[This story contains spoilers from the series finale of NBC’s This Is Us, “Us.”]
A great feat of This is us is how the popular NBC family series manages to travel through time. Whether jumping forward or back, the non-linear series, over the course of six seasons, has spent decades telling the Pearson family story from beginning to end and from mid to end emotionally – and, in the end of the series. series, the show even managed to leave viewers with hopeful visions of the future.
The time jump meant that three sets of actors had to be cast to play the Three Siblings at the heart of the story, played as adults by Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley. That’s why, when creator and writer Dan Fogelman found his ending, he had to decide when to film.
In the series finale, titled “We” and written by Fogelman, the episode will take place in two timelines. In the present/future timeline, the Big Three are letting mom Rebecca Pearson rest, after saying goodbye to her final episode, “The Train.” Then, in the flashback timeline, Rebecca and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) are having what Fogelman describes as “a simple day in life” with their kids – a rare Saturday without a plan Planning becomes an opportunity to create small moments around which the show is based.
“I always knew that this was going to be the epilogue and that the second to last episode would end with Rebecca passing away and the final episode would be a simple day in her life,” Fogelman explained in a statement. This is us screening and final panel last weekend, attended by The Hollywood Reporter.
Talking to CHEAP In front of the panel, Fogelman detailed a “slice of a family’s day-to-day life,” which he likens to viewers when they find footage of the Pearsons.
“[The flashback tells] a really simple story to make people think about their own family and the things that we forget to sit inside and be present,” he explains. “And then, hopefully, put out a message at the end to tell anyone who is worried about mortality or has lost anyone, that just because someone dies or passes away doesn’t mean they Leave your family story or leave yours. ”
Fogelman has been thinking about this ending for a long time. But catching the right moment with the young actors playing Kate, Kevin, and Randall is key, as Lonnie Chavis, Mackenzie Hancsicsak and Parker Bates are just eight years old and growing rapidly when filming begins next year. 2016.
“We shot this [flashback in the] episodes many years ago, mainly to capture them in a moment where we and the audience feel nostalgic,” Fogelman, on the executive team, said while filming the seventh scenes of Pearson at the start of the third season of the show. show, and before that the actors would develop into the teenagers they are now.
“It was like watching an old home movie,” adds Fogelman, which is fitting, as the Pearsons end up watching the home videos in flashback.
At another time of day, Jack teaches his sons how to shave their faces while conveying words of wisdom that will continue to ring in Randall’s ears decades later – when, after burying his mother and also receiving news that he is about to become. a grandfather, he realized the dichotomy of life and went back to see his father that day. At the time, he didn’t understand why Jack felt content to sit on their family sofa and watch his family enjoy a rather peaceful Saturday.
“When you’re young. You’re always trying to get old. And when you’re old, always try to come back. Come back,” Jack explained to young Randall and Kevin, hinting that their sister was wise. “You’re trying to appreciate the moments. That’s what we’re doing, is collecting these little moments. We don’t realize them when we’re older than her and understand the concept better than them.” stay in them because we’re too busy to expect. Then we spend the rest of our lives looking back, trying to remember. Trying to get back inside of them.”
Add, “One day, you’ll get it.”
Flashbacks make up more than half of the episode. Fogelman filmed three or four days worth of material with his family of five, as well as another flashback between Randall and his biological father William (Ron Cephas Jones), who passed on the paternal wisdom to Randall about faith. joy and unconditional love of being a grandfather (also to capture Randall’s daughters, played by Eris Baker and Faithe Herman, before they grow old). Both of these messages made sense to Randall as he ended the series. In the end, Randall, just like Jack did decades before him, sits and watches the family after Rebecca’s funeral, finding joy in the midst of sadness and gathering new memories of the family.
“We knew we wanted Rebecca to die in the second to last episode so that the final episode – while big and sprawling, huge and epic – the show didn’t end with a death,” said Fogelman, who talked about This is us was a tribute to his biological mother, to whom he had not had a chance to say goodbye before her death. During the panel, he added, “The show literally and structurally ended with what happens after someone dies, which is the theme of the entire show: Someone can die, Someone may die, but they don’t stop being a part of the family’s story, past and future. ”
That message was filtered out by Jack in his final words to Rebecca, when she finally reunited with her first husband on the mystical train before her passing. “It’s hard to explain, but you’re going to do all that with them,” he told her, alleviating her fear of missing out on family moments when she let go. “You’ll be there.”
And the hopeful note was always something Fogelman wanted to leave behind.
“I’ve always found the show to be a little more hopeful and upbeat, and hopefully moving – in a positive direction – rather than just sad and horrible,” he said. CHEAP. “The theme of this episode and of the show is that family continues even after the loss of an important character. I don’t want the final story to be about death, I want it to be about family moving forward and thinking backwards. So it was a very well thought out plan from the start, and I feel we did it right. ”
Kirsten Chuba contributed to this story.