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The actress breaks down Kate's shocker in 'What Now?'

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March 08, 2017 at 12:47 PM EST

What was the dialogue in that scene with the therapist?
It was more over that she was finally cracking, and finally coming terms with: When you put the food down, the issues come up. And then you’re able to not only look at them, but you’re forced to move through them and hopefully get past that pain. That scene was really important in that it showed that she had been working toward understanding what the whole point is and why she’s been abusing her body with food or why she looks to that to fill a void, so when she does say, “It’s my fault. I’m the reason he’s dead,” she’s finally saying out loud, and she’s finally ready to tell people about it. Because when you harbor secrets, it eats you up inside, and that’s part of the reason that not only is she finally trusting Toby enough to say something like this, but trusting herself — some people might have, God forbid, committed suicide or felt so much guilt that they could have wreaked havoc on many people’s lives, not just their own. (Exhales) It’s so hard to explain without not explaining it. So… yeah.

The last scene, which comes right after Kate’s confession, shows Jack calling Kate and telling her that she was right and he’s going to fix the marriage, and then driving off a little drunk, headed to Rebecca’s gig. This steers you to the idea that present-day Kate saying that his death is her fault and Jack’s driving off — perhaps in his final moments alive — are related. How related are these two things actually, and when will we find out more about that?
Jack is notorious for doing anything for Kate, and whether it’s a good excuse that “Oh, I’m doing it for her. I’m doing it for my family,” he is a family man, and he will do anything for his family, and sometimes it is to his own detriment that he doesn’t put himself first…. I can’t say anything else. He puts everybody before himself and then ultimately it’s not to his benefit. And that’s not necessarily meaning that situation — or not meaning that situation. This is so tricky…

One easy theory will be that she encouraged him to fix the problem, and then he decided to make that drive — drunk — and then crashed and died, and that’s why Kate feels like it’s her fault. What would you say about that?
I would say that when you do something out of the goodness of your heart and you don’t know what the repercussions will be, you have to live with that. And it can be devastating. Because the intention was there.

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Jack goes out to say goodbye to Rebecca — but she’s already gone — only after teenage Kate leans on him. And then, after turning down Heather at the bar, he calls Kate and tells her that she was right about the marriage. What was the impetus that turns Jack back into Jack, and ready to fight for the marriage? Were Kate’s words ringing in his head when Heather tried to tempt him and he removed himself from the situation? Or did he realize that he’d put himself in a very dangerous position?
I think it might have been a little bit of both. Jack and Kate will always have this really special connection, and in a way, she was taught by him to take the bull by the horns, if you will. Or be very real about the situation. And I think because they love each other so much that she saw him hurting, and she saw that their relationship was not cracked but relationships go up and down and ebb and flow. But I do think he was influenced [by her]. When your kid is a teenager and is like, “Uh, you better get it together,” you know what you have to live for, and you know what’s important to you, it kind of snaps you out of it. And I also feel like nobody will ever compare to Rebecca. It doesn’t matter what age, how small, how thin, or how beautiful that any other woman could be, nothing is going to compare to her. So, all of that together was like, “Oh. Okay. What am I doing? I’m being selfish.” I think it’s both of those things.

The audience was left hanging at the end of the episode. Does the finale give us more details about Jack’s death, or do we have to wait?
You’re going to have to wait a little bit, but it does answer some really important questions. And not ones that you’re expecting.

In your head, you probably had an idea about how Jack might have died. How different is what you had imagined from what Dan [Fogelman, the series creator] actually has in store for us?
Oh, like night and day. I was like, “What?” I was so surprised. And saddened. Not just because he passed but the way he did.

When we do find out, how devastating is it? How would you characterize it?
Because of what and how it went down, I would say that it’s… I don’t want to give too much away. I would just say it’s really heart-wrenching…. You don’t want to know anything else!

What can you hint at in terms of how Toby helps her process this? Does this lead to them getting over another hurdle in moving forward, now that she’s finally letting him in?
We can’t determine that yet. It’s really great that they are on that path of unconditional love, or attempting to have that unconditional love and that really strong bond and trust with each other. But no relationship is perfect, and you never know. Sometimes you meet people and they tell you things, and you’re like, “Oh, that’s just too much to handle. I don’t even know how to help you.” But Toby is so loving, and even the way that Chris played it where he was just there for her, just listened to her, instead of trying to explain that, “No, she isn’t [to blame],” because he doesn’t necessarily know the full story. Just because she’s said it was her fault doesn’t mean that she’s necessarily explained why. Hopefully that trust between them will help the bonds become even stronger, but we’re going to have to see if that’s the case or not.

How about a one-sentence tease for next week’s finale?
I would say that nothing lasts forever.

To read a Q&A with Milo Ventimiglia about this episode, click here.

For more This Is Us scoop, follow @dansnierson on Twitter.

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