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This Is Us stars on Jack's absence: Give Miguel a chance

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At the beginning of This Is Us, Jack and Rebecca are quickly established the couple you root for and cry with, the smitten-with-each-other soulmates who are determined to bring three bundles of joy into the world. (They leave the hospital with three, but not in the way you were expecting.) Sure, there would be some bumpy times ahead — and we saw some of that strain in episode 2 — but true love always prevails, right?

You might not want to stitch that on a pillow just yet. The end of the NBC dramedy’s second episode on Sept. 27 inserted a pin into the happily-ever-after balloon, as we watched present-day grandma Rebecca (Mandy Moore) drop by Randall’s house with Grandpa. However, Grandpa turned out to be Miguel (Jon Huertas), the best friend of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) who always seemed very enthusiastic — maybe a little too enthusiastic? — about Rebecca. Fans were understandably shocked, some of them even angry that Jack and Rebecca are no longer together, although dozens of questions hang in the air about how exactly that might have transpired. (She is still wearing the moon necklace he gave her, after all.) You’ll see a little more of Rebecca with Miguel in tonight’s episode (though it won’t answer those burning questions you have), but before you tune in to episode 3 of This Is Us at 9 p.m. ET/PT, read what the cast had to say about the Miguel twist and what kind of feedback they received from friends, family, and fans.

CHRISSY METZ (Kate): I’m so attached to Milo, and I really believe him to be like a father figure to me — even in real life — so that as Kate I’m like, “No, no, no, no, this is my dad! Nobody’s going to replace my dad!” Honestly I was upset, I was pissed off, and I had resentment toward Mandy — Rebecca, but Mandy, dammit! I mean, obviously she didn’t write the episode, but I was like, “No, no, no.” … It’s heart-wrenching, because their love is so pure, and I love it as a viewer and also as a daughter, I’m like, “Oh, my God, how can this be?” I [told Mandy], “I’m resentful.” And she’s like, “But, but, but—” and I’m like, “I know it’s not your fault, but I’m resentful.”

My family [called] right away. They’re like, “Okay, so what’s going on?” I’m like, “I can tell you nothing.” And they’re like, “But she still has the necklace on! So if she still has the necklace on, then that means that he has to be dead, because if they were divorced, she wouldn’t still—” I’m like, “That’s not necessarily true. She committed, she said she was never going to take it off, regardless.” And they’re like, “What’s this? Miguel? His best friend?” I was like, “I know, it’s traumatizing for me.” You know that [Jack is] a good man, and he’s a good father, and you’re just so in love with their love story, and they’ve been through so much already, you’re like, “Who is this man coming up in here trying to infiltrate?”

RELATED: This Is Us: Before They Were Stars

SUSAN KELECHI WATSON (Beth): My family is not happy. My family in Jamaica, they were, “We don’t like Miguel at all. I knew from the bar he was going to do something sneaky.” Miguel might as well be the devil right now. (Laughs.) I think people had him pegged. Game recognized game. I think there were a few people who were looking at him like, “Huh. He’s saying a bit too much. What’s his ulterior motive?”

JUSTIN HARTLEY (Kevin): When I was on Twitter [during the episode], I was looking and people were like, “Well, Jack better rein it in… oh, he’s become that guy. He’s become that husband.” They immediately were like, “All right, well, the honeymoon’s over. Jack’s kind of an a–hole.” And then you see he gets redeemed. And then you’re like, “Oh, they’re back on track.” And then at the very end you’re like, “Oh! She stepped out on her husband!” So now you see, by the end of the episode, those same people were on Jack’s side but against her. You’re going to see that sort of thing take place… I didn’t see it coming.

MANDY MOORE: I want to know the backstory. I want to know what happened. Although, of course, I have a vague idea, and I don’t want to spoil it for anybody, but my initial gut reaction is like “oooofff,” because I have such a fondness and affinity for Jack and Rebecca, too. I’m able to step outside of myself, and I understand what their connection and their relationship represents in the bigger-picture sense, so I feel a little betrayed by seeing Miguel at the door and being called Grandpa by the girls. Clearly that’s the Grandpa they know, so where is Jack? What’s happened to Jack? That’s where my mind goes, as I’m sure other people have thought… Milo and I were laughing about it together. People are just like, “That’s it. I was watching the show purely for the Jack and Rebecca storyline, and I might have to check out now.” And it’s like “No, no, no, no, no, wait, wait, wait. You have to understand this concept of us jumping around in time, and Milo’s not off the show (laughs). There’s more to come. Stay tuned!”

NEXT: “I had a flood of messages saying, ‘What? Miguel? F— Miguel! Are you kidding me?’[pagebreak]

MILO VENTIMIGLIA: I had a flood of messages saying, “What? Miguel? F— Miguel! Are you kidding me? Where are you? Did you get divorced?” It was actually the perfect emotional response. … I feel like people were really, really in love with Jack and Rebecca. So, maximum impact to see that Grandpa is not, in fact, Jack. It asks a question and begs an answer. Nothing changes from my side of things. I know the road that we’re traveling on, and I know the destination, and I know all of that. What I’ve been saying to everyone was, “Just wait.” I’m happy that people were slamming me with question marks, but at the same time, it’s a moment where I feel like as storytellers, all questions will be answered. You just gotta wait.

I’m a realist. I try to accept things that happen in life as opposed to fight and kick and claw. My mother said to me one time, “It’s smarter to walk next to the bulldozer than be dragged by it.” And I kind of looked at that gut punch of Miguel with Rebecca in that way. That’s just where these people find themselves in the present day. The discovery of how that is, and the acceptance of how that is, is going to be the fun part. It all goes back to Jack and Rebecca — the matriarch and patriarch of this family — and, well, they didn’t make it the distance, so what and when and how did the wheels come off?

STERLING K. BROWN (Randall): The payoff is great, because it’s nothing that’s so extraordinary. It’s something that happens in life all the time. People remarry. Life goes on. But the way in which the show is structured, it leaves room for these wonderful emotional surprises that I think we’re able to maintain throughout the course of the series. That was a big, “Oh, damn” moment. And I had a few people hit me up, like, “What? Are you kidding me?” And then Miguel caught all sorts of backlash. “I don’t know if I like this Miguel. Who is he? Is he his friend? Shame on him.” I was like, “Hey, man. We don’t know the whole backstory. Let’s give Miguel a chance, please. Please, give Miguel a chance — he deserves it.”

To watch a preview of episode 3, click here.

To read more on This is Us, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands now, or buy it here now – and subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW. But wait, there’s more: See the cast of This Is Us at EW PopFest; more information here.

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