NBC’s new fall drama “This Is Us” may look like a spiritual successor to the network’s beloved “Parenthood,” but creator Dan Fogelman prefers to compare it to “a dramedy version of ‘Lost,'” because “you have to understand how these people are connected” to see the larger plan for the series. The cast, including Sterling K. Brown, Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, Chrissy Metz, Ron Cephas Jones, Chris Sullivan and Susan Kelechi Watson, and executive producers Fogelman, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa were on hand at NBC’s Television Critics Association summer press tour presentation to discuss the freshman drama.
The show centers around a group of people who share the same birthday, for reasons that will become clear after watching, and Fogelman admits that there is a type of “romantic melancholy to the whole thing that feels lifelike but also bigger than life,” since the show clearly lives in the real world but also utilizes coincidences and connections that give the drama a slightly fantastical quality.
“It does live in this beautiful, heightened cinematic space as a look,” Fogelman says of the aesthetic of the series, admitting that while he was watching stars Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia shooting a recent scene, “I genuinely started tearing up behind the monitor because the performances were so affecting. It’s romantic, and I think life can be romantic when we’re not wallowing in the s–t.”
Fogelman says he set out to capture an element of hopefulness in the series that’s often missing from modern TV shows. “The world has grown more cynical, our art has grown more cynical… it’s become a slog for me [to watch] sometimes, it’s all so dark … it’s the right place, the right time for a show with a little bit of hope and optimism.”
The trailer for the series has already racked up millions of views across social media, and Fogelman admitted that the show has been able to leverage that early interest and attract big guest stars before its premiere, including Katey Sagal as a top Hollywood agent who represents Justin Hartley’s character, Kevin, an actor in a broadcast sitcom. Brad Garrett will play a powerful network president that Kevin will encounter. “People are contacting us to say they want to be part of it and they haven’t even seen it yet,” Fogelman noted.
“This Is Us” premieres Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 10 p.m. on NBC