September 25, 2017 at 03:59 PM EDT

The first season of This Is Us concluded with a pair of revelations for Kate: In the penultimate episode, she painfully divulged to Toby that she considered the death of her father to be her fault. And in the finale, she expressed her desire to follow in her mom’s footsteps and pursue a singing career. So to recap, the first one told us a little more about everything in her life up until now, and the second one illuminated her path moving forward. In any case, both disclosures will factor into season 2 of the NBC family drama, which begins Sept. 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Before we delve into all of that, though, you may be wondering: Can the show continue its charmed run after a dream first season that drew gobs of viewers and Emmy nominations? Metz says yes, unequivocally. “Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, this is just a one-off, and they can’t really continue with such deep story lines and intense, real, raw emotions,” she tells EW. “But when we read the first script [of season 2], I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ I hate to say ‘expectations’ because I don’t like to have them, but it’s going to exceed everybody’s expectations. It’s one of those things where you want to buckle up but there’s going to be some really emotional exchanges.”

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As in, stock up severely on Kleenex? “If you don’t have a Costco card,” she says, “it might be advantageous to do that.”

As the puzzle pieces start to snap into place in regards to the death of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) — a “huge” one arrives in the season premiere — viewers will learn more about why she blames herself for Jack’s death. “We know that her life has been sort of dictated by the trauma and the guilt that she’s held for so long,” she says. “And at the weight loss immersion camp, [she] discovered that she had to start talking about it, to even get to the guilt and the trauma of it all to actually overcome it. So everything that Kate is doing is to push through the pain, to be courageous, and to really speak up for herself and really draw her boundaries, and having the life that her father always believed that she could have.”

Right now, she believes that life involves finding her voice in front of a microphone. But at age 37, she’ll find it to be a tough transition. “Anybody who is pursuing a dream at a later stage in life seems to be dealing with a lot of challenges that maybe a young, fit, beautiful woman might not have,” says Metz. “But she also has a different skill set and different wisdom, and also she’s really coming into this courageous acceptance of what it is she wants and how she’s going to get it. It’s not going to be easy, there’s going to be a lot of her ego being bruised, and trying to buck up and say, ‘Okay, well, I can get knocked down nine times but it’s about getting up the tenth time.’ And I think that’s so much of her life, and she’s just determined to not live in the shadows.”

Of course, this decision will bring up issues, given that this career was one attempted by her mother, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), someone with whom she has had tension since childhood. “We’ll discover more of that, and why Kate hadn’t pursued music early on and didn’t decide to go to an art school or go to Broadway or any of those things that she might have done because of things that happened in the past,” she says. “We’ll get to see why she might have never felt encouraged and supported in that. I think that’s so much of why we don’t pursue what we want even though in our heart we want to. So she’s going to have to step up to the plate for herself more so than ever, and it’s going to be challenging. Definitely challenging.”

Don’t miss People and EW’s This Is Us LIVE viewing party! Go to and on Tuesday, Sept. 26 beginning at 5 p.m. PT for exclusive access to the This Is Us season 2 red carpet premiere party – with all the scoop from your favorite cast members. Then join our editors as they bring you expert insight and can’t-miss social buzz during the premiere episode of the hit NBC drama.

Between moving in with fiancé Toby (Chris Sullivan) and trying to break into the music business, “that’s a lot of pressure being put on her,” says Metz. “And, of course, she’s still in pursuit of weight loss and getting to the weight that she feels comfortable in — not for anybody else but for herself. And then: There are some unforeseen twists that I had no idea were coming.”

Metz indicates that the journey for Kate in season 2 will be more about making better life choices than crossing her fingers for a specific number on the scale. “She wants to live a healthy life and that, of course, comes with sacrifices. She’s not so much focused on getting to a particular size or weight but just consistently being consistent,” she says. “So much of her life has been really great moments and then right on down to the pit of despair. It’s really about courage and consistency this year.”

One thing that This Is Us has been consistent about in its short life is hitting people square in the feels. Now that the audience is familiar with these characters, it’s time to get under their skin. And coupled with the fact that this season will explore the era and circumstances around Jack’s death, things might get a little heavy. Or even a lot. “The deeper you go into someone’s life, the more layers you uncover,” she says, “and sometimes they are darker than you expect, and more difficult to handle.”

To get a handle on the season premiere from series creator Dan Fogelman, click here.

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