Awards Daily TV’s Jazz Tangcay talks to This Is Us star Mandy Moore about the smash network hit: “I can’t believe people let the twist unfold in real time.”
All season long, NBC’s This Is Us had over 15 million of us tuning in every Tuesday to find out what was happening in the lives of Jack and Rebecca Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore) and their children: Randall, Kate, and Kevin. The new drama from Dan Fogelman succeeded not just on TV but also on social media as viewers took to Facebook and Twitter to weep and express their love for the show.
The season’s finale had us hooked. It took us back to the early days of Jack and Rebecca’s first meeting but then threw us with an ending showing the emotional crack in their relationship. It left us wondering if that marked the beginning of the end for this season’s favorite TV couple.
And yes, that Mandy Moore. The same Mandy Moore who sang the 1999 hit, Candy, plays the family matriarch Rebecca, portraying the character through her 30s and into present day in her 60s. That transformation took hours of make-up and preparation as I found out when I caught up with Moore just after she had spent the morning on the Emmys FYC Deadline panel with her co-stars. This Is Us is kicking up some serious Emmy buzz this fall, including its star Mandy Moore.
How are you finding all of this Emmy campaigning?
It doesn’t feel any different than anything else that we do for the show. I’m happy to talk about the job and the work, we’re all really proud of what we get to do.
I remember seeing the show, way back.
Way back in September! Ages ago.
Everyone went crazy for the show, right off the bat.
I can’t believe people let the twist unfold in real time. So many people saw the pilot before the show aired to the world, and nobody really let the cat out of the bag. It’s so impressive.
I find that with this. I never see anyone spoil it.
I love it. That’s so nice and people are very kind.
You and Dan worked together on Tangled. Now, you’re working together on This is Us, how has that relationship changed since then?
We didn’t really know each other. He wrote the movie, but when you’re working on an animated film, there’s not a ton of interaction with the writer. He was around in the booth, but most of my interaction was with the director. So, when I read the script, I thought, “Oh Dan. I know him from back in the day.” But it wasn’t where we had that relationship where I could ask him for a part.
I read it, and was floored, and wanted to be a part of it. I need to play this character.
Here we are. What’s it like for you? With This Is Us, you shoot from episode to episode and you go from present day Rebecca, and you’re jumping around?
It’s a dream. How many opportunities within acting do you get to play the character from 23-66, it’s beyond my comprehension and I am so grateful. I love it.
Initially, the prospect felt really daunting and overwhelming. I got an email from Dan before we started shooting season one. He said, “I have this crazy idea, that maybe you can play this character present day, we’ll age you, get this amazing wig, and prosthetics. If the producers don’t 100% buy it, We’ll do the best possible casting and find a present day version of this character, but I really want you to try it first.” I was completely game. I had no idea this would be in the cards for me. I just thought I’d be playing Rebecca and jumping around as much as they could stretch it, as in her late 40s.
The initial hair and makeup test we did I looked about 85. Then I looked 55, and we finally found a happy medium in between. We did five or six different tests, and now it takes between 3-4 hours to put everything on.
When you go to work, what’s a typical day like for you?
I start in hair, and they put my wig cap on, and I’ll go down to make up. We’re all there four hours before everyone else. I’ll be called in before Chrissy, and Chrissy will have a scene before I’m even done. She’ll come in, do hair and makeup, and shoot her scene, and be done before I go on camera.
I went on social media and mentioned I was interviewing you today and people want to know…
How Jack dies?
[Laughs] No. What’s your favorite Jack and Rebecca moment?
That’s a good one. I really like the pool. That felt like early days for us. It was a lighter episode. I loved later in the season when he brings us back to our first apartment and does that whole romantic gesture. There are so many.
You mentioned how he dies, but you know I was poking around. There is a lot of fanfiction out there about Jack and Rebecca. Do you read it at all?
I did not know, and I have not dipped my toe into that world. It’s not for me. I think we just keep our heads down.
Rebecca is such a great character, and that’s something I love about her. She’s so wonderful, and we’re learning so much about her. For example, in that last episode, would you eventually like her to achieve her dream?
Yes. Poor woman. When she was a young woman going after her dream, none of her friends took it seriously and wrote it off. Later in life, to find out that to her husband, it’s a joke, essentially to him. She doesn’t have anyone in her corner, but Ben, who then betrays her and makes it not possible to not go on the road.
She can’t find her footing. I hope for her sake she does discover and has one moment of realizing that dream. I don’t think she has any illusions that she’s going to be Carly Simon or Janis Joplin, I think she wants a taste of it. I think that’s where her desire to go on the road is sparked from.
I hope she finds that. I hope she and Jack work out their differences and I hope she and Jack find themselves on the same page again too.
You haven’t started filming Season 2 yet?
I have a tiny bit of an idea, but I don’t.
Do you do table reads?
We only did three or four. Once we started, one episode rolls into the next. There’s no downtime. We started at the end of July and went through to the middle of February with no other breaks aside from Christmas.
We’d get the scripts three or four days before we started shooting. As we went on, I’d say, “Please give us some idea of what we’re doing. Am I in old age prosthetics? Am I not? What time period are we in?” [Laughs] You want to invest in the work and want to do the best you can.
You’re still working on that last episode where you’re with the kids, who are 8-years-old. The next episode, they’re 16, and that means I know this much more about my life.
What’s that like for you emotionally and having to fill in the gaps?
I thrive off of that. I love it.
Would you like to direct?
I don’t right now. Maybe as the show goes on, and I’m more comfortable with how episodes unfold, that would be in the cards.
So, you’re between seasons. What else do you have in the cards?
I’m going to do a small part in a film. I want to relax and sleep and just refill my gas tank of emotions.
Is it emotionally draining for you as it is for the fans to go on this incredible journey with these characters?
I think for all of us it is. You throw so much of your own lives into these characters. It’s through the lens of these characters and you have to bring your stuff to the table. It’s emotionally draining to watch, film and to be a part of. [laughs].