In the more than 20 years I’d been in the business, Mandy had been in the business just as long, and we’d never met when we did our chemistry read for “This Is Us.” In our first meeting it felt like she was bringing something out of my performance that nobody else was doing, and I think I was doing that with her.
The day that we met I was meeting with a couple of different women who might play Rebecca on the show. There were a bunch of us in the waiting room, and I introduced myself to everybody, but Mandy and I didn’t talk a whole lot. I didn’t want to distract her or anyone else, and audition rooms are sometimes nerve-wracking or challenging, but what I saw in Mandy was this intense focus but yet this kind-hearted human being that was bursting at the seams with warmth.
Once we got in the room and we were reading scenes together, it just felt natural. We were playing husband and wife of five years, expecting kids, and there’s an intimacy with that, and even in the room that very first time, I would say to her, “I’m going to put my face in your neck, is that OK? I’m going to have my hand on your back, is that OK?”
It’s always about communication. For Mandy and I, if we ever come to difficult times in a scene, character-wise or even just a difference of approach, one thing we’ve always done since the beginning is just turn to each other and say, “What do you think?”
Her process is as simple as mine, and I think that’s what really bonded us in the beginning. You do the homework, show up and see what happens on set — and [are] not afraid to dance.
I think a lot of actors try to get a performance out of you that folds into what they were thinking up for themselves, but Mandy shows up ready to go and try new things and also has the confidence to say, “No, this is what I think.” She has her power within how she approaches the work and she’s not afraid to show it.
Her Walk of Fame honor is a validation of a talent that has always been there. It’s an affirmation of good artists that are out there. As celebrated as the show is and Mandy is nowadays, I know she’s had more difficult times in the business, but she has dug in a little deeper and now people are finally recognizing what she’s really capable of.