FYC events are supposed to be a platform for TV teams to promote their respective series during awards season — but that didn’t stop “This is Us” creator Dan Fogelman from expressing his dismay at the lack of 2018 Emmy nominations for Mandy Moore, Chrissy Metz, and Justin Hartley.
Many TV reporters and critics, including Variety’s Kristopher Tapley, had predicted nods for the Pearson family actors in the lead and supporting drama actor and actress categories, sparking surprise when all three came up empty handed.
“It’s disappointing when Mandy and Justin and Chrissy don’t get individually recognized after the work they’ve done — only because we’ve gotten sucked into this whirlex, where you can lose sight of the fact that no one saw this [success] coming, including the people who are working on it,” Fogelman said during a panel discussion for the show’s FYC event at Paramount Studios on Monday.
Moore, Metz, and Hartley joined Fogelman for the chat moderated by Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva, along with fellow cast members Milo Ventimiglia, Sterling K. Brown, Susan Kelechi Watson, and Chris Sullivan. Despite much of the media’s focus on the lack of directing and writing Emmy recognition for “This is Us” — and any other network show, for that matter — Fogelman couldn’t care less about those categories for a series that he said depends upon the talent of “these seven actors.”
When it comes to the series’ acting nods, Fogelman said its heavyweights deserve even more praise for working on a network television show versus cable or streaming.
“I would put them in a serious, heavy streaming drama, and they would kick the s— out of any cast on television,” Fogelman said of his cast. “I really believe it. So when Sterling wins an award or Milo is nominated or the cast wins a SAG award against all these other crazy shows, that’s our win.”
Brown echoed Fogelman’s sentiment by addressing some of the challenges that only come with acting and writing for a broadcast TV series like the NBC program, like the task of fitting each episode’s story arc into a 42-minute time slot.
“I think about when I set my DVR for my cable shows, and this episode is, like, an hour [and 15 minutes], and the next episode of the same show is like an hour [and seven minutes], and they have all the time that they want,” Brown said. “However long it takes, that’s how long it takes, and the fact that we get a chance to still be in it — 42 minutes and 30 seconds each and every time — I think that s— is off the chain.”
Additionally, Fogelman added, the network stars have to navigate language censorship. While Fogelman said some scenes, like Randall’s (Brown) confrontation with his birth father and an upcoming Season 3 scene at Kate’s (Metz) birthday party, could benefit from the punch of expletives, the “This is Us” cast must figure out a way to deliver the same amount of power and emotion without them.
“What they’re doing on network television is equally complicated because we have a set of rules we live by, and that may keep the show accessible, but they have to be delivering that kind of nuance without the words,” Fogelman said. “It’s very difficult in this day and age in 2018 to do, and they’re killing it — each and every one of them.”
But Ventimiglia, who scored one of the drama’s two lead actor nominations along with Brown, insisted their motivation for working on “This is Us” has nothing to do with Emmys at all.
“The big win is an audience that’s engaged in what we’re all collectively doing together,” Ventimiglia said. “This is such a unique experience of love reflected amongst the group going outward to an audience that’s engaged and giving it back. The real gold statue is the audience.”
The cast and creative team also discussed some of season 2’s buzziest cliffhangers ahead of the panel, including fan theories revolving around who the mysterious “her” that future Randall and Tess refer to in the season 2 finale is. Some favorite fan-posited scenarios from the “This is Us” team include the idea that Randall’s wife Beth (Watson) is dead, or that Randall has lost some fingers (based purely on the observation that the future shot did not include Brown’s entire hand in the frame).
While Brown could not confirm or deny any of the circling rumors, he did give some insight into “her’s” identity and the timing of her unmasking.
“I can say nothing — otherwise I would ruin the surprise — except that the ‘her’ is indeed a her,” Brown told Variety on the red carpet. “It is a woman who is a part of our family, and it shall be revealed about halfway through the season.”
Jumping between timelines has become a staple for the generational drama. Previously announced new time periods that will be explored in season 3 include Rebecca (Moore) and Jack’s pre-marital relationship, Toby’s (Sullivan) troubled past and Jack’s stint in the Vietnam War.
But still, there is always more room for the plot to expand through time, and each actor has hopes for how their respective characters’ pasts, presents, and futures may eventually be filled in over the course of the series. Sullivan would like to see the show delve deeper into Toby’s childhood, while Watson is interested in the earlier pre-marital stages of Randall and Beth’s relationship, and Hartley is curious to see where Kevin ends up 10 or 20 years from now.
“Whenever we hear a great pitch from one of our writers, no matter where it is in time, we’re open to it,” said executive producer Isaac Aptaker.
The FYC event also featured a sneak peek from the Season 3 premiere — a clip showing the aftermath of Jack and Rebecca’s first date — as well as some casting news delivered by Ventimiglia: Michael Angarano will portray Jack’s little brother, Nicky, in the third season, which debuts on Sept. 25.