Creator Dan Fogelman and the cast of This Is Us screened an upcoming episode for the Television Critics Association last Friday night. It was not the episode airing January 10, so (as of this writing) Toby’s fate is still a mystery.
After the screening, Fogelman, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia, Susan Kelechi Watson, and guest star Gerald McRaney spoke with reporters about the upcoming episodes.
Here are 11 things coming to This Is Us the rest of this season.
Following the tension of Toby’s (Chris Sullivan) Christmas collapse and the wait to find out his fate, January 17’s episode set the day before the birth of Jack (Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Moore)’s twins, will come as a relief.
Sometimes prequels can ruin classics (cough, midi-chlorians, cough), but This Is Us explains the birthday cupcake, the Terrible Towel Jack wears in the pilot, Dr. Katowsky (McRaney)’s emergency shift, and other tidbits perfectly.
“It’s really small stuff, right?” Fogelman said. “We’re not explaining how the galaxy was formed. We’re explaining the creation of a cupcake, a Terrible Towel, how a doctor replaced another doctor, and how a baby got to a fire station.”
Fyi, McRaney is willing to return if Fogelman has more Dr. K stories: “I hope so. If I get to come back and do more, that’s gravy.”
When Jack had to tell Rebecca the third baby didn’t make it in the pilot episode, her emotional reaction was part of a montage. The January 17 episode plays the dialogue of the scene, which Moore and Ventimiglia filmed in the first episode, but was then cut.
“I don’t even know what I said,” Moore said. “It was kind of thrown in at the last minute: ‘Oh, Milo’s going to come in to break the news to you afterwards.’ To see it on screen, I was like, Wow, I had no idea what I did or say because we’ve done so much since then. That was almost a year ago.”
One of the stories in January 17’s episode involves the fireman (Brian Oblak) who brought Randall to the hospital. His name is Joe and his marriage is in trouble when he finds Randall at the firehouse. Then Fogelman had to find Oblak!
“When I pitched it to the writers, they were like, ‘Who’s the fireman?’” Fogelman said. “I’m like, ‘I don’t even know his name.’ We went back to casting and said, ‘Who was the guy that played the fireman? He had done a great job for us.’ I brought him in and said, ‘Do you know what we’re doing here? It’s going to be a lot.’ He was totally game, and he killed it. It’s a nice opportunity for a working actor whose phone rang.”
Fogelman thinks any supporting character could come back. “You can jump, and we plan to jump, into people who have touched their lives and affected it,” Fogelman said. “When you take a step back and look at the big picture of the fabric of our lives, people come in and out and then you can go off and follow their story if you needed to for an entire season. Which isn’t the plan, but we could.”
Perhaps This Is Us decided one month was long enough to make fans wait to find out if Toby survives. “You’ll know fairly early on in the episode what his fate is,” Moore said.
The Christmas episode ended with a flatline sound, but that’s drama. Even if Toby had a heart attack, people can survive heart attacks. Metz, who plays Toby’s girlfriend Kate, offered cautious hope before the episode aired.
“People do pull through, but you never know with this show,” Metz said. “Kate wouldn’t be able to handle that. I don’t think anybody would be able to potentially handle that, but like with the show, there are so many curve balls and you never know. It’s life. We lose people that we love.”
There’s more than Toby business in January 10’s episode too. Ventimiglia revealed the context of another flashback: “The episode coming back, episode 11, we go before the birth of the babies for Jack and Rebecca at least.”
With the aftermath of Christmas and Toby’s health crisis, the entire Pearson family is in Beth (Watson) and Randall (Sterling K. Wilson)’s house.
“It’s going to see how it wears on their relationship and how they deal with relating to one another as they’re going through all of this,” Watson said. “They’re going to try to maintain the integrity of their relationship, but it really does get tested. They’ve managed to get the entire family now in their house or on their coast. It is going to be William, his health, their kids, and their relationship with William. There’s going to be a lot converging on their house that they have to deal with and it does test a relationship.”
Even if Toby gets better, even after the holidays, this is what the rest of the year looks like for Beth. “I think it’s going to be for the rest of this season,” Watson said.
Ever since she filmed a scene in a doctor’s office signing up for gastric bypass surgery, Metz has had to clarify for reporters that she may begin losing weight for the role, but is not contractually required to do so. Now she says Kate may put off the surgery in light of Toby’s crisis.
“It hasn’t really fleshed out as to what Kate’s going to decide,” Metz said. “When somebody could potentially lose their life who’s overweight, or we don’t know what exactly his diagnosis might be or if he’s going to survive, it puts a lot of questions into play for Kate as to what’s going to be the best thing for her. I think you get scared because you realize: Oh wow, this is something I really need to take care of, or I couldn’t possibly [have a major surgery].”
When Kate brought Toby home she introduced him to her father, Jack, via the urn of his ashes she keeps. Fogelman said he always knew the story of Jack’s passing, but it will not occur on the show for a while. Plus, even when Jack dies, Ventimiglia will still play him in flashbacks.
“I think Jack’s death is just another story in the family The Pearsons, honestly,” Ventimiglia said. “I think everybody wants to know what happens, and they’re going to get to that point. Even when they know what happens, it doesn’t mean the end of Jack.”
When Miguel (Jon Huertas) showed up as Rebecca’s present-day husband, everyone got suspicious. Miguel appears more and more in flashbacks, and Fogelman revealed just how close he and Jack were.