Dan Fogelman discusses Tuesday's episode which takes place 24 hours before the pilot

By Dan Snierson
January 17, 2017 at 01:22 PM EST
Ron Batzdorff/NBC
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Now that we know that Toby is alive and, well, possibly getting married soon to Kate, it’s time to move forward.

But before we can move forward, we must go back. How far back? Back to just before we first met Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) as expectant parents of triplets in the pilot of This Is Us.

This week’s installment of the NBC dramedy breaks tradition from previous episodes while focusing on the moment before the baby boom. Which means that the present-day Big Three — that would be Randall (Sterling K. Brown), Kate (Chrissy Metz), and Kevin (Justin Hartley)  — will take the week off as we do a deep dive into the past.

“It’s an episode that I’ve wanted to do since the beginning of the series,” series creator Dan Fogelman tells EW. “I always had this idea that if the series caught on with people, we would establish this pilot and this starting point where audiences met these characters and started meeting this family, and then we’d go on this journey of establishing the idea that time has no boundaries when it comes to family — that you can look at family before the family existed and after people have died, and see the fabric of an entire life spread out before us. I felt once people got their head around that idea, how interesting would it be to catch up on the 24 hours leading up the pilot?”

This installment of the show aims to serve as “not just a prequel but an episode in which literally the first half is what was happening in some characters’ lives before we met this family,” he continues. “And then [we] catch up to the pilot and see these things through a different lens that we’ve already gotten to know and become familiar with. I thought it would be a really interesting exercise for as us as writers and directors or actors, but also for the audience.”

Jack and Rebecca are obviously the focus of the episode, but there are two other key storylines to be followed, including one with everyone’s new favorite wise ol’ doc, Dr. K (Gerald McRaney), who is struggling with loss, something that was hinted at in the pilot. And the third focal point is a bit unexpected. “We see the fireman who found Randall in his fire station and follow him for the 24 hours leading to a doorbell ringing in his fire station and seeing a baby delivered there,” says Fogelman. “We see how that entire day came together, and how eventually this family that hopefully we all love was formed.”

Episode Recaps

NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.
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  • Tuesdays at 9:00pm
  • 09/20/16
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