Night 2 of the 34th annual PaleyFest placed the spotlight on NBC’s hit ensemble drama This Is Us, an intergenerational portrait of family, life, and love. A breakout series, This Is Us hit a ratings high with its recently aired season finale. It also brought in a big PaleyFest audience.
Representing This Is Us at the Dolby Theatre tonight in good spirits were series matriarch Mandy Moore and patriarch Milo Ventimiglia, along with Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Sullivan, and Ron Cephas Jones. Surprise guests included Sterling K. Brown—not on the pre-panel roster but taking a break from production and flying in for the event—as well as Jon Huertas (Miguel), and Gerald McRaney (the beloved Dr. K.), brought out throughout the run of the panel to fans’ delight.
Stepping in for creator Dan Fogelman to begin the panel after a screening of the series’ pilot episode were executive producer/directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, who explained where Season 2 of This Is Us is in the process.
“There have been advanced talks—a lot of logistics discussions—but [the writers] have to reconvene in early July, or June, actually, to really get it going,” Ficarra said. “We have some new writers on staff. The great thing about the show is it’s like this spider web, and we’re able to go off in all directions and delve deep into people.”
“We’ve gotten to see Jack from a certain perspective this season,” he continued. “I think we might get him from another perspective, and other characters…It’s kind of an endless canvas.”
While no news came out surrounding the inevitable death of Ventimiglia’s Jack, when moderator Kristin Dos Santos asked who of the cast and crew currently know how Jack dies, plenty of hands went up on the panel. Dos Santos rattled off a list of favorite fan theories, and while the EPs could neither confirm nor deny, Sullivan simply said, “It happens exactly how you think it is going to.”
Discussing her epic fight scene with Ventimiglia in the Season 1 finale, Moore laughed while recalling outtakes including some choice curse words for her onscreen counterpart. Asked about the potential for a Rebecca-Kate duet in future seasons, in light of Kate’s singing ambitions, the actress explained the difficulty of singing, or even speaking, with the prosthetics used to age her, though she expressed excitement at the prospect. “I can’t really move my mouth too much, but anything to sing with you, Chrissy,” the actress said.
Metz revealed that in her oft-discussed former life as an agent “many moons ago,” she had represented Hannah Zeile—the actress playing 15-year-old Kate in the series—as either a strange coincidence or stroke of fate.
In one of the night’s most enjoyable moments, Dos Santos had Ventimiglia and Moore go through “couples therapy,” stepping into the characters played by Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton in Friday Night Lights. “I love you, I’m proud of you. It’s your turn,” Ventimiglia told Moore, reading from a script.
Finally, before Huertas was brought onstage, Dos Santos began to discuss Miguel, asking the series’ stars to name one positive quality they appreciate about Jack’s best friend, who weds Rebecca after his passing. Some favorite quotes here include:
“He has a lustrous head of hair.” — Requa
“He married Rebecca.” — Cephas Jones
“He’s the only person who will speak Spanish with Toby.” — Sullivan
Ficarra won the contest, though, with a subtly placed revelation:
“Without spoiling anything, I forgive him for killing Jack,” he joked.