January 24, 2018 at 02:51 PM EST

We’ve seen headlines this morning that read “This Is Us reveals Jack’s cause of death,” though we haven’t actually seen him die yet. It certainly appears to be a fire. Is it premature to say that? How much more is there to this picture that we do not know? 
There’s a lot more to the picture. I don’t think it’s premature. Without spoiling it, because I want people to experience the episode, all I’ll say is all we’ve seen is what we’ve seen: we’ve seen the cause of the fire. In terms of what happens in the next hour of our television show, there are a lot of surprises, and I think the prism by which you view this family will completely shift on its axis. We’ve always said — and it’s been a huge part of what this show is about — is Kevin’s speech about the painting, and how our past informs our present. And it’s all kind of part of this, and this big canvas that we’re painting on. Milo has been saying a lot when he’s doing press, and it’s true, Jack is about more than how he died, the story of this family is about more than how he died, and the show is about more than one tragedy, but it is a defining moment for this family that exists even less than the halfway mark of the entire series. So we have a long way to go, and a long way to go with Jack in the story, before death and after it.

Kate has mentioned that Jack’s death was her fault, and we saw her get emotional about revisiting the idea of a getting a dog. We spent a lot of time on the dog last night. Fans are theorizing that he goes back to rescue the dog. What can you say? What kind of connection should be drawing?
We didn’t shy from it. That was a big part of the information that was given last night. And then people have theorized, as they have before, that the dog plays a big part in her self-blame about the incident. All we know as an audience right now is when we left Jack shutting down the house, the dog is downstairs in his little bed and everybody else is upstairs — Jack, Rebecca, Kate, Randall; Kevin is out with Sophie — and the stage is set now for when we come into the next episode. We know that the dog plays a part — somehow.

Kevin is carrying around a lot of guilt about Jack’s death, and now we know why; they never made up from that fight. Given his broken leg, though, shouldn’t Kevin feel grateful that he wasn’t in the house that night, because he probably wouldn’t be alive, either?
Yeah, and also keep in mind that he sleeps in the basement – that’s where the fire started was on the lower level.  I think that Kevin’s ultimate baggage is about, yes, he had this loaded uncomfortable moment with his father right before he left. He didn’t get any kind of closure. But if you think about Kevin’s character now and where he’s been and what he experiences whenever he talks about his father, it’s interesting to think beyond the final moment he had with Jack. He is the only member of the five-person Pearson family that didn’t experience this colossal [moment], and regardless of what comes out of it next week, that in and of itself is a big, big deal. Even if they had had the loveliest goodbye of all-time — when you think about now starting to look back at other episodes where he’s felt like the “fifth wheel” of this family, is there ever more of a definitive barometer for that than the fact that in the biggest thing to ever happen to this family, he was the one person who wasn’t present, even if it was horrific.

That’s part of what excites me about the next chapter of the show. We have a lot more to learn about Jack; this show goes in really, really interesting and surprising directions. But as an audience member, you always watch the show knowing that he passes away at some point and that makes it extra loaded and sad, but there’s also this mystery of how did he die, when did he die, what were the state of relationships when he died? Once you know all of that and you go back to those 10-year-old kids and just a normal episode touching on Jack, they become different in a way that was always part of my instinct about my show. Not just more emotional or more touching or sadder, but different because you now know everything about where this family is heading, but you’re watching them before or after the storm. That is a different way to peel back, and suddenly you can look at old episodes in a different way.

What are your words of advice for the PR team at Crock-Pot today?
I just literally just sent out a tweet — because I was reading this morning the reactions to the episode — reminding everybody that this was a fictional Crock-Pot with a faulty switch that was 20 years old. So, I don’t think the entire Crock-Pot community should be blamed for this.

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