Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us was, for the most part, a lighter outing: Pearson parents Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) attempted to throw a trio of 10th birthday parties simultaneously for the Big Three while briefly considering adding a fourth kid to the chaos, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and William (Ron Cephas Jones) embarked on an afternoon adventure involving shades shopping and driving lessons, and Kevin (Justin Hartley) tried to determine which ex he should fence-mend with before catching everyone by surprise — including his childhood sweetheart-turned-ex-wife, Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge).
But after laughter and surprise came a wave of crushing melancholy: Exploring weight-loss options besides gastric bypass for the moment, the newly engaged Kate (Chrissy Metz) packed up and went to an immersion camp, whose holistic methods she wasn’t sold on until she picked up some drumsticks and started whacking them against a yoga mat to get in touch with her feelings. In that moment, she had a painful breakthrough, and the key moments of her life that brought her to this station in life rushed through her head, giving us brief flashbacks to a funeral. Jack’s urn. His smiling portrait nearby. The Big Three as teenagers in attendance. Finally, we had been given a rough timeline for when Jack died, or at least one that was more specific than when present-day Kevin mentioned that his father passed away “a long time ago.”
What was it like to film such a somber scene? Better yet, what was it like to film such a somber scene with Ventimiglia looming nearby? What are the ramifications of the revelation that the Big Three were only in their teenage years when they lost Jack? And because we’re asking questions, is there any chance of another addition to the Pearson family? Below, Mandy Moore offers some insight to EW about “Three Sentences.”
On her reaction to the funeral flashbacks via Kate’s breakthrough:
“It’s a gut punch… That’s a gigantic revelation for her. I watched it, and I was crying. I’m like, ‘Dan, people are going to lose their s—!’ He’s like, ‘Really?’ I’m like, ‘Yes!’”… I was so affected. She has this guttural scream while she’s in this therapy. I was just like, “Ooof. Cue the tears.’ It was really overwhelming. The connection of the death of her father plays a big part in her issues in life.”
On the revelation that the Big Three were teenagers when Jack died:
“It’s potentially the most critical age because they are on the precipice of adulthood and need their father moving forward probably more than ever. You start to make the connection between where Kate finds herself in life, and she has this real block about talking about her father and the loss of her father and how this affected everything in her life from that point forward. I think you are starting to put the pieces together, like, ‘Oh, this changed everybody’s life. But this really affected Kate in a way that maybe didn’t affect the other two…’ Or maybe it did as well. But I think it’s interesting to discover that extra piece of the puzzle with her story that maybe we’ve all been waiting to unfold.”
On taking good mental notes during the shoot:
“We’re setting the template for something I’m sure we’re going to revisit down the road. What I was wearing, what frame of mind I was in, what child I was standing next to — all of [those things] were details that I was like, ‘I need to clock this and remember this. It could be two seasons from now when we actually shoot a real scene around this. I need to remember where I am and what I’m doing.’ And also to fill in those blanks and those answers — just the nature of the show means that we’re not going to know everything at this point and I have put my thinking hat on and just guess.”
On Ventimiglia being present at the shoot:
“He was very respectful. Because it was such an emotional day and I never really know how to play it, I’m like, ‘I might as well get myself there in that headspace, in that frame of mind, in case I need to fully lose it.’ I was there and was listening to music and just keeping to myself, and he kept his distance, and it was eerie. (Laughs) Sensing him there was weird. It was almost as if he was a ghost — just sort of watching us and observing this scene. It was pretty heavy.”
On what those final images mean for the story:
“I’m not sure people are prepared for this. I hope it at least satiates some of their need to know what, when, how, why with Jack. Obviously, that’s a question that is asked of us a lot, and I want people to be patient and almost forget about it. Yes, Jack is not alive in the present day, but other than that, he is very much alive in the show, and his spirit is here, even in present day. I hope that this will at least satiate people for the time being: ‘Okay, now we know when it happens and we’ll just let the story continue to unfold and not feel pressure to know all of the details.’ Or maybe it will act as the exact opposite and people will be like, “What????’ (Laughs) That’s what my hope is — people are like, ‘Okay, they’re this age, great. Now let me just watch the show, and I’ll be worried anytime that time period’s happening.’”
As Dan said: This is a line in the sand. This is a critical juncture in the life of this family. In the course of this family’s trajectory, everything is before Jack and after Jack. This is that moment of utter loss and devastation and a family drowning in grief and sorrow. I mean, I can’t even imagine…. It’s tragic. It’s beyond tragic.”
RELATED: Listen below for the latest in TV news this week
On the decision by Jack and Rebecca not to have a fourth kid:
“We realized they are going to need us, and it’s only going to get harder from here on out. We need to buckle down and take care of them to the best of our ability. We can’t have this baby. We can’t even take care of a dog. We have three kids that are on the cusp of being young adults. What are we even thinking?… I love that idea. And I wonder how that factors in somewhere down the road. I’ve always thought in my mind, ‘Is there a secret kid that’s not the Big Three that will be revealed in season 3?’ Rebecca and Jack have this kid that’s estranged from them, or doesn’t talk to his brothers and sisters. Or maybe there’s a kid that’s in the army. Is there another kid? I don’t think so. I feel like we would’ve known about that.
On whether the Pearson family could welcome at least a dog into the fold:
“I think Rebecca will eventually relent and agree that the family gets a dog. And they deserve to have a dog. Hopefully said dog will make its appearance in season 2.”
And to find out who was just cast as William’s mother in an upcoming episode, click here.