Ron Batzdorff/NBC

'She’s probably the loneliest she’s ever been,' she says of her character circa 2008

October 31, 2017 at 10:01 PM EDT
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

The Halloween episode of This Is Us scared up a new time period to explore — welcome to 2008, brought to you by Obama-Biden — as well as some new information on the Pearson family. As it turns out, Kevin (Justin Hartley) was struggling so severely in his bid to become an actor, he attempted (and failed to) steal a choice part from his roommate who’d just landed a big movie (and who’d even helped him out on rent). His twin sister, Kate (Chrissy Metz), had a fling with a married guy in hopes of… well, just to create any sort of momentum in her life. Meanwhile, their adopted brother, Randall (Sterling K. Brown), tried his darndest to get back to normal after suffering a breakdown as Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) prepared to give birth to a daughter who would be named after a ceiling fan. And deeper into the past — circa 1990 — we saw young Randall (Lonnie Chavis) battling anxiety and having trouble deviating from a plan (and trying to process some half-information from the neighbors about the other member of the original Big Three). In addition, Sonny and Cher, er, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) were not seeing eye-to-eye on how to manage Randall — or Kate, for that matter.

But it was the final scene of the episode — back in 2008 — that closed out the proceedings with a revelation: Rebecca received a Facebook message from Miguel (Jon Huertas), who reached out to see what she had been up to the last eight years. Does that give us confirmation that those two waited many years after Jack’s death before connecting romantically? Are we now beginning to reconsider our feelings about him after that Facebook exchange? Or are we just relieved that he did not use the ‘poke’ feature?

So many questions. Thankfully, the Pearson matriarch shining at the center of the action is ready to answer our friend request and much more. Below is your full-size — not fun-size — interview with a woman who would gladly share a Twix and her thoughts with you on “The 20s” and beyond: Mandy Moore.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start at the final scene and that big revelation. Rebecca has joined Facebook! Wait, that’s not it. Miguel contacted her out of the blue, mentioning that he hasn’t spoken to her in eight years. Our first thought: This indicates Rebecca and Miguel did not connect romantically until at least 2008, which would mean many, many years passed after Jack’s death before they became a couple, which would mean that Miguel is not such a bad guy.
MANDY MOORE: I know. Can the world like him now? I feel like this is a clear indication that the world can slowly start to embrace Miguel. This was a new revelation to us as well that was not something I was expecting. I mean, I had my own thought in my mind about when they sort of found each other, but I was clearly as surprised as the audience was to read that at the end of this episode…. And I feel like it opened up a whole new line of questioning. The more important thing is it was a bit of redemption for him, because he’s so universally — I don’t want to say “reviled” [Laughs] — but people have very strong opinions about Miguel.

If Jack died around 1997, and in 2008, Miguel says they didn’t talk for eight years, that would mean he and Rebecca would have been in touch for three years after Jack died. So, what happened there? Maybe it wasn’t that they had some spark and tried to give it a shot but Rebecca felt it was too early, but what was it about Jack’s death — or the aftermath — that led them to losing touch? That’s a new question.
It is a new question and you’d have to ask Dan [Fogelman, the show’s creator] for that, because I don’t have all the answers. I mean, I have an idea, but I think the better thing at this point is just to focus on the fact that Miguel and Rebecca did not get together until after 2008. This long period of time went by. I think they were still definitely involved in each other’s lives obviously after losing their best friend and her spouse. I think that in my mind, the family leaned on him and I think he really stepped up as a best friend would to help make sure that the family was okay and staying on the right track, but I still like to believe that nothing crossed that line until this point in time.

So, if people have Miguel pegged wrong, as Dan has long hinted, do you and Jon joke about that on set?
We definitely do. Jon is the greatest sport of all time. I mean, having to step in and fill Jack’s shoes — that’s not an easy position for anyone to be put in, but I think if anyone’s up to the task, it’s definitely Jon Huertas. I’ve heard that next season is going to focus a lot on their relationship, and I’m excited to build that with Jon. He just has such an incredible attitude. First of all, he’s so charming and so winning, just as a human, but I’m really excited for what he’s going to bring to this character to potentially win people over — and to at least get people to understand where he’s coming from. I know that’s a real tall order, but I feel like he’s up to the task. And he’s hilarious, too. I always have so much fun when we both are put through hours and hours of makeup and removal — Jon’s my partner in crime in that sense. [Laughs] We’re the only two actors that really know what it’s like to sit through nearly four hours of makeup all the time — and then the hour and change removal. He’s like a brother in arms in that sense.

You didn’t film this scene with him, because Rebecca was responding to a message on Facebook, but have you talked to Jon about this latest development? Was he like, “Yes! We’re finally getting a hint of that!”?
I haven’t connected with him, actually. But maybe I will reach out after this episode. We haven’t had anything together. I have a feeling that later on in the season, we’ll have more stuff together, but probably not during this time period.

NEXT PAGE: Moore on how Rebecca is ‘probably the loneliest she’s ever been’

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