October 03, 2017 at 01:31 PM EDT

This Is Us

TV Show
run date
Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, Sterling K. Brown
Dan Fogelman

How challenging will it to be to shoot The Scene? Is it something you’re dreading in a way? I know you’ve said that you don’t look forward to the death of a beloved character.
I think it’s going to be more painful for other actors than me. Only because [after] filming the final moment, the kind of ripple resonance that happened after you leave, that’s up to everyone else. I think it’s going to be difficult only because we’re dealing with a sensitive subject, but once Jack dies, it’s much more difficult for everyone else than it is for me. I’m just a dead body. Possibly.

Well, there are theories that you’re still alive.
I know. Everybody keeps asking me, “Nah, but he’s still alive,” and I’m like, “Nah, but he’s not.”

Before that sequence, Rebecca makes a big, heroic move to save the marriage — and help Jack. Were you surprised that she acted so fast in trying to save the marriage after she asked him to stay at Miguel’s one episode earlier and they just started taking time apart?
It didn’t take me by surprise. I thought it was a noble effort on her side. We had always seen Jack fighting for things relative to this family, fighting to adopt this baby, fighting to keep everything together when he knew it was going to be an uphill battle, so I think it was great to see Rebecca fight for the marriage. Sure, she’s still hurt, and there are things that they’re going to have to work on, and she addresses that, but they got to do it together. I think it was a very noble thing to put feelings aside and say, “That’s not us. That’s not how we do this. We always do it together.” If people watching this show could put a little bit of that into their lives, then I think couples would be a little stronger, because it’s not two individuals on their own track, it’s people coming together and making a decision to say, “No, we’re doing this together. I’m supporting you as much as you’re supporting me.” I thought it was really brave of Rebecca to do that, and I admire her.

Dan said the moment that struck him as the least viable, though it was intended, was when Rebecca asked Jack to leave the house in the aftermath of the fight scene in the finale, because that’s not how they solve problems.
It’s funny too, because even when we were filming the scene from last season — and you don’t see this in the edit — right before [Rebecca] said that, in my mind, I’m thinking to myself as Jack, “I need to step away from this house for a moment.” I started to open my mouth, but it’s Rebecca that delivers the news and the blow: “I think you should stay at Miguel’s for a little while.” Meanwhile, we never saw Jack’s side of it, previous to that [comment], so we never knew that Jack — and this was in my mind and my heart — was probably going to suggest he step away, too, to figure this out. Because he doesn’t want to expose his family to it. Again, I feel like Jack and Rebecca are always on the same page.

This was Mandy’s “Jack” moment. He was too proud to ask for help, and Rebecca has to be the one to reach across the void and say, “We’re getting you out. This is our problem.” It sounds like she was excited to get to play a scene like this.
It was a lot of pressure. Those moments are not, let’s say, Rebecca’s specialty. They’re more like a “Jack moment,” but it doesn’t mean that it can’t carry the same impact and weight that it would if Jack were doing that. Mandy and I — thank God for her — we really do have the best time breaking down this marriage and understanding who these people are. I was looking forward to that scene, but I also knew that I had some heavy lifting to do in that scene as well. So I had to look at it from Jack’s side and the absolute humiliation that he had in admitting to his wife that he’d been drunk for weeks and he was, in fact, drunk standing in front of her. She makes this big noble gesture to get him back and get him in the car, and I thought it was the most beautiful moment when she so calmly quietly says to him, “Get in the car, Jack.” And then she steps inside the door and whispers into his ear, that’s compassion. Jack is in pain. Why is he drinking? He’s probably in a lot of pain. That’s stuff that’s going to get unpacked this season as well, but Jack is better because of Rebecca.

How hard was it for Jack to admit that Rebecca that he was drunk and had been drunk for weeks? There’s this mix of shame being drunk and that he had this problem, but also pride, in that he was too proud to ask for help and felt that he needed to do this on his own. Keeping this secret from his wife and kids must have taken its toll, and we know he’s struggled with it in the past. What were you thinking about when you were filming that scene?
It was a mix of the physical and the emotional. First, Jack is drunk. There were other moments through the day that we never actually saw in the episode but we filmed where we see Jack taking a drink before he goes into the club, taking a drink when he’s in the kitchen, taking a drink when he’s by himself waiting for the phone to ring. So how was it that Jack dealt with keeping this from his family? But also when did the wheels come off? Because in the late-’80s, Rebecca said, “You’ve got to knock this off, baby,” because she won’t have it in her house. What did Jack do back then to put a lid on it? I mean, it’s in his DNA, it’s in his compositional makeup, that his father was an alcoholic, and we’ve seen that too, his father drinking. There’s the physical element of dealing with that as well, it’s like, “How drunk do I play it?” If Jack is a professional drinker, no one’s ever going to know that he’s been drinking. People just won’t notice it. And then, you’re right, it’s mixed with shame. And Jack is someone that white-knuckles it. He doesn’t want to make his problem anybody else’s problem. So it begs the question of: How did Jack do it the first time? How did he keep a lid on when pressure was mounting?

Should we not be fooled by the speed of this baby step toward reconciliation, because he’s got to deal with his alcoholism, and it’s going to be a very bumpy, twisty road to recovery for him and for them?
Absolutely. It’s absolutely going to be a long road to recovery for them — and for him. But the moment when she goes and collects him, the night of the morning that she asked him to leave, he’s going to be back at the house. So how does that impact not only his relationship with Rebecca but how does that impact his relationship with his kids? What did they understand of why their parents are not together together? Kevin seemed proud that his dad was in a fight, and Kate is upset, and Randall is actually pretty upset and it looked like it was directed at his father. So are they upset that Mom and Dad are taking a break? Is it something else? Is there something to be learned or discovered about what these kids are going through that we don’t even know yet?

What can we expect to see in the story of Jack and Rebecca in this next episode?
Episode 2 picks up almost immediately of where episode one kind of left off — before we went into a time jump and saw a burned down house and crying kids. It starts to address Jack’s drinking, what it meant to get through it the first time, where he finds himself in the late-’90s of having done what he had done and been drunk to the point of getting into a big argument with his wife. We start the second episode with a deeper dive into Jack and his history of dealing with being an alcoholic.

I think the second episode is as emotional as the first one, if not more. In a different way. There’s the disparity of the burned house and what we know that represents to Jack and the family. There are other things still left to be serviced that are going to be heartbreaking in a different way. I still think that there’s a lot of tears to cry over the next several weeks.

To read the hints about Jack’s death that creator Dan Fogelman revealed in our Q&A, click here.

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