'This Is Us' : Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore and Cast Talk 'Wonderful and Complete' Series Finale

"We're doing work that we're really proud of and that moves people ... to be a part of something like that, it's so once-in-a-lifetime," Mandy Moore says of her time on This Is Us

Warning: This article contains spoilers from the series finale of This Is Us.

The time has come to bid farewell to the Pearson family.

Tuesday's series finale of This Is Us finally answered all questions as the Pearsons grappled with the aftermath of the death of matriarch Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore). As with many episodes, the final one flashed back and forth between the present and the past.

In the flashback, the Pearson family spent a rare, free Saturday afternoon together. Because young Kevin (Parker Bates) and young Randall (Lonnie Chavis) were hesitant to spend time with their family, the day's activities were decided upon by young Kate (Mackenzie Hancsicsak).

After spending the day drawing with chalk, watching home videos and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) adorably teaching Randall and Kevin how to shave, the family began a game of pin the tail on the donkey. During the game, in which Kate perfectly pinned the donkey's tail, the group was reminded of the importance of the little things as Kate sweetly revealed that as long as she knew where her siblings were, she will always know where she is going.

This Is Us
Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mandy Moore as Rebecca. Ron Batzdorff/NBC

That message traveled into present day, with the family gathered for Rebecca's funeral. As Randall (Sterling K. Brown) struggled with what to say in his mom's eulogy, Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) quietly processed the heartbreaking loss.

The finale also saw Deja reveal to Randall that she and longtime boyfriend Malik were expecting a baby boy — something that Randall was beyond thrilled to hear — and the Big Three each shared how they planned to honor their mom's life by living their lives to the fullest.

For Kate, she said she planned to open more music schools for the visually impaired, Kevin intended to continue his non-profit work, and Randall revealed that he would likely attend the Iowa Caucuses in hopes of running for president. Kate also revealed that she was fearful she would "drift" from her brothers now that their mom was gone, but Kevin reassured her it would never happen and they would always "drift after" her.

Finally, fans were taken back to the train, where Rebecca rested on the bed next to Jack. In an emotional exchange, Rebecca revealed she was scared to leave her family behind, but Jack promised her that she will always be with them — and with that, she grabbed his hand and joined him in the afterlife.

With the series now officially wrapped, the cast, as well as creator Dan Fogelman, talk to PEOPLE about the final episode, what message they hope audiences walk away with and what they will miss most about the NBC series.

This Is Us
Justin Hartley as Kevin, Chrissy Metz as Kate, Sterling K. Brown as Randall. Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Mandy Moore

PEOPLE: What has it meant to play Rebecca Pearson and what will you miss most?

Mandy Moore: I'm gonna miss my friends the most. I will miss the work obviously, but my friends and this experience, it will never be this way again. In terms of Rebecca, [I'll miss] everything. I get to play the ultimate mother who's still human and who still makes mistakes but I think there's so much to learn from her. And even the choices she makes that I don't often agree with or often agree with. All of it, I feel like I'm a little less prepared for life because I don't get to keep playing this woman.

You've had some of your strongest performances in the last few episodes, and fans have been petitioning for you to get an Emmy. What do you think about their support?

That is so kind. That is beyond my wildest comprehension. I'm very, very flattered. I'm just flattered that our show is still in the conversation after 106 episodes, that we're in the conversation with all these other fancy shows that have limitless budgets that make eight or 10 episodes per year, and we're making 18 and doing work that we're really proud of and that moves people. We're giving them permission to feel their emotions and to cry and talk about their lives. And to be a part of something like that, it's so once in a lifetime and that's what I take away from all of this.

What message do you hope fans take away from the finale episode?

I hope they don't just look at the bigger picture but they allow themselves to celebrate the smaller things and the smaller victories in life. I think sometimes that gets overlooked. Even a show like ours, I think people sometimes pigeonhole us as the "super emotional show" and I think it's just as much about the balance of levity and laughter, and I think we bring a lot of that and I hope that people are able to recognize that and celebrate that in their own life.

This Is Us
Chrissy Metz as Kate beside a photo of Mandy Moore as Rebecca. Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Milo Ventimiglia

PEOPLE: What did you think about the finale episode and the way the show came to an end? Did it feel satisfying? Did you want to see something different happen?

Milo Ventimiglia: No, Dan Fogelman has always given us what we need to perform and make these characters so full for the experience of the audience, and when I read that last episode, it was no different from when I read the first or read the 22nd or read the 40th or 60th or 80th — they're all the same. He and the writers always deliver on the promise of great stories — and knowing where he was gonna go with this, knowing that we shot a lot of this years ago, and then being able to tie it all together, it was just wonderful and complete.

What do you hope the audience takes away from the finale?

I [hope they] continue the conversation of what the show represents — finding common ground with people that are different and understanding that we have our experiences to live, but other people have their experience to live too, and we should hopefully give people love and show people love and hopefully it'll be showered back on us. And that hope of what happens when we move on in life and where we go and the appreciation of life. It's so fragile and it moves so quick, and it can be gone in a heartbeat or take a lot of time, but I think really living a full complete life.

This Is Us
La Trice Harper as Deja, Sterling K. Brown as Randall. Ron Batzdorff/NBC

In the final scene, we see young Randall looking on at Jack, and Jack watching the rest of his family. In your opinion, what was the significance of that shot?

I think it's always been the messaging where these kids have looked at their dad in a different lens, but they've gotten everything they need from not only from their dad, but from their mom and from their parents — and I think that understanding and whether you know it or not, as a 10-year-old boy or 11- or 12-year-old boy ... knowing that you may not understand it, but if you look back and remember how you felt in a certain moment, then you can understand it. So what I think Rebecca and Jack had given their kids and moved them forward, whether it was to Randall or Kevin or Kate, I think they were important lessons that imprint on you as a human being, and as you go through life and your experiences, you start to uncover the meaning of it and I think it's a wonderful thing.

What are you going to miss most about Jack Pearson?

Oh god, his king fashion sense, especially when he's in his 50s. Those wide-wale pants were so comfortable. I like that Jack felt like an attainable superhero. I like that he was someone any man could be. In his flaws, in his shortcomings, he still did his best to show the ones that he loved how much they meant to him and give them everything they need to go forward and have happy lives. I think he was inspiration to a bunch of great fathers and great husbands, and [he embodied] something we needed to see out of men.

This Is Us
Sterling K. Brown as Randall, Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth, Justin Hartley as Kevin, Alexandra Breckenridge as Sophie. Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Chris Sullivan

PEOPLE: How did you react to the finale episode? Does it feel satisfying?

Chris Sullivan: Yeah, I think so. With the show's ending — when you come to a story, you're kind of joining a character midway through their story, and then you travel with them for six seasons, and then you let them go. And that story continues, in our minds and in our hearts and in our imaginations. And so all of that goes on. So the character is not done, I'm just done inhabiting him.

Does that mean we'll get to see a return of Toby somewhere down the line?

Oh jeez, I doubt it. I doubt it. But Toby is the closest character I've ever played to myself so you'll see a little bit of Toby in everything I do for the rest of my life probably.

We know Toby moves on, but he and Kate share a sweet exchange in the finale that almost offers a glimmer of hope at a possible rekindling. Do you think that's a possibility? Was that the intention?

No, we were joking with Dan on set about that. We're like, "Oh, Dan! Is this the wink? Is this the wink?" No, they are inextricably bound because of the life they have shared together and they are incredible friends and incredible co-parents and that's it for them. [The love and support] doesn't have to go away. That can still exist even if they're no longer in a relationship.

What are you going to miss the most about the show?

Just being with these people. They're the most incredible actors that this industry has to offer. Not just in our cast but in the guest actors that would come on — the Dulé Hills, the Michael O'Neills, they're legends in the industry. It was just enjoyable every day to work.

This Is Us
Chris Sullivan as Toby, Chrissy Metz as Kate. Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Dan Fogelman

PEOPLE: How does it feel finally having the final episode out there?

Dan Fogelman: For me, personally, it's gonna take me a moment to process that this thing is over and the feeling of completion. I'm still so in it, and I'm anxious about showing it to people, although I'm confident in it. I kind of just want it to be over. My wife and I are gonna go lay on a beach for a while after this is done next week. And I think at that point, I'm gonna start doing some real reflection and real "Hey, we did something and I'm happy of how it turned out." We've had a lot of celebrations, I've been out with the cast and crew and a lot of speeches and a lot of drunken dinners, but when you're the person in charge, you don't always get to be present inside of them all, and I think it's really gonna take me a moment to really find that.

The finale felt very Randall-centric. Was that the intention? What went into that decision?

No, I don't think that was the intention. I find the last episode personally very centered on two groups of people: I find it centered on Jack and Rebecca, and I find it centered on those three siblings together. Obviously, Randall has the big piece of information coming about having a grandson. For me, there was never a real focus on what it's about, we just wrote a story. In retrospect, the show is always a lot about my mom, and I didn't realize it at the time. I think the show is a lot about losing a parent and eventually both parents. In many ways, Randall represents the Big Three. In some of the final moments of the show, he's got a big storyline where he's having a grandson, and he's the one watching his father at the end of the episode, and he becomes the symbol for, I think, all three siblings of, "This is what we carried forward from our parents long after they've left the picture," so in that regard, you're right.

The cast of This Is Us. Joe Pugliese/NBC

I've always read that the show was about your mom. That wasn't a conscious decision on your part?

It wasn't. My mom died in 2008, and the show I wrote probably in about 2014. And it was probably one of the first things I had written, along with two other things, that were really the first fresh, new, start-from-scratch things I wrote subsequent to my mom's death. As an adult, I was then engaged to my wife, I was becoming a grown up and I never sat and consciously thought, Oh, I'm writing this thing about my mom or for my mom. It kind of came after a little bit, and that's happened on a few projects for me. I think now with this one and this finale, I'm ready to put that down for a moment.

What will you miss most about This Is Us?

The people, which sounds like an obvious, cliché thing to say. It makes me sad, the only thing that makes me catch in my throat. It's not about the television show or the success of it. I've really enjoyed working with the people I've spent every day with for the last six years, and that's what you miss with any job that you've really loved.

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