On the last episode of This Is Us, in a fit of romantic clarity, Kevin unleashed a bolt from the blue: Instead of trying to repair things with Olivia or Sloane, he showed up at the doorstep of his ex-wife from 12 years ago.
After making a charming, rambling speech, Kevin (Justin Hartley) persuaded the skeptical if weary Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) to at least meet with him to talk further, and in a subsequent text message, she agreed to another conversation. In tomorrow’s episode, you’ll take a seat at their next meeting. “It gets pretty intense and heartbreaking,” Hartley tells EW. “You’re just going to want everyone to get what they want” — he pauses to laugh — “because they’re such good people. But it’s tough. They’re in a really tough spot.”
Sounds like Hartley is rooting for a rekindling this relationship. “I like her and Kevin together,” he says. “It is very much a story that when you’re along for the ride when you’re watching it, you realize what happened — why they’re not together anymore. But then there’s an explanation behind it too. You hear both sides of the story, which is rare. Even though there was wrongdoing, maybe [it was] on both sides. You will see absolutely how impossible it is to turn off the love, even though you’ve been betrayed. You still love the person and that’s the way it is.”
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While Hartley isn’t revealing if the exes can heal their past traumas, he hints that the man who knows a good monologue (see: The Manny meltdown, the meaning-of-life painting explanation, the doorstep plea) will issue another one that he says will rival the others. “[It] might be my absolute favorite of all of them,” he says. “It’s one of those where it’s not even about the monologue as much as it is about the content of it, and what it is that he’s saying. Just to think that a few short months ago, we saw this guy having a meltdown on a sitcom set — kind of a spoiled brat, in a Hollywood freefall, if you will — and then we see him making these declarations and saying things that are like, ‘Wow, how far this guy has come is pretty cool.’”
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Elsewhere in the episode, you’ll see Kevin’s sister, Kate (Chrissy Metz) receive a visit from fiancé Toby (Chris Sullivan) that perhaps doesn’t go as planned. “He’s such a good guy, and he’s always trying to do the right thing by her and trying to cheer her up and make her happy,” Hartley says. “And sometimes people forget that this moment is not about you, and it also has nothing to do with you, and it doesn’t mean, ‘I don’t love you and want you in my life.’ But certain things are getting opened up in her life that she needs to deal with – but separate from him. She almost needs him not to be there. That’s another tough spot.”
The same is true of the one Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) find themselves in as their marriage is showing wear in the ’90s. (The episode also will jump farther into the past as you peek back at their wedding.) “That’s what we do on our show — you see both sides of everything, and that’s what makes it so heartbreaking,” says Hartley. “If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve been on both sides of pretty much every story that we tell or you know people that have.”
He cautions that as the finish line of season 1 approaches, it’s far from all warm and fuzzy. “The show takes a turn toward the end of this season. It gets a little darker toward the very end of the season,” he notes. “We’re still going to make you laugh, and it’s still going to be very much This Is Us, but it does get a little more intense. There are hard things that people deal with in life, and we come right to the front door and we tackle them. This is an episode that you’ll see a lot of that.”
This Is Us airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
To sneak a peek at Jack and Rebecca getting married in the opening scene of the episode, click here.
To read a Q&A with Hartley about the most recent episode, click here.