The Knockturnal spoke to stars of ‘This is Us’ Mandy Moore, Sterling Brown and Milo Ventimiglia about the show, as well as creator and pilot scribe Dan Fogelman.
What attracted you to the show?
Mandy Moore: I read the script and it was a no brainer to me. It felt like really elevated material to network television. I’m a big fan of Dan and a big fan of John and Glenn so the opportunity to work with them long term on a series was such an exciting concept.
Sterling Brown: First and foremost was the script. I was still shooting The People Vs. OJ at the time and this script came across my desk and I read it from cover to cover and I knew this was one of the best network dramas I’d read in the past 15 years. I knew Dan Fogelman’s work and my wife and I are enamored with Crazy, Stupid, Love. I had just worked with John and Glenn, who are the directors of the pilot, on Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and I was beyond stoked. We had this meeting for five or six minutes about how wonderful this piece of writing was. Having the opportunity to audition for him was a dream come true. It was one of the first times in my life as a professional actor that I knew I had some kind of a job before the job I was working on was finished. Which is all good.
Milo Ventimiglia: I read an amazing script by Dan Fogelman. I fell in love with the script and the character Jack. It was just one of those things where you pinch yourself and wonder if you are this lucky to get a shot to be around as great a room. I am this lucky to be pulled into the group for This is Us. To have Dan Fogelman at the helm and to have the amazing Sterling Brown and Mandy Moore and Justin Hartly and Chrissy Metz and Michael Sullivan among others. It’s such a nice moment knowing amazing stories can be told especially on Network television.
Can you speak about collaborating with Dan, what you admired about him as both a producer, writer and creator?
MM: Considering we’ve only shot one episode I love how involved and engaged he is in the whole process. The project means a lot to him. You can tell. His involvement on set, whether it’s feeding you a line or being involved in every aspect of the show, the look, the costumes. It feels good to know we are in good hands. Knowing what he has planned out for the next 12 episodes, it is so layered. He’s so diversely talented. He can write any genre. He’s a real talent. We are lucky to have him.
MV: I think his writing is inclusive. There is a trend where people want to be exclusive with what they write and that narrows the audience. What Dan accomplishes as a writer is making sure anyone can be the audience. It doesn’t matter gender, race, age. His writing is accessible to everyone. It’s a valuable time to have something like that where an audience can watch it and be a large audience.
Give us a teaser for your character.
MM: I play Rebecca. She’s pregnant with triplets in the pilot. She’s at a really interesting crossroads and juncture in her life. Becoming a mother to three children all at once is overwhelming. It’s obviously a high risk pregnancy so she’s nervous about the labor and the delivery and how that’s going to go. It’s hard to say beyond that.
MV: Jack is a loving husband. Excited to be a father. He is a hopeful man who, if he sees a problem he fixes it. He sees the best in a situation and he’s always striving and fighting for that. He loves his wife. He’s excited about his new kids. He’s excited to raise kids with new values.
The cast is so strong. Can you speak about being a part of that?
MM: I’m the luckiest girl. Between Milo, who I get to work with, and most of the show. Sterling, Chrissy, Justin, it’s such an incredible cast. Once you see the pilot you see everyone’s individual stories. There are such strong performances and they are so compelling. It’s the reason the trailer is resonating with everyone. There is an extenuating circumstance everyone relates to for some reason or another. You’ll see and understand that more once you see the first episode.
SB: Everyone’s fantastic. There are four separate storylines that are happening and don’t converge into the end of the pilot and I can’t go into. It’s got something that everybody can relate to. There’s a character who’s struggling with her weight. A young man who’s struggling with his job. My character is looking to reconnect with his biological father. We have a young couple who is entering parenthood by having triplets. Everyone is having these crazy things going on in their life and they have a connection that’s not readily apparent, but you find out through the course of the show. Unlike OJ where everyone has huge recognition, a lot of us are coming up and coming into our own right now. Hopefully America will get a chance to meet some people to fall in love with and ride the next few years with us, God willing.
Dan Fogelman: I got my dream cast. Every single actor in the show. When you do what I do sometimes you want someone for the show and you can’t get them. Sometimes the network isn’t that into the actor. In this case I got my first choice with every actor. Because they all wanted to do it, they all came and read the script with us. As opposed to showing up on day one, I got to see them all do it. It was an exceptional experience. Sometimes it all comes together in the right way, this one did.
Speak about working with Mandy.
MV: Mandy’s incredible. Mandy is one of the most talented and giving women I’ve shared the stage with. She challenged me to bring my A-game because she’s that good. Thank God she is my TV wife. I’m so happy about it.
You’re more known for your TV work than film work. What is it about TV that keeps drawing you in?
MV: I never differentiate. Acting is acting. Right now there is a golden era for television where we are getting a lot of talent that are a part of that zeitgeist of wanting to tell stories. For me it’s an exciting time for television. I love the fact that you don’t’ have to pay for a premium platform to get an A+ quality show.
What inspired the show, as the creator?
DF: I wanted to write a show about people. People I know and people I love. I’m turning 40 now but I wanted to write about the experience I was going through while I was writing it, so it’s all these characters turning 36 years old. It was one of those things where sometimes you sell TV shows based off an idea. I was like no, I’m going to just write a show about people and interesting people and it turned into this thing. It’s the same thing that happened when I wrote the movie Crazy Stupid Love. I didn’t know how to explain what this movie was. I was trying to write a movie about people and people who fall in love. That doesn’t sound like a good idea but when it works it works.
What is your writing process like? Is it different for TV and film?
DF: I drink a lot of bourbon. I lock myself in a room. My wife gets mad at me. I write very quickly but very rarely. TV and film are the same. I get an idea. I sit on it a while and then I say I’m going to go away and write it.
Its series premiere is Tues. Sept. 20 10/9c.
Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC