You still may be digesting the Thanksgiving episode of This Is Us, but the NBC dramedy is about to serve you up a Christmas dinner that you’ll be talking about for some time — until the show returns next month.
The last episode of 2016 airs tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT, and this midseason finale, which takes place on Christmas Eve, offers up a different feeling than previous installments.
“I thought that it was one of our best-written episodes of the season,” Sterling K. Brown, who plays Randall, tells EW. “I felt the way in which we flipped the structure writing-wise — it functions like six one-act plays, instead of going back and forth between the storylines through the show — gives it a breadth that you’re constantly wondering what’s going to happen next. Are we staying with this story line? Are we not going to see everybody today? And then, slowly but surely, we see the cast unfold until we all come together at the end of a pretty nice Christmas — for the most part.”
Indeed, the holiday spirit runs through the episode, which also includes Randall seeing his mother, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), for the first time since that doorstep conversation. “The holidays are a good time for people to really take stock and think about what they want to get out of life,” says Chris Sullivan, a.k.a Toby, whom Kate (Chrissy Metz) recently broke up with, “and I think you’ll find all of the characters in This Is Us doing that around Christmas.”
The midseason finale features a scene between Randall and his colleague, Andy, who is played by Westworld’s Jimmi Simpson. “Jimmi Simpson and I have known each other for about 17 years,” notes Brown. “We worked together in the non-equity company at Williamstown theater festival, and I got a chance to do a scene together for the first time which was a real joy because I consider him to be one of my favorite actors working. I’m excited for people to see the scene that plays out between the two of us.”
How exactly does Andy factor into the story? “Randall feels the need to treat himself on this particular Christmas and he buys himself a boat from one of his co-workers,” says Brown. “He doesn’t necessarily consult his wife [Beth, played by Susan Kelechi Watson] before buying said boat, and she’s a little perturbed by his purchase, so we’ll see if he has to possibly give it back.”
Speaking of guest stars, American Horror Story vet Denis O’Hare also makes an appearance in this episode, as a friend of William (Ron Cephas Jones). And he’s another actor of which Brown is a fan real life. “[Denis] still lives in the building across the street from where I used to live,” says Brown. “And I used to see him all the time and I would be afraid to speak because I saw him onstage at the Public Theater in a play called Take Me Out, where he was absolutely incredible. So the fact that we get a chance to be in an episode of television together is really quite the honor for yours truly. Watching them work together is an absolute joy, and the revelation that it brings to us with regards to William will probably also surprise quite a few people.”
The end of the midseason finale also will pack a surprise, leaving audiences on a dramatic cliffhanger. “When folks see it, I know they’re going to be mad — they have five weeks to wait until they get a chance to see what’s going to happen next,” says Brown. “I just ask them to be patient. We will be back in 2017, and your questions shall be answered.”
To read more hints about tonight’s episode from series creator Dan Fogelman, click here.