Though “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman claims to have not yet written a word of Season 3, he and the show’s writing team are deep into planning the story arcs and surprises in store.
Moments before Fogelman and the bulk of the show’s cast walked on stage for a panel held on Tuesday for the soon-to-be Emmy-voting members of the TV Academy, he had been filling them in on some of the twists ahead for the Pearson family.
“We get all the information that we want as a cast; he gives it to us,” boasted actor Justin Hartley, who plays Kevin on the family drama. “But it’s also [Fogelman] can’t contain himself.”
It’s true — Fogelman at times seemed eager to spill more secrets than he thought he should during the hour-long conversation, but his cast was there to make sure he didn’t overshare. Still, the producer did reveal a bit about what’s ahead for the family whose decades-spanning story still seems to have many chapters left to tell.
Beth will have a ‘showcase’ episode
Fans of Beth Pearson, rejoice. Randall Pearson’s beloved and scene-stealing wife, played by Susan Kelechi Watson, will have her moment in the sun next season with an episode focusing on her backstory.
“She’s going to get a showcase, and it’s going to be f—ing amazing,” Fogelman said.
Watson said preliminary plans are for the episode to explore Beth’s childhood with her three sisters and her big family living inside a small house.
…and Toby will too
Not only will the upcoming season explore Toby’s battle with depression, but viewers will learn more about his backstory as well.
Chris Sullivan joked: “Is it the same episode? We get to do a bank robbery or something — me and Beth?”
Kevin will be making his father proud
In addition to a new love interest — with Beth’s cousin — Kevin will go on a personal journey this season that will see the character making good on the promise he made to his dead father last season in a powerful scene, said Fogelman.
“You feel it in that performance, he’s going to find a way to make his father proud and I think you’re going to see a lot of that this season,” he said.
As for Kevin’s sobriety, Hartley said he’s “hopeful” his character can stay on a positive path.
“I think he has the tools to do that going forward and I think he knows how to use the tools.”
The identity of ‘her’ plays into the show’s ‘end game’
At the end of Season 2, “This Is Us” sent viewers into a tailspin with a monster tease involving Randall and his oldest daughter Tess.
In a scene taking place at least a decade in the future, Randall told his grown daughter cryptically and with an air of sadness that it was, “time to go see her.”
“I’m not ready,” she told him.
“Me neither,” he said.
In true “This Is Us” fashion, the identity of the person of which they were speaking was not made clear, but it certainly continues to be a point of speculation.
Sterling K. Brown, who appeared briefly via Skype as he was in New York City at the premiere of his film “Hotel Artemis,” offered this: “It sort of leads toward the end game of the show as a whole — not the season, per se — but the show as a whole.”
“And who you think the ‘her’ is, is probably not who it actually is,” he said. “In typical Fogelman style, it will throw you a bit of a curve. But it’s something you’ll see at the end of the show.”
Fogelman added that the time period teased in that scene will be explored to its full potential.
“I think people are going to be surprised by how we use that time [period]. It’s more than just [about] that one question,” he said. “If you jump cut from now to a family 15 years from now, things would have changed…there’s a lot more questions and answers than just that one.”
Over the course of the series, Fogelman said they plan on visiting other past and future timelines as well.
Asked if she would ever be subjected to old-age makeup for the sake of her character, Watson joked, “I prefer old age makeup to death.”
Creator Dan Fogelman already knows the end game of the whole series
For a show that deals with multiple timelines, storylines and child actors, nothing is more important than a solid plan. And Fogelman admitted that the writer’s are “pretty far out” in the long-term planning process.
“Our writers and I … know where it ends. We have a path for each season of the show,” he said. “We’ve always had a plan. We didn’t want to get stuck.”
In fact, he said, “I’ve actually already shot pieces of the final scene of the series.”
Not that the end is coming any time soon. “This Is Us,” which was renewed through Season 3 in 2017, remains one of TV’s top-rated programs. Fogelman warned, however, “despite any success it may or may not have, I don’t think this show will ever overstay its welcome.”
“We have a story to tell and we want to do this the right way,” he said.