This Is Us star Alexandra Breckinridge on Sophie's return and that epic speech
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Warning: This article contains spoilers for Tuesday's episode of This Is Us, "The Night Before the Wedding."
"Mawwiage, mawwiage is what brings us together."
Those might've been Kevin's planned words for his toast to his sister, Kate, and her new husband, Philip, on This Is, but they also proved prophetic for his own love life.
On Tuesday's episode of the time-hopping drama, Kevin (Justin Hartley) finally got what he's always wanted most: Sophie (Alexandra Breckinridge). After six seasons of romantic turmoil and Kevin's attempts to find himself, the childhood sweethearts found their happy ending at last. But not without some drama along the way — this is a television show, after all.
After Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and Madison (Caitlin Thompson) attempted to ferret out who had slept in Kevin's hotel room the night before Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Philip (Chris Geere) tied the knot, this week's episode rewound the action to connect the dots.
Sophie, now reconnected with Kate as a friend, arrived at the wedding seeming a bit lonely, but at peace. After the airline lost her luggage, she and Kevin went on a wild goose chase in the neighboring small town to find her something to wear to the wedding, which took them to the unclaimed section of a dry cleaners.
All the time spent together led Sophie to reveal that she was no longer married to Grant, but instead happily divorced.
Later that night, Sophie followed Kevin to his hotel room and initiated a steamy make-out session that rapidly escalated to more, until his innocuous comment about her shampoo smelling the same sent her into a tailspin. She called the whole thing off and fled from his room.
Kevin floundered, even trying to interpret Uncle Nicky's (Griffin Dunne) speech about a pinball machine as a sign to pursue Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison) again, which she kindly shut down. But the next night at the wedding, some well-timed words from a Rebecca (Mandy Moore) stuck 20 years in the past and a Hail Mary Buffalo Bills speech from Randall (Sterling K. Brown) redirected Kevin and Sophie back to each other.
Kevin tried to round things out with a signature Pearson speech, but Sophie said it was her turn and launched into an epic proclamation of her love and the assertion that Kevin needs to love the woman she is now, not the one she was. Kevin revealed that he'd kept an elementary school valentine he wrote her in his wallet all these decades, and the two kissed to much applause from the rest of the wedding guests. (Way to upstage your sister, Kevin.)
We caught up with Breckinridge to discuss "The Night Before The Wedding," all the twists and turns it took to bring Sophie back to Kevin, the immense pressure she felt delivering that speech, and whether we'll ever get the whole story behind Sophie's new phone number.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: At what point did you know that Sophie and Kevin would get this moment? Was it touch-and-go? Did series creator Dan Fogelman call you and say, like, "We'll do anything to make it work?"
ALEXANDRA BRECKINRIDGE: Yes, it was difficult. It was very tricky, especially given the pandemic, because I was in Canada and there were quarantines to come into the country. It was very difficult to go back and forth. During that time, we all realized that it was not going to happen then. So they formulated another plan and direction for the characters, and I'm really happy with it. It gave them both a chance to reconnect in a way that is almost more satisfying to me because they really did become whole people on their own. As an adult who's married and has had several relationships in my 20s, I know that you have to find yourself as an adult and love yourself and become that better version of yourself in order to have a real fulfilling, stable relationship. The characters don't find each other until they're 46 again. I don't think they ever stopped loving each other, which is such a sweet romantic story. I don't think there's many people that would be like, "No, I wouldn't like that to happen to me."
So was there originally another plan for Sophie and Kevin's reunion, maybe something involving her phone call and new phone number from last season?
To be honest, I don't really know how much of this backstory they want me to tell. They always wanted the characters to end up together. In season 2, when I had a conversation with Dan, he said, "Kevin has to go on his own journey right now to really be able to find himself. And we know that can't happen within the relationship with Sophie." That was really devastating for me as an actress because I didn't know if I was going to come back to the show at that point. But he said, "What we want to do and what we intend to do is to have these two come together in the end — we just don't know what that journey looks like and what that road looks like."
A couple of seasons later, I'm in Vancouver doing Virgin River and find out that they want me to come back in some capacity on the show. I didn't really know what or how at the time. I wasn't able to because of the filming schedule. Again, just like so devastated. So yes, they have been trying to get Sophie back on the show for some time. It just didn't work out until now.
When did the divorce happen? Was Sophie still married at the engagement party?
Sophie was really trying, and she was trying to make it work. Ultimately, I don't think she was ever in love with Grant. I think she's always been in love with Kevin. She's tried so hard to make it work with somebody who was in love with her and was able to show up for her in a real way in their relationship. But as she said, we looked good on paper but she didn't have that feeling for him. I think when she saw Kevin at the engagement party, it probably started the spiral for her out of her marriage. It was already starting to happen, but we tried to play it so that you couldn't really tell.
Do you think Sophie would've told Kevin about the divorce if the universe hadn't intervened and she hadn't lost her luggage? Did she go there wanting to tell him?
I think she went to the wedding excited to see him, and she was really hoping that maybe he'd be in the right place. But also trepidatious because she had her heart broken several times. And I'm sure that was scary. But they just have such a magnetic pull towards each other that it was undeniable. She fell back into that rhythm and that chemistry that they had, and saw him to be a better version of himself and a different version of himself. She took that leap again not knowing where it would end it up and then had that little freak-out.
Last season we saw her tell Kevin that getting a new phone number was a "long story." Are we ever going to get that story?
Oh, there was a lot of talk about that at the time. We weren't really sure if Sophie was still married. We actually did that scene with the ring on and without the ring on. And I think they tried to frame it out.
Yes, you can't see your ring finger in the scene.
Well, they didn't really know what they wanted to do at that point. In all honesty, I don't know what happened with the phone number. I think it was just intended to throw you and be like, "Whoa, what was that about?" There's actually no real reason. They were like, "Oh, it's nothing. It's not a big deal. It's just she had to change it. It wasn't anything that exciting." That's all I got for you on that one.
Sophie makes the first move physically with Kevin. What gives her the courage to do that, and then why does she panic? Were you like, "No, stay, what are you doing?" when you first read it?
Well, I knew how the episode would end, because I had a couple of conversations with Dan prior to getting the script, so I knew where it was going. So I wasn't reading the script thinking, "Oh no, she leaves and that's it." I knew there was more to come. But it made sense to me. She sees Kevin in this new way. She knows that he's grown up. She can feel it with him because she knows him so well. They've known each other since they were little kids. For her, it's very apparent when she starts talking to him after all this time that he really has turned a corner in himself. That's what initially makes her make the first move.
Then he says the thing about how her hair smells the same, and then she doubles back and realizes, "Wait, maybe he doesn't see me as this new adult version of myself and he's still in love with this younger version of me." That scares her because she starts to think, "Well, maybe I was wrong, and maybe he hasn't grown as much as I thought." But then she goes to the wedding. She's not really sure and she has this conversation with Rebecca, who she's also grown up with her as another mother figure in her life. Even though Rebecca is, in this moment, believing that they're in their 20s, it's like she's able to see into the future, which is the present. It's really impactful for Sophie, and it solidifies the moment that she makes the decision that she's going to try with him.
Okay, but she's in her mid-40s, so shouldn't Sophie know better by now than to expect a man to be observant enough to distinguish shampoo smells?
Oh my gosh, right?
I don't know any men in my life who would note, via smell, that I changed my shampoo.
I know, seriously. You know what was funny when I read it, my first thought was "Of course her hair smells the same. It's not her hair, he's just smelling her." It's just her that he's smelling and that's what it is, but she interprets it as something different.
Sophie says she realized she'll never be able to fast-forward through Kevin. She also says she's grown and is truly happy now, but how much was Kevin a third person in her marriage?
Oh, I think he was always looming over her marriage. I don't think he ever left. It kind of begs the question at the end of the episode when you see the valentine in his wallet, you're wondering how much she was hanging over all of his relationships. Was that in his wallet all these years? I'm dying to know!
Right? Like did Madison go through his wallet and find it?
I know. Where was it? He might have deleted her phone number from his phone, but he still had the valentine in his wallet, so…
Rebecca keeps thinking Sophie is 20 years old and thereby inadvertently tells Sophie exactly what she needs to hear. How crucial do you think that speech is to get Kevin and Sophie to the endpoint?
It was huge for Sophie to hear that. Especially for Rebecca to admit to Sophie that she thinks her son's an idiot. I thought that was hysterical when she said that. "He's an idiot. But if you can stick with him, I know that he's going to be amazing." It was the exact right thing that she needed to hear in that moment. And also Kevin and Randall, the weird speech that Randall gives him, it was so random and it didn't make any sense. But his point made sense, and Kevin just needed to hear his brother tell him that he wasn't going to mess it up again. You see Sophie's talking to Rebecca and Kevin is talking to Randall at the exact same moment. And they both turn and decide that they're going to go for it with each other at the exact same time.
Sophie gives this epic romantic speech at the end with the line "I need you to love me for the woman that I am now, not the woman that I was." How many versions of that speech were there? Did you tinker with it in delivery and execution?
We did. I know it was a huge moment for their relationship. This has been a six-year journey on the show, but 40 years for these two people. The history is so thick between them. That moment was not lost on me, as the character and also as an actress. When I read it, I was like, "This is beautiful, but also, wow, this is a lot." I was really nervous, actually. I just went into it trying to stay connected to the character and the emotional space in which she was in that moment. We did do it a few different ways. But the one that they stuck with was my original take on it. So I was really happy with that. Because we did one where she was sort of rambling on about it and it was a little bit frantic. I don't feel like that's the tone. I feel like the tone is just an honest, leading-with-your-heart moment. It's a little bit scary for her, but she knows that she's never going to be in love with anyone like she's in love with Kevin.
Is it safe to say Kevin and Sophie are endgame now and we'll see them together going forward?
I think it would be a terrible mistake on the part of the show for them to derail that in the last four episodes. What a letdown that would be. So yeah, I don't think Sophie is going anywhere.