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This Is Us Secrets! The Show Was Nearly a Movie — About Octuplets!

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Believe it or not, the Big Three were once meant to be the Great Eight!

In an exclusive First Look at emmy magazine‘s June cover story on NBC’s breakout drama This Is Us, creator Dan Fogelman reveals he originally wrote around 80 pages about the Pearson family in 2015 with the intention that of telling their story on the big screen.

Instead of the twist fans saw at the end of the series’s pilot, the Crazy, Stupid, Love writer says, “There was going to be a reveal at the end [of the movie] that they were octuplets born in the late ’70s or early ’80s.”

Maarten DeBoer

Fogelman soon realized it would be a challenge to fit what he had in mind into the confines of a one-off movie, saying in hindsight, “The reason I was struggling with [the film] wasn’t the plot; it was about these characters and how I didn’t want to ‘beginning-middle-and-end’ them. I wanted to do this continuous story — which felt very much like the theme of the show.”

Maarten DeBoer

And in the two years since the show was first just a gleam in Fogelman’s eye, the continuous story of the real world outside of the Pearson’s lives has offered up its own twists, including cultural and political shifts to which executive producer Ken Olin to partially attribute the show’s success.

“I don’t know whether This Is Us would have been the same kind of success at a time when people felt safer,” says Olin, who’s best known for starring on the ’80s series thirtysomething. “I think there’s a great need for a humanist sensibility and a voice for hope. And not schmaltzy hope. [This Is Us] is saying that we can see life for as difficult and sad as it can be at times and still find decency, honor and truth.”

Maarten DeBoer

Star Sterling K. Brown feels fans’ thirst for those qualities almost daily as viewers of all stripes and leanings approach him to praise This Is Us.

“There will be black men my age who are very thankful for the representation, older people, younger people, gay, straight, transgender,” he notes. “[I’ve had] conversations across the board, talking about how this show is something special, that it’s entertainment and edification, but it’s also healing in a very beautiful way at a time in our country when things seem incredibly divisive. I feel like everybody — Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, what have you — can enjoy the subject.”

FROM PEN: Chrissy Metz Talks About Her Weight Loss Journey Mirroring her ‘This Is Us’ Characters

Fogelman agrees, “As divided as the world is, the human experience doesn’t change that much.”

Maarten DeBoer

Breakout star Chrissy Metz, whose character Kate was inspired by Fogelman’s overweight sister and who has become a beacon of body positivity thanks to the show, has also seen the positive impact her character has had on lives in the real world.

“I can’t go anywhere without somebody saying something,” she shares. “A woman told me that the show has created a dialogue between her and her daughter, who never spoke about her weight, and she started crying and I started crying. Others say, ‘Can I just hug you?’ It’s about so much more than just acting.”

This Is Us returns to NBC this fall.