This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman has largely ambitious, mostly mysterious plans for season 4 of NBC’s era-jumping family drama, and the Pearson matriarch approves of the enterprising agenda that she has been privy to thus far.
“Our audience had been on board with us since minute 1,” Mandy Moore, a.k.a. Rebecca, tells EW. “We’re very lucky that they allow us to play with time to the degree that we do. Even just the simple idea of focusing on a character, or a group of characters for just an entire episode, they’re willing to go on this journey with us and follow an entire episode about Deja (Lyric Ross) and a day in her life, or an origin story about Toby (Chris Sullivan) or Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson). I love that we’re allowed to do that on network television. In that sense, I’m excited about how we’re going to play with time with the next season and moving forward… Devoting an entire character’s arc, having a whole episode about the Vietnam War on network television is really ambitious, and nobody else is really doing that to the same degree. What Dan and our writers want to do this next season is lean in that direction — but to a totally different degree and in a different way.”
Speaking of time jumps, Moore shares that early episodes of season 4 will return viewers to the Rebecca-and-Jack origin story in the ’70s; the action will resume after the couple’s return to Pittsburgh after the at-times magical, at-times emotional road trip to L.A. In addition, prepare to spend more time with Rebecca’s family and to meet her father. (Series creator Dan Fogelman has said he will play a “prominent role” in the upcoming episodes.) “There’s going to be some family dynamics that enter the equation from my side, having to contend with my parents and their thoughts on him,” says Moore. “Obviously, he’s got a lot on his plate from PTSD and war.”
Six decades later is where one of the show’s biggest mysteries resides. The season 3 finale ended in the 2030s, with Rebecca looking frail in bed, seemingly winding down her life. How soon will TIU start to answer what exactly is ailing her? “It’s going to be something we dip our toe into, but it’s not going to be so heavy-handed,” she says. “We’re not going to stay there for concentrated amounts of time, and there are going to be other story lines that help us understand what else is happening, because there are crazy reveals in the last five minutes of [the season 3 finale] with Toby and Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley). And people are going to breathe a sigh of relief [about the reconciliation of] Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth. There are other ways of telling the story that relate back to Rebecca — telling them with the other characters. It’s just as compelling to figure out how things went off the tracks, or what happened in those situations, as knowing where Rebecca is at this point in her life.”
Back in the present day, Rebecca is at a new point of bonding with Kate, repairing their relationship after a flare-up of tension at the hospital over Jack’s care. Kate will be spending considerable time with her mother moving forward, as Rebecca is moving westward with Miguel (Jon Huertas). While perhaps there always will be something fraught about this mother-daughter dynamic, they seem to have made considerable progress in recent years. “Any incredible life experience — giving birth — [is] only going to bring people closer,” says Moore. “I think it’s an important part of their finding some semblance of understanding in their relationship with one another. The prospect of Rebecca and Miguel moving out to California is a dicey one for Kate, but I think it’s only going to bring them closer and bring them more on the same page.”
Moore dropped more revelations about Rebecca’s “heartbreaking” future fate in this Q&A. This Is Us returns to NBC on Sept. 24.
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