Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Dan Snierson
November 21, 2017 AT 10:00 PM EST

There’s an interesting conflict raised in the episode after the miscarriage, when she dismisses Toby’s pain, saying he only had an emotional couple of hours, but she was going through something that he couldn’t understand. This was her miscarriage, not theirs. “It happened to me; it didn’t happen to you.” Whose side did you find yourself on when you first read that scene?
I feel like I’m sort of a diplomat in that I can always see both sides of the coin, especially in emotional situations, because our perception is our reality. And I thought, “Oh my gosh, Kate is actually going through this physically, and if you’ve never gone through this, you don’t know. You truly don’t know, and you can’t compare.” But at the same time, Toby is valid in his feelings and his heartache. It’s different, but it’s still heartache, and it’s still grief, and it’s still sadness for something that he was very excited about. And I think that it’s really important to talk about that, because often the men or the spouses are in the shadows of the women who actually had the miscarriage, because you think it’s not as important or as real. But it really is. It’s just a different kind of grief. But I totally can side with Kate in that, yeah, you might have cried, you might have beat the steering wheel, and you might have been really angry about it, but actually being pregnant and having that whole experience is something entirely different that a man couldn’t really relate to 100 percent.

For such a dark episode, there was some uplift and repair in Kate and Rebecca’s adult relationship, as you mentioned. There was Rebecca, still with arms open, to receive her at her apartment, just like she promised young Kate. How helpful and connecting was it for Kate knowing that her mother had experienced similar loss through miscarriage?
It was so helpful, because Kate and Rebecca have never actually, to our knowledge, had a connecting conversation, really bonded over something where they both were vulnerable, they both were exposed in different ways and could actually relate to one another. We’ve never seen them actually relate to one another. And so when she said, I never held Kyle, and I went through a very deep loss and never was able to communicate that and had a breakdown about it, she can say, as a mom, as a human, as your friend, you’ve got to talk about it, because you’re going to break down in the grocery store over a bag of onions. There’s going to be a breaking point.

It was so beautiful to see that scene where she shows up, she just shows up without notice or explanation, and everything — the culmination of what their relationship hasn’t been and needs to be, was in that moment when Kate just fell her into her mother’s arms. So, so many people never get that moment, or never allow themselves to feel that moment for many reasons, and I thought it was really, really wonderful to have that in that episode.

It’s like when Kevin shows up for Randall at his office and takes him in his arms. It’s a Pearsons-represent moment.
Right. It’s like, I am absolutely broken and I don’t know how to even move into the next moment, and then that unconditional love for each other comes to the surface.

We’ve seen how complicated and fraught their relationship has been, right up through the present, when Rebecca went to Kate’s first big gig. But this is the most significant breakthrough in their adult relationship to date. Where does this take them moving forward? It feels like a big building block.
Moving forward, they’ve extended these olive branches to one another, and I think that they cracked open their real, true feelings in a relationship and are being vulnerable, because for so long, it was so covered in resentment and anger, as opposed to the hurt and the sadness. So, yeah, we’re definitely going to see them closer and getting closer as time goes by. And just getting to know one another as adults, and creating a real relationship between a mother and a daughter.

Which scene was the most challenging to tackle?
It would have to be when Rebecca shows up at the door, and then of course the conversation where she actually sees her mom show up for her, and she doesn’t know, if she knew she was coming, it would be, “Oh, she’s going to point fingers, she’s going to cast judgment, it’s going to be this whole thing.” But that she just shows up because she knew that her daughter needed her, that everything was just released at the moment, and she fell into her arms. But that was really difficult because that removal of the ego and being that vulnerable is not only challenging that quickly as an actor, because it happens in, like, four seconds, like I open the door and it’s there. But also having that really deep conversation about how she’s really felt, I don’t think she’s ever told people, anyone, maybe her therapist at the weightloss camp, how she’s really ever felt. She’s never been heard. Toby knows, but he doesn’t really know.

How would you tee up next week’s episode, which focuses on Randall and the fall finale?
It’s really special. Sterling is just captivating. It’s Randall in a way that we haven’t been able to see him, trying to find his identity and footing in an all-white family. And he’s preparing to go off to school. And then, of course, we find out some more backstory of relationships and how our parents impact us, biological or adoptive.

What can you hint about Kate’s journey moving forward?
We’re going to find out what and how both of these really huge events in Kate and Kevin’s life have affected their relationship and the family as a whole, and it’s going to be real freakin’ good. We did a scene the other day that was, like, epic. I mean, yeeeeeahhhh. It’s like a 12-minute scene. It’s incredible.

To find out why This Is Us wanted to tell the story of Kate’s miscarriage, read a Q&A with executive producers Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker right here.

For more This Is Us intel, follow @dansnierson.

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