Even before This Is Us premiered on NBC on September 20, 2016, an estimated 70 million people had watched the drama’s trailer online. They, along with the critics, sensed that this show was special.
The series spotlights the Pearson family; parents Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore), their African American son Randall (Sterling K Brown) and their twins Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Kate (Chrissy Metz).
The story of the Pearson clan jumps around in time from their birth to present day and all the years in between. It is the breakthrough hit of the season, and NBC has just renewed the series for two more years.
Sterling K Brown, Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley came to the TV Critics tour to talk about their phenomenally successful series.

You three have a great chemistry onscreen. What kind of bonding experience did you have and how do you nurture it?

This Is Us, 111 - Justin Hartley
This Is Us, 111 “The Right Thing to Do” – Kevin Pearson (Justin Hartley) ©2016 NBCUniversal, photo by Ron Batzdorff

Justin: It’s hard for me to explain. I just love them. I truly do. Chrissy and I hit it off right away.

We have a lot in common. And Sterling is one of the greatest humans I’ve ever met. He’s also funny and strong, which is kind of annoying. (They all laugh).

Chrissy: I think it was just instant.

Sterling: Dan and our producers did a wonderful job of assembling a really beautiful group of people. Talented, but people who care about the work and care about each other.

It’s really easy…

  • We all like to laugh
  • We all enjoy life
  • We talk about everything that’s going on in the world

It’s really a family.

Sterling, were you surprised that Dan added the black baby in the pilot?

This Is Us, 113 - Sterling K Brown
This Is Us, 113 “Three Sentences” – Randall (Sterling K Brown) ©2016 NBCUniversal, photo by Ron Batzdorff

Sterling: I’ll ask him things like, ‘How did you come up with that? Did you read an article?’ And he’s like, ‘No, just had an idea for a story, and I started writing.’

He just allows his imagination to run, without censoring himself. Then after he writes it, he sees if he can actually do something with it.

It’s fascinating to me because I don’t have that jumping-off point. But every time we look at the scripts, it’s like, ‘How are you coming up with this?’

Justin, you are playing Kevin, an actor who is considered too attractive to be talented. Did you find any special kinship with that?

Justin: I knew that was coming. (he laughs) Unfortunately, yes. We put people in boxes, not just in this business. People want to label everything.

What’s been really great for me is that there are a lot of parallels. I’ve never been given this kind of material that Dan and his whole team give all of us.

It’s cathartic for me too. It’s just been a wonderful experience.

Chrissy, you have the opportunity to tell a story with this show that we don’t often see on television. What does that mean to you about being the one who gets to do it?

This Is Us, 113 - Chrissy Metz
This Is Us, 113 “Three Sentences” – Kate (Chrissy Metz) ©2016 NBCUniversal, photo by Ron Batzdorff

Chrissy: I feel incredibly lucky. I don’t know how many plus size women who are starring in a television show on a network.

It’s being seen by so many people who are affected by being overweight. Or even if they are different in some capacity, whether it’s their status or their race, anyone who feels discrimination, can really relate to the character.

I’m not exactly like Kate, but I’m a lot like Kate. Women and men have reached out to me. So it’s a sense of responsibility, and I’m grateful for that because I hope to bring hope.

This Is Us Soundbyte

I asked Sterling, Chrissy and Justin how close they are to the children who play their roles, and if watching their scenes helped them as actors, because they are seeing their characters’ childhood come to life.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.