What can you hint about the direction and intensity of this story line in the rest of the season?
It starts to ramp up. [Episode] 16 is a very special, very unique episode that doesn’t really have anything to do with their story line. And then in 17 and 18, it becomes certainly not only a more significant story, but it becomes really significant in terms of Jack and Rebecca’s relationship. And then by the end of the season, it reaches a pretty critical mass. And it will take us to the end of the season, and the events that take place in the finale definitely are the things that are going to carry over in terms of next year, and where we’ll pick them up and how they’re doing.
What kind of talk did you guys have with Sam about the type of role he was taking on? Did he have to sign a waiver releasing you from responsibility for any physical harm that comes to the man who plays someone who comes in between Rebecca and Jack?
(Laughs) No! You know what? Why would he tell him that? We wanted him to play the part! Sam’s great. He’s very interesting. There’s a part of him that’s so available, which I love in terms of this part. He’s so available and very present, and there’s a little bit of Sam that’s inscrutable and it’s all the questions that you’re asking. Those are the questions — I love the ambiguity, where he is. He can do certain things that are unexpected, and yet you go, “That’s definitely in keeping with the character. I didn’t see it coming.” So, I’m not sure what people are going to do about Sam and this relationship with Rebecca, but no, we didn’t ask him to sign a waiver.
He can just talk to Jon, who has some experience there.
This was the first time we saw Toby and Kate act somewhat practically, with Toby suggesting they slow things down. There have been so many melodramatic twists in their relationship arc. Can they be successful at operating at this lower, quieter frequency?
It’s a good question. One of the things that Chrissy, Chris, and I [thought] was so fun was, I said, “The thing that’s so interesting in this episode is, everybody else in this episode is definitely reaching serious crisis points. Everybody is getting to a crisis point, and for some reason all of a sudden, these two characters reach a level of real temperance and real maturity.” That’s certainly Dan’s brilliance, which is, “Yeah, but that’s life too.” You’d say, “If everybody else is falling apart, these two people are absolutely going to implode,” and it’s actually the opposite. It’s a testament to how good their chemistry is and how well they work together…. And then at the end of the season, we’ll see where they are and get a glimpse of that. It’s going to take us in a whole different direction in terms of their relationship. I don’t know whether they’re going to be able to maintain that kind of maturity or not, but I certainly believed it when I saw it, like, “Okay, that’s cool. After all the things that they went through, they got to a pretty calm and very solid place.” And you’re looking at these other characters who seem to have the most solidity in their lives, and they seem to be coming apart. So, that’s the fun of it.
Toby is interested in finding out more about how Kate’s father died and why she has trouble talking about it. We wait for Kate to answer, but she has trouble, saying she’s been blocked on this, before he saves her by saying, “How about this? Whenever you’re ready.” That conversation felt very meta. Was any part of it a wink — almost toying with the audience, which has been voraciously awaiting some answers? Or was it a way to signal to the audience — as [series creator] Dan Fogelman has said in interviews — that the audience will have to wait a while for those answers, and Kate, like the show, will do it when ready?
Yeah. I would say what Dan said. (Laughs) It’s always good to agree with Dan when it comes to the vision of the show. Yes, I think we’re probably going to have to wait a while and she’ll tell us when she’s ready. But I guarantee you that it’s earned, that when we find out what it is, it won’t feel as if, “Really? That’s what this was all about?” It’s complicated, and it really explains a lot about Kate’s relationship with her father…. As Dan has said about some other things that we’ve done and choices we’ve made, I think we’re a little better than that. I mean, I do think this is a question that is there and it’s been raised. But it’s also organic to the characters. It’s organic to the situation that they’re in. It’s organic that her fiancé would want the answers. And it is truthful to who Kate is, that she wouldn’t be able to talk about it at this point, which then fits into them needing to take some time, that they don’t know each other well enough.
Kate decides to knock on Duke’s cabin door, but not for the reason you fear; she tells him off. Were there ever any discussions about playing that out a little more, and she does go into his cabin with more romantic curiosity, but then gets cold feet and bolts? Did you tinker with different possibilities?
No. One of the things the writers, Dan, all of us have been really successful at, and one of the reasons why I think people continue to embrace the show is, I don’t think we really believe in that kind of chump bait. Yes, there is that possibility, and it’s fun for the audience to go, “Wait, am I seeing this correctly?” But we don’t go further than what is truthful. There was a definite editorial decision made at the end of [episode] 14 about, “How far does she go? How far do we tease this before we’ve gone past the point, where the audience will go, ‘See, now you just — it was a sucker punch.'” I think we went to a point where it is truthful. She would look at this person, and that question is in her head, but not go past the point… That’s just a delicate dance, and it has to do with taste. We want to key up a possibility and raise a question, but don’t want to go past the point of raising the question to a place where [the audience says], “Okay, now you just suckered us.” That I think audiences could resent.
NEXT PAGE: Olin on Randall’s mental health — and that Kevin-Randall scene