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

We finally had a nice bonding moment with Rebecca and Beth, and they both have come to understand how to navigate Randall’s fragile state in different ways. What intrigued you about the Rebecca and Beth connection that we saw? I know you’re a huge Beth fan, so was that something you’d been lobbying the writers for?
I actually hadn’t lobbied the writers, but I guess I will publicly now. [Laughs] I want to continue to have more scenes with Susan — just Mandy and Susan scenes. These are the two most important women in Randall’s life, and I was at least curious what the depth of their relationship was, because I really only had that one moment with Beth when she found out about William [Ron Cephas Jones] and confronted me at the house and was like, “When are you going to tell him? Because we don’t keep secrets in our marriage.” That fraught bit of dialogue between them was the only time that they’ve really shared the screen together, and it didn’t give me any indication other than, clearly, this situation is abnormal and out of the ordinary.

Obviously I would not fault her for having that sort of attitude toward Rebecca at this point in time, so I loved seeing that Beth really leans on Rebecca a little bit more about what to do about Randall, and how well she knows Randall — or at least being vulnerable enough to open up what the last couple months have been of her pregnancy, and him having this emotional breakdown. I like that there’s a gentleness and a softness between them. And a respect. It feels like a real camaraderie, like they know that they are in the trenches together, and they can count on one another, and I love feeling that with Susan. Because these two women are both forces in their own way, I feel that kinship between them, and to me it was more of an indication of like, “I understand now why Randall chose her.” They definitely have similarities, and they share a lot between them, what they bring to the table as strong women, you know?

They’re both the unsung heroes of their families in a lot of ways — and the glue that holds everything together. But they assert themselves in different ways.
Yeah. Jack and Randall get so much credit and celebration, and it’s very much deserved. But I agree. Anytime people [look at] Beth or Rebecca and they’re like, “You know what? You’re not perfect, you’re real, and you guys are flawed, but you’re strong, and you really are the glue,” I always am appreciative when people can recognize that, and not just criticize the choices that they’ve made — maybe not so much Beth but Rebecca. I’m always like, “Geez, guys! Moms tend to be the unsung heroes. They do everything, they get the kids up, they make the lunches, they make sure everybody’s dressed, they take them to the doctor, they keep the ship running.” And Jack gets to come in and have fun and carve pumpkins with them. Meanwhile, I’m sewing the Halloween costumes. [Laughs]

We’re so used to seeing the Randall-Beth relationship as rock solid. We saw it tested during the adoption process earlier this season, and we see it here, where Beth seems to be doubting whether he can pull it together at a critical time and provide that support. Though, in the end, perhaps mother did know best, because as Rebecca says, “He’s a lot stronger than you think.”
There’s a history there, and in my mind, it all went back to Jack’s passing, and how Randall was there, and stepped up, and was the true provider when he needed to be.

There was a passing Kevin Spacey reference in the episode. [In the scene, which was filmed almost two months ago, Kevin’s 2008 roommate was excited to report that he was cast in a Kevin Spacey movie, and Spacey’s name was swapped for Christian Bale’s just before airing]. Considering that the show recently predicted the Kardashian pregnancy cycles, we ask: Does Dan have a crystal ball?
I know! I’m like, “Can you give us our lottery numbers, Dan?” It’s pretty crazy.

In last week’s episode, we saw that Jack is keeping a big secret from everyone: he has a brother, presumably who died in Vietnam. I’m curious to know what you thought about that revelation.
I think all of us had our jaws on the floor. We were like, “What??? Did not expect that!” It’s funny that we find ourselves just as surprised as the audience oftentimes.

He told Rebecca months before he died that he can’t beat his alcoholism alone. It seems that he was intent on making an effort to open up before he died, but one looming question is: How much is Jack able to share before he dies? Do they deepen their relationship before the end — and does that make it all the more tragic?
[Hums] Duh-duh-duh. That’s the million dollar question at this point. I think you’re going to have to ask Dan. I think they’re just starting that process because we know the clock is ticking at this point. We’ve met the dog, we’re about to get answers to some of the other clues that we saw at the end of the first episode. At this point in time, there’s still some time, but the clock is definitely ticking.

And how would you tease next week’s episode in one sentence?
The Pearsons fight to make Randall an official member of their family.

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