Warning: The following contains spoilers for Tuesday’s This Is Us finale.
This Is Us put us on a real emotional rollercoaster in Tuesday’s season finale — then again, when doesn’t it? — flashing back to the highs of when Jack and Rebecca first met… and the lows of a huge fight between them that ultimately led to Jack moving out when the kids were teens.
“[Creator] Dan [Fogelman] had this idea very early on,” episode co-writer Elizabeth Berger revealed at a post-finale Q&A on Tuesday night. “We knew early on in the writing process that this finale was going to show the time that they met, and the separation. We tried to lay, along the way, little clues that we were going to build to this sort of emotional break.”
Milo Ventimiglia (Jack) remembers Fogelman cornering him and Mandy Moore (Rebecca) at a party and telling them about the finale: “People are gonna freak out! We’re gonna crush America!” And as difficult as it was to watch that vicious fight scene, both actors agreed that it was the most exciting scene for them to shoot. “You know you’re about to go down a deep, dark path… but you’re looking forward to it,” Ventimiglia says.
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In fact, the scene was so good, their costars — who weren’t even in the scene — showed up on set just to watch. “Susan [Kelechi Watson] and I were there,” Chrissy Metz (Kate) remembers. “We had snacks,” Watson (Beth) adds.
And we may be seeing more of Jack and Rebecca’s early dating days, when Jack was clean-shaven: Ventimiglia remembers the writers asking him, “‘How long does it take you to grow a mustache?’… They really liked the era of Jack and Rebecca having just met. So [they’re] asking me how much I like working in a fake beard.”
More highlights from the This Is Us post-finale Q&A:
* As you might imagine, it gets a little weepy sometimes in the This Is Us writers’ room. Episode co-writer Isaac Aptaker remembers when they started writing this season, Fogelman brought in people to share their tragic life stories with the writing staff: “It was so sad… we’re sobbing, sobbing, sobbing.” Berger agrees: “It was truly like group therapy. So many of the stories have come from that.”
* The This Is Us cast is one big happy family when the cameras stop rolling, too. Watson even has a nickname for Ventimiglia on set: “Papa Bear… Milo takes care of us, man.” Moore agrees: “If anyone has a question, they’re like, ‘I don’t know… but Milo would know!’… I thought I was a nice person until I met Milo.”
* Will Toby and Kate walk down the aisle in Season 2? “We might be hearing wedding bells,” Metz hints. But Chris Sullivan (Toby) cautions that the honeymoon period might be over: “I think they’re coming down from the dopamine, serotonin festival of falling in love… it’s about to get real.” He’s still pushing for Toby’s idea of them getting married in a water park, though: “So much can happen in a lazy river.”
* Crying for a solid hour each week is fun and all, but could we maybe lighten things up a bit in Season 2? The writers promise that next season will be a little less heavy. “We were talking to Dan today for a few hours about Season 2,” Berger says. “We kept pitching things, and then we kept saying: ‘Too sad!’ We want to find that balance, for sure.”
* Watson says Beth is supportive of Randall’s new career path: “I think she’s OK with him quitting his job. You know, the pears… he could’ve died!” But she does think Randall’s new push to adopt a baby “could be an issue… She was looking forward to a time in their life where she could start doing other things… She really wants to figure some things out for herself.”
* No one’s saying a word about how Jack dies — Kate still thinks it’s her fault, but we don’t know why — and Ventimiglia insists that question isn’t important anyway: “Let’s focus on how he lived.” But Sullivan wants to keep the suspense about Kate’s guilt going: “If we stretch out the reveal for seven or eight seasons, like that Neil Patrick Harris show, we can call it How I Killed My Father.”