‘Remote Controlled’: ‘This Is Us’ Stars on Jack’s Fate, Time Jumps and ‘Mustache-Gate’

Welcome to Remote Controlled, Variety’s podcast series featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

This week’s episode features Variety executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum in conversation with several members of the cast of NBC’s hit drama “This Is Us”: Milo Ventimiglia (who plays Jack), Mandy Moore (Rebecca), and Sterling K. Brown (Randall). The actors open up about their reaction when they first read the twist-filled script by Dan Fogelman (“Crazy, Stupid, Love”), whether they relate to their characters, and how they keep track of all of the time jumps.

“It was impossible for your jaw not be on the ground when you finished that last page of the script,” says Moore. “And it was signed M. Night Fogelman,” she adds with a laugh. “After doing pilots three years in a row on network television and being absolutely devastated when things didn’t move forward, I wasn’t really looking to do another pilot. But I just thought, there was no way I could say no to this kind of opportunity.”

Adds Brown, “That pilot, with discovering that we are all one family, it had me at hello.”

Ventimiglia reveals that he keeps an old photo of himself as a 3-year-old with his father in his trailer. Above it is a note that says “Be a good father” and “Be a good husband.” “It’s almost as simple as that for Jack,” he says. “It’s the closest character to my heart in terms of what I know by way of my own father.”

Adds Moore, “I’m not a wife and mother yet, but I hope to be the kind of mother Rebecca is,” says Moore. “She leads with her heart.”

Brown gets emotional when he talks about losing his own father when he was just 10. “I wish my own dad could check this out,” he says. “I wish he could see his grandkids and meet this woman I chose to share my life with. I feel like Randall is on that search as well, because Jack has been absent for … some time.” (And yes, that’s all the scoop we could get out of him on how long Jack has been gone!)

Ventimiglia says Fogelman and the writers have laid out a plan that helps them track the timelines of all of the characters. “We’ve been given a pretty fair amount of information and a really decent road map to know the history of the Pearsons,” he says. “In the writers’ room along the top edge of the wall are milestones for the family. And any moment any of us can get with Dan, he’s more than excited to talk about what’s coming.”

Moore says Fogelman approached her with the idea of playing Rebecca as an older woman a few weeks into filming. “I didn’t know when I signed up for this that I was going be doing quite as much jumping around,” reveals Moore. “But it’s an honor and a gift and I really love the challenge of it.”

Adds Ventimiglia, “I think you nailed it!”

The actors reveal that they’ve shot more episodes of Rebecca in the present day — including holiday episodes where we’ll see the whole family together. “Thanksgiving is Randall’s favorite holiday,” says Brown. “He normally hosts Thanksgiving at his house, so we will have that to look forward to as well.”

And then there’s “mustache-gate”: Ventimiglia’s facial hair choices on the show. “It was a scary moment,” admits Ventimiglia. But he says he told Fogelman, “Your writing is so good that when (Jack) pops up in ’88 with these 8-year-olds that are brand new, too … after two seconds, no one is going to give a s—. You are that good.”

Listen to this week’s podcast below:

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • BritBox Is 'Not a Rival to

    BritBox 'Not a Rival to Netflix and Amazon' but Something Different, ITV Exec Says

    BritBox, ITV and the BBC’s joint “best of British” streaming service, is not being positioned as a rival to Netflix and Amazon but offers something those two streaming giants don’t, ITV director of television Kevin Lygo said. Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Friday, Lygo said BritBox would be a “different thing” that allowed [...]

  • Stefano Sollima for Web Story

    'ZeroZeroZero' Creator on Making an Old Story New and How Andrea Riseborough Got Hurt (EXCLUSIVE)

    Stefano Sollima, the Italian director known in Hollywood for “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” and TV show “Gomorrah,” is the main creative force behind cocaine-trafficking series “ZeroZeroZero,” which will world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 5. Festival chief Alberto Barbera has praised it as blowing “Narcos” out of the water. Sollima directed [...]

  • Ballers HBO

    'Ballers' to End After Season 5 on HBO

    “Ballers” is coming to an end after five seasons on HBO. Star and executive producer Dwayne Johnson confirmed the news via an emotional Instagram video. “My heart is full of gratitude to all of you for rocking with us every season. You made us HBO’s highest rated comedy for years and most importantly, you helped [...]

  • Sublime Primetime

    How Emmy-Nominated Writers’ Rooms Keep Politics in Mind

    In a world filled with elections, social movements and national tragedies, how open should the doors of a writers’ room actually be? For some of this year’s Emmy-nominated shows, those doors are wide open. Before the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards air on Sept. 22, the Writers Guild of America West and Writers Guild Foundation, [...]

  • Disney Villains Series 'Book of Enchantment'

    'Book of Enchantment' Series Based on Iconic Disney Villains Shelved at Disney Plus

    Disney Plus has decided to not move forward with “Book of Enchantment,” a series based on some of Disney’s most iconic villains, Variety has learned from sources. The news comes the day before Disney is set to unveil its streaming service at the biannual D23 convention in Anaheim. The prospective project was based on the [...]


    Brenda Blethyn to Star in New ITV Sitcom 'Kate and Kolo'

    Oscar-nominated Brenda Blethyn is set to star in the new sitcom “Kate and Kolo” for ITV, the U.K. broadcaster announced at the Edinburgh TV Festival. Blethyn takes on the title role of Kate in the comedy alongside theater and film actor Jimmy Akingbola as Kolo. Blethyn is a popular star with ITV audiences after having [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content