Kevin is on Charlotte’s (Stefanie Black) lawn, begging for her to give him back his necklace after he bailed on her following a one-night stand and stole a prescription. When she shuts the window on him, he is left with nothing, and cries out for help from anyone, though no one can hear him. It’s a pathetic moment for him, a bottoming-out. What resonated with you about shooting that scene?
In my head, I pictured him as a baby. I remember when I had my daughter, she’d cry when she was a baby, before she knew how to speak. I would get so stressed out sometimes, because I’m like, “Why is she crying? I don’t understand. Is she hurt? Is she this? Is she that?” And I broke it down. I was like, “Okay, I can help her, because she’s either hungry or she’s tired or she needs a diaper change, or maybe I need to burp her. That’s about it. She’s crying because she can’t speak.” I thought, “You know, this is Kevin. He has gone through his whole life, literally in English, that this is not the way it should work. No one will hear him. It’s like he’s a baby, and no one understands the words that are coming out of his mouth. Well, maybe I’ll just do that. Just cry.” Because he doesn’t have the words. It’s almost like he can’t communicate what he’s feeling to other people, and it becomes this overwhelming thing that causes you to have this physiological reaction, which is called crying, which we all do. And I thought, “Well, that’s what that is.” It is pathetic. And it’s also helpless — and rock bottom. It’s all he can do to stand up. It’s awful.
When Kevin is in a haze of intoxication while accepting his award at the high school, he sees Jack in place of his high school coach. Adult Randall (Sterling K. Brown) had the mushroom smoothie hallucination at the cabin where he got to interact with Jack. You have long wanted to have scenes with Milo. What was that moment like to film?
I had said that about three or four times, and I didn’t realize how many times I had been saying that until I was reading [them]. And I was like, “I’m never going to say that again, because I don’t want anybody to get any ideas of, like, ‘Let’s figure out a way to put them together!’ I’m not in that [writers’] room. I don’t know if that was ever even brought up, but I like how it was done because it didn’t seem like, “Oh, this will be clever.” He’s hallucinating. In that room, in those moments, Jack was there. Kevin saw Jack — and it was just a really great way to tell that story and not make it hokey. And a by-product of that was that I got to work with Milo. That’s the way I looked at it.
Were you like, “Look! We’re actually getting to do it’?
Well, we called each other, and I was like. “Dude, there’s a scene!” And he was like, “I know! But it’s not like hokey or a trick — it’s really cool.” It’s an interesting thing to happen on our show where you’ll read something and you’ll be like, “Wow, that seems a lot! What is that all about? That is really, really — I don’t want to say overdone, but it’s reading that way a little bit.” And then you’ll go to do it, and you’ll be like, “Oh, no, they’re just brilliant. They just get it — and I don’t.” [Laughs.] They’re great.
How did Sophie, a nurse, and then Charlotte, a doctor, not recognize the signs that Kevin was in trouble?
On a scale of “They’re done” to “Who doesn’t like third chances?”, where do Kevin and Sophie stand? There’s still a bit of unfinished business here.
See, I just got married, so you’re talking to a sappy kind of guy. I can’t imagine anything my wife could possibly do that would not make me give her a third chance. But I also understand that there are limits…. We fall in love with these characters that we play, so for me, it’s like, “Yeah, a third chance. He deserves it. He’s a good guy.” But that’s not his call anymore, that’s Sophie’s call.
When Kevin shows up at his brother’s house in an act of reaching out for help, Randall says he knows why he’s there…. and then he tells him the horrible news about Kate. Will he try to stuff down his feelings again to focus on Kate, who is in huge need of help, or is he in a place where he can still ask Randall for help?
I think he obviously knows that that takes precedence, and he’s going to shove it down even further probably and try to handle it on his own. And also, that’s very familiar territory to Kevin, when it’s like, “I said I need help. I need help right now.” And then one of the other two triplets takes the No. 1 spot. I think he’s just in a familiar way going, “If any of my [siblings] has a problem, I better just not say anything.” His whole life has been like that, and everyone will think I’m okay.
When you read that twist in the script, what was the first thought that raced through your head?
My first thought was, “Oh, sh—, I thought we hit rock bottom with Kevin but I guess not.” It’s in his DNA to try to handle things on his own, and unless he gets some kind of revelation for no reason, he’s going to try to tackle this on his own, and that’s not going to go well.
And how much guilt is he going to feel, as we saw him ignoring the calls that he was getting from Kate and Toby that day while he spiraled down?
I think a million pounds. I think it adds to it. He’s had these moments where he’s just basically giving himself as much grief and as much heartache and as much pain and he’s inflicting it on himself as much as he possibly can, and then now he hears that, and there’s a reason why he’s a piece of whatever you want to call it. And it just adds to the fire, really.
The ending seemed to take away the opportunity for a mirror scene of “Jack Pearson’s Son,” and this time it would be Kevin crying in Randall’s arms, giving us perfect symmetry? Are we ruling that out, or is it still a possibility?
[Laughs.] I don’t know, but knowing these writers and the way that they tell stories, they will pay it forward I’m sure. You definitely hear the characters talk about that moment again, I will tell you that.
And for the record, you do want to be held by Sterling?
Listen, I’ll tell you what. I saw on my email that there was a Sexiest Man Alive issue, and I saw Sterling and Milo in that thing, so either one of those son of a guns can hold me. I don’t have to pick one.
That would be quite a scene. I’m trying to picture the circumstances.
If you look at the photo, I’m being held by both of them, so it’s okay, actually.
Kate was so conservative about this pregnancy, hiding it from everybody and Toby helped coax her out of her caution a bit. What can you tease about how she’s going to processes the tragedy?
One of her rocks is Kevin. Or her main rock. We sorted through all that at the beginning of the year. That was the whole thing that Kevin and Toby [Chris Sullivan] had, like, “I’m the guy now.” And Kevin’s like, “Well, I’ve been the guy. I don’t know what to tell you.” She had to go through this whole thing without her brother that she’s gone through everything with. So it’s going to take a lot because all those gaps that he fills in for her are now just gaping. She’s going to have to lean on somebody else, I would assume.
What is your one-sentence tease for “Number Two,” which will focus on Kate?
I’ll give you two words: Chrissy Metz. It is another story that’s told about a very beloved character, Kate Pearson, and it’s performed epically by her. It is deep and it’s another story about something that a lot of people deal with. These are people who everyone can relate to, and they go, “Holy s—, if that’s not me, I know someone exactly like that.” We’re talking about things that people don’t talk about, and it’s so cool.
To read what This Is Us exec producer Isaac Aptaker had to say about Kate’s miscarriage and Kevin’s spiral, click here.