Last week, Hypable got the chance to attend Paleyfest and interview the This is Us cast on the red carpet before the pilot’s screening and panel discussion.
Starring everyone from Emmy-winner Sterling K. Brown to literal Disney princess Mandy Moore, This is Us is a who’s who of television (and teen star) royalty that’s captured the Internet’s collective heart with its trailer that’s now gone viral with over 8.6 million views.
This is Us has strong Parenthood vibes in the very best way, from its Gilmore Girls alumni to its intergenerational storytelling that will leave you smiling through your tears. From the writer of Crazy, Stupid, Love, this show has just as much heart and just as many delightfully unexpected twists as we follow four different story lines featuring four different people who all share the same birthday.
“It’s the best network pilot that I’ve read in fifteen years,” declared Sterling K. Brown at the Paleyfest panel after the pilot’s screening. “I could not be prouder to be a part of something that is such quality and has such inherent goodness.”
Of course, this kind of glowing review is typical of most actors toward their own network pilot, but for once, with This Is Us, the show not only lives up to its own hype — it supersedes it. The writing is spectacular and surprising. It is all at once genuine without being sappy, full of heart yet still achingly real.
The ambitious storytelling is made all the more outstanding by the remarkable acting talent headlining This Is Us — all of whom creator and executive producer Dan Fogelman revealed were the first choices to play their part.
Aughties darlings Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore shine in the pilot as expectant parents Jack and Rebecca. They both bring a loving warmth to their characters, and their familiar chemistry makes you instinctively want the best for them, even as their lives take heartbreaking turns.
Smallville veteran and the CW’s original Green Arrow Justin Hartley brings just the right amount of heart to humanize his character, Kevin — an actor who storms off the set of his sitcom on his 36th birthday. What could be perceived as a celebrity fit is instead shown to be an existential crisis of a man deeply unfulfilled with the relationships in his own life.
Chrissy Metz and Chris Sullivan star as Kate and Toby, a couple who meets at a support group for people who overeat. Their chemistry is sexy even through Kate’s initial insecurities, and though Kate’s weight struggles are an authentic part of her life, they don’t define who she is.
Rounding out the story lines is Sterling K. Brown as Randall, a man who on his thirty-sixth birthday decides to track down the long-lost father who abandoned him in front of a fire station at birth. Ron Cephas Jones brings gravitas to William, a man who we’re not always sure if we should forgive for his sins as a father.
So what is it exactly about this trailer and this initial premise that has already captured the nation’s heart? “Family,” according to Ron Cephas Jones. “I think a lot of people want to get back to this idea of family, in whatever form it might be. Some truths are being told, so I think that might be what’s resonating.”
Justin Hartley agreed when he told us, “I think it’s a unique show. I think when people watch the trailer even, they can really relate to some kind of pain that they’ve gone through in their own lives. If you’ve walked the face of this Earth, there’s a character here that you can relate to. And I think right now that’s what people are looking for.”
So what do the stars hope that people get out of the show as they begin to watch it week to week this fall? “I really hope that some part of them feels good,” said Susan Kelechi Watson, who plays Randall’s wife, Beth, “That you come away and feel challenged in some way.” Milo Ventimiglia went on to tell us, “I think we’re telling very human stories, and I think, I hope, I really believe that people can connect to them and find the happiness and the silver lining in their own lives in the tough times.”
Mandy Moore summed it up by saying, “I hope that people who watch the show are able to have some sort of cathartic experience. I hope that they’re moved. I hope that there’s some sense of therapy and resolution and feeling like, ‘Wow, I’m not an anomaly in this crazy journey of life.’”
This Is Us premieres tonight, Tuesday, September 20 at 10 p.m. on NBC. Bring the tissues.