as well as his character in the film being made — a period war drama, Fogelman explained. He’ll be a mentor figure to Kevin’s character. The casting came partly thanks to Ventimiglia, who played Stallone’s son in “Rocky Balboa.”
Fogelman also revealed that Season 2 will begin, in the present-day timeline, about a month after the events of Season 1, on the 37th birthday of The Big Three. The past storyline, meanwhile, will pick up the morning after the big fight between Jack and Rebecca (Mandy Moore).
Critics also got a peek at a clip from the Season 2 premiere, which features Randall, as an adult, asking Rebecca about the choice to adopt him (with the requisite flashback to that day). As tear-jerking as the clip was, Fogelman told critics after the panel that it isn’t even in the “top three” of emotional moments from the premiere.
How many of those moments involve Jack’s death is as yet unknown, but as always with “This Is Us” it’ll be a big part of the conversation, something Fogelman acknowledged was by design. “Jack’s death is this hinge upon which the family swings,” he said. “You can’t appreciate the family without it.”
Fogelman and the writers try not to pay too much attention to theories online, though they are aware of how much speculation surrounds it. What’s important is that none of those theories will change their plans: “Jack’s death will play out as was planned from Episode 1,” he said.
After 11 Emmy nominations, including the first time a broadcast series has been nominated in the best drama category since 2011, the cast and Fogelman were effusive about their gratitude over the show’s success.
Fogelman gave full credit to the cast, pointing to them as why the show hasn’t been imitated by competitors as much as might have been expected. “It’s hard to copycat because they don’t have these eight guys,” he said. “The cast is what makes this work. I think people really enjoy watching these eight guys playing these eight characters.”
“I’m so happy to have this job, I’ll sit in the makeup chair as long as I have to,” Moore said about the old-age makeup her scenes set in the present day require. That’s not really a joke — the make-up process used to take five hours, but now it’s down to three and a half hours, which Ventimiglia said “still wasn’t great.”
“This is Us” Season 2 premieres September 26 on NBC.