Kate ended last season by moving in with Toby, and she ended this season by moving on with Toby. And putting her Jack in his place. (In the nicest way possible.)
Tuesday’s season finale of This Is Us centered on the daughter who was haunted by tremendous guilt over her father’s death, and who worried how she would handle her wedding day without Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) being there to walk her down the aisle. To that end, her dreams became flooded with the stuff of not nightmares, but of fan fiction: Kate (Chrissy Metz) and her family had gathered to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of Jack and Rebecca (Mandy Moore), and here was the devastatingly emotional part: Jack was very much alive in this alternate universe, sporting a graying goatee. But working through those dreams — and the requisite drama that comes with the wedding day — Kate wound up making significant strides in two of her key familial relationships, all while cementing the most important relationship in her life moving forward. She had a cozy conversation with her dad’s ashes outside the family cabin, explaining that he was taking up a little too much space in her heart for her to move forward, and there was a worthy man — a man of whom Jack would approve — ready to step in and take care of her. (This ever-loyal man, Toby, shut down his skeptical parents by telling them that if they couldn’t get on the Kate train, they should hit the road.) She also shared a breakthrough bonding moment with her mother, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), who’d been so nervous to upset her daughter that she was walking on eggshells stacked on a tightrope.
After Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) made sure that the ceremony would have made their dad proud — and one of Jack’s screwdrivers had been selected to replace the forgotten-back-at-home Daytona Beach T-shirt to accompany Kate down the aisle — Kate and Toby (someone with whom she had weathered break-ups, make-ups, health hazards, and a miscarriage) danced into the night in holy matrimony, and lived happily ever after. Well, at least for a while. A one-year peek into the future painted a not-so-rosy situation for the couple. Toby (Chris Sullivan) was languishing in bed, suffering from depression, while Kate informed him that the doctor was going to adjust his medication.
What was it like for Metz to be able to finally share the screen with Ventimiglia? What intimate scene ended up on the cutting room floor? What’s going in with poor Toby? EW caught up with Metz before the show began its six-month honeymoon, or hiatus, to break down “The Wedding.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Surely you had thought how Kate’s wedding might play out. How was it different in your head — and what intrigued you about this version?
CHRISSY METZ: I thought that the ghost of Jack would be there and he’d be walking her down the aisle. I had no idea what we would do; I just knew it would be really clever and heartfelt and emotional, per usual. I have to say, it was so creative. Brides in particular have all these ideas of what they want it to be, and everybody wants to marry their dad, especially if they’re wonderful like Jack. But just to have him there when he wasn’t going to be there — and how do we incorporate not only Milo and I onscreen together, but, of course, Kate and Jack — and to have it through a dream sequence of what could have been — is even more heartbreaking. This is her idea of the perfection of her dad and their relationship and the vow renewals and dancing with her father and all their things every bride wants to do with their father and their family on very, very special day. I have to say it was emotional. There’s something about Milo that I’m just [sighs romantically]. I mean, I know everybody feels that way. To have never worked with him before, and then to have this kind of experience was really special. And then, of course, Mandy sang the song, and oh, all the things that really meant so much to Kate. And then to see it happen live, through the actors as the characters, was really, really special.
What resonates with you about shooting that sequence? To film a father-daughter dance with Milo must have been high on your wish list.
Yeah, definitely. It was interesting because I played it as I was in the dream, watching myself in the dream, but also just being there and believing it to be real. There’s so many layers in playing that through a dream — there’s of course the dream and then the dreamer having the dream and then believing it to be true and then wanting it to be true. I mean, he’s the man that we all want to be or be with, and it was just really like —it’s hard to put into words. It was magical, because I know so many people are going to relate to either having that experience with their father or never having that. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking either way. There’s so many layers to that. And then, of course, Randall and Kevin wanting to make it the best wedding possible and stepping aside, but also trying to fill the shoes of their own father.
The 40th wedding anniversary is the essential fan-service moment.
Yeah, definitely. Like, “Oh my god, look what they could have been like together! And how they have would have aged and their memories and their experiences!” And seeing the whole family there. It’s so beautiful.
What was it like for you all to see Milo in old Jack make-up? Startling at first?
It was. It’s sort of stifling in the prosthetics, because there’s only so much you can do. The prosthetics don’t last forever and then it can start to peel or crack, and they’re constantly touching [them] up through [filming], so there were times where he couldn’t really laugh as hard as he wanted to. [Laughs.] He had this small-mouth laugh. I was like, “I can’t, I can’t handle this.” The whole end was so fun to shoot, but it was definitely like ‘Whoa!” We had to get used to it. But also because I never even worked with Milo before, and that was doubly special.
Kate’s journey to forgive herself for Jack’s death has been long and arduous. Does her speech with his ashes in essence bring that chapter to an end as she moves on to the next one?
Yeah. I think it was so important for her to have that, because there was a lot of pain surrounding, “Oh my gosh, I don’t want you to think that I’m forgetting you, but I found somebody who truly loves me and you love would him, too.” All any parent wants for their child is for them to be happy genuinely. And then to let a piece of Jack go, so there’s truly room in her heart for Toby — so much of the pain and the shame had filled her heart for so long that she had to overcome that to come through it. Nobody’s perfect and having one incident is not going to heal everything, but it’s definitely healing and it’s definitely on the journey of healing.
We see her unscrew the top of Jack’s urn. Did you film a scene where you scattered the ashes but we just didn’t see it in the final cut?
Yeah. We did do that. I know that they’re fake, and I know Jack’s a fictional character [laughs], and I know Milo is safe and well, but it was really weird. Also it was freezing that day and the urn is heavy, and I was like, “Oh no, what if I don’t get all the ashes out? What if it blows in the wind and it gets in someone’s face?” And I’m like, “I know it’s not real,” but these are things that you think about — or you try not to think about. For me, if something’s too emotional or too difficult, sometimes I’ll laugh instead of cry, so it was hard to do.
Did you say anything in the moment as Kate?
It sounds crazy, but I actually said a prayer to myself, and I said, “Goodbye for now.”
During her conversation with Rebecca, Kate realizes that Toby was not her dream, and she is moved to action. Throughout the episode, the universe seemed to be telling her that something was wrong on her wedding day. But the issue ends up being not with Toby, but with how much space Jack occupies in her heart. Were you worried at first that Kate was going to slip out of her wedding with ice-cold feet?
Yeah, I did. I was like, “Oh, here she goes. Here comes trouble. Here’s a good thing and she wants to screw up a good thing.” Which is a human thing that a lot of us do: “It’s too good, I have to fix it, and it’s not broken.” But I did think, “Oh my gosh, she’s going to dip out. What’s going to go on? She is literally runaway bride.”
Her moment with Rebecca represented almost as much progress toward healing as the one with Jack. She’s had breakthroughs and setbacks with Rebecca previously, but when she tells her mother, “You’re not in my way, you are my way,” it felt like the most encouraging moment — and healing moment — between them to date. This is a hunch, but I’m betting that you cried a lot when you read that scene.
Actually, one of the gals who was doing my make-up — she has a 12-year-old daughter — [while] I was just practicing my lines. And I was like, “Wait, let me read this to you.” And then we both starting tearing up. When you feel like you’ve never done anything right and everything she’s said before and the arguments and the pain — to come on the other side of it and realize that’s how important she’s always been but couldn’t see it or was jealous or has to come through all these other feelings to get to the other side — it was like the dream healing of a mother-daughter relationship, or any relationship. I mean, what a beautiful line. And because of everything that came before it, it summed up everything so beautifully.
It’s a sentiment that she’s had before, but with her healing, it was redirected in the best way possible.
It’s because she had overcome all the other pain that surrounded it and never being able to measure up. And what a great role model. You can’t ever be somebody else; that’s the beauty of who we all are as individuals is who we all are. But [she can] say, “I’m going to try to do what you do because you’re such a great role model and example of an amazing mother and friend.” It’s always so tender working with Mandy, it’s just something that happens when I work with her, I can’t explain it. I know that I’m older than she is, but it’s such a gift. They’re few and far between, but to have those really beautiful moments together is awesome.
Randall and Kevin both worried that they let Kate down over the years for different reasons, though ultimately they show up in a big way for her on her wedding day by filling in for Jack. Do you think that a little of that guilt is justified?
I think that there’s still a bit of resentment in that Kevin was absent during the house fire and then he was basically like, “Help me find my way. I’m going to go to L.A. and be an actor. I need you.” I think it’s sort of deep down, and Kate doesn’t even realize how much it’s bothered her. And who knows if that will be played out and be written into the next season? But we harbor and we hold on to so many things we don’t even know or remember, until we have these epiphanies or we’re meditating or we’re in that quiet space where you’re like, “Oh my gosh!,” whether you inflicted the pain or you were the victim. Because Kate is so forgiving and she’s learning how to be forgiving toward herself, she’s of course doing that with other people. But it will be interesting to see if it is brought up.
We got to meet Toby’s parents in this episode — played by Dan Lauria and Wendie Malick — but not his brother, who had also bailed on the bachelor party. Were you surprised that the brother wasn’t addressed, and will he be in season 3?
I hope so. I want to know what the deal is. I want to know: Is he a punk? Does he have his own issues? Is he one of those estranged family members that we all have? What you realize is while Toby’s all laughs and is very intelligent and funny, he has some issues. I mean, his parents were ready to talk him out of this marriage nonchalantly that they seem to be sort of absent from, and you’re like, “How dare you?” Whether they meant well or not, it’s like, “What?” So what does that mean in their relationship and the friendship of his brother? I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’d like to know.
While the wedding ultimately went off perfectly, there was some darkness indicated ahead. In the peek into the future, we saw that Toby was bedridden with depression, and his medication wasn’t working. He’s been down this road before, but what can you hint about what triggers this setback? Elizabeth [Berger, TIU executive producer] indicated there were some stressful situations going on with them that impacts him, including their desire to continue their mission to start a family.
I think we’ll come to find why he might be battling that depression on a much deeper level through season 3. But I think it’s also important to note that in relationships there’s always somebody that might be a little stronger at one time, and then that dynamic switches. He’s helped Kate get through so much of her stuff that she’s really ready to show up for him, and while it might be difficult, it’s going to be necessary because they’re going to contend with some hardships. Yet again. Life on life’s terms.
To read Mandy Moore’s thoughts on filming the 40th wedding anniversary scene with old Jack, click here.
To read Milo Ventimiglia’s thoughts on playing old Jack, click here.
To see what TIU executive producer Elizabeth Berger had to say about the finale’s time-jumping cliffhangers, click here.
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