After a freshman season that took the critical world, consumer audience, and TV Academy (11 nominations!) by storm, NBC’s multi-generational, multiple time period drama “This Is Us” is prepping for a highly anticipated second season — and the highly anticipated answer to exactly when and how patriarch Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) dies.
“The present day story is the story of the big three kids. A little bit of time has passed, so we’re kind of catching up with them a month or two later, on their birthday — their 37th. The pilot started on their 36th, and we’re picking it up on their 37th,” series showrunner Dan Fogelman says. “You’re catching up with Randall and Beth as they proceed on this adoption quest, and Kate as she proceeds on a singing career, and Kevin as he’s doing his film and kind og working on his romantic relationship with his ex-wife.”
The storyline set in the past with Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack will pick up immediately from where the season finale left them — the morning after their big fight. Fogelman also promises that the premiere will feature “a big, giant piece of the puzzle” of how Jack died.
“[It] will potentially set the internet abuzz but also hopefully push that storyline’s momentum,” Fogelman says. “I always talk about Jack’s death as this hinge upon which the family swings, and there’s a kind of before that and the after [of] that. And that’s very much what this season is about. It’s about that hinge, and that’s what we’re watching. There’s a lot of healing to be done. There’s a lot we’re going to do with Jack this season. We’ve painted the picture of the world’s perfect dad, man, husband, everything. And now we’re going to show not the dark side of that, but what the struggle is of being that guy too and ultimately, I think, bring him to a kind of fully realized place.”
Fogelman notes Jack’s death was always going to be a “big part” of the show and a key moment for the Pearson family. Despite so much of the audience focusing heavily on the mystery of exactly how and when Jack died, Fogelman and his writers have not changed the plan regarding the reveal.
“The way Jack’s death is going to play out is how it was always going to play out as we planned,” Fogelman says. “You do have to be cognizant that it doesn’t become a soap opera or one story starts taking over, [but] it’s fun to have a little bit of plot and intrigue, too. It’s a balancing act. It’s all a balancing act.”
Further complicating the dynamic is Miguel (Jon Huertas), who was Jack’s best friend in the past and Rebecca’s new husband in the present. Though the character has been polarizing to some viewers, who don’t want to see Jack replaced in the family, Fogelman notes that Huertas i “such a likable actor” that he plans to explore more of the character, and hopefully he will come to grow on the audience. “It’s not just this season, but it’s future seasons that we have planned out where Miguel’s place in the story become bigger and bigger and bigger. I think we can get him to become this beloved character that you’re rooting for in a really big way. But it’s going to take a moment. It’s not going to happen in one night,” Fogelman says, noting it’s like any step-parent/step-child relationship.
The nature of “This Is Us” is to deal in how the past informs the present, so the second season will continue the theme, perhaps most notably with the return of Ron Cephas Jones’ William, who will “very much open” the show in the premiere and appear throughout the season in both the past and present storyline. Characters can see and talk to ghosts, both literally and figuratively, on “This Is Us” (as previously seen perhaps most infamously in first season episode “The Trip”). Though people may be physically gone from lives, they are certainly not forgotten, and their influence continues to reign over important moments and decisions.
“My mom passed away almost 10 years ago now, and it hits that time where it’s far enough away that it’s not really present in your gut, but it’s still a huge part of mine and my sister’s life,” Fogelman says, noting a main inspiration for the show is to aid in healing. “To get somebody to laugh at a scene and then be moved by something, it’s a really hard thing to execute. I’ve been chasing it my whole career.”
The second season of “This Is Us” premieres on Sept. 26 at 9 p.m. on NBC.