This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman and the cast of his NBC dramedy took the stage at the ArcLight Hollywood on Wednesday night to look back at highlights of season 1 — but a tantalizing hint or two about season 2 leaked out as well.
When moderator (and PEOPLE and EW editorial director) Jess Cagle asked Fogelman to offer up a morsel of information about season 2, Fogelman indicated the fall premiere will address more of the how-did-Jack-die mystery, which was left hanging at the end of last season.
“The first episode of the season holds not all the answers but a huge piece of the puzzle,” Fogelman said during the panel, a For Your Consideration event before next month’s Emmys nominations. Fogelman said the question about Jack’s death will be answered “over the course of the season.” But, he noted, “that’s not to say new questions won’t start being asked.”
Fogelman revealed he doesn’t read everything written about the show on the internet — which is littered with many theories about how Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) met his maker — but his writers do, and he has “not quite seen anybody in the vicinity of being right.” Earlier in the panel, he explained that the plan was never to reveal all the circumstances of how and when Jack died early on in the show’s run, and that he “never in a million years expected that this chaos about Jack’s death would still be going on at this point.”
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For those wondering when Kate (Chrissy Metz) and fiancé Toby (Chris Sullivan) might tie the knot, perhaps it’s best to take the couple their word: toward the end of season 1, the Kate and Toby said they were going to slow down their march to the altar. Asked if the wardrobe department has come to fit Metz for a wedding dress, the actress teased, “I don’t know, Chris, have they?” before saying, “No.” (Sullivan joked that he was the one being fitted for a wedding dress.) “I sort of don’t want to rush in — I think that Toby and Kate have a long way to go to really get to know each other, and to know themselves,” continued Metz. “They don’t just want to step into a marriage.”
“We got a long to go – like four or five seasons to go, at least,” added a deadpan Sullivan. “That heart problem I know is a shot across my bow. And I know, it’s like, ‘Know your place. Because like that, I can take you out.’ So, I’ll be good.” Chimed in Ventimiglia: “Sully, don’t worry, death is okay. On this show, death is okay.”
During the panel — which was followed by a musical performance by star Mandy Moore (Linda Rondstadt’s “Willin’”) and guest-star Brian Tyree Henry (“We Can Always Come Back to This”), backed by TIU composer Siddhartha Khosla — Fogelman also discussed the inspirations for each character. He sees his late mother in Moore’s portrayal of Rebecca (sometimes so much that “the hair on my arm stands up”). The producers did not initially envision Jack “as dreamy and handsome” as Ventimiglia, but the actor won them over when he showed up at his meeting with his long hair, beard, and motorcycle jacket and helmet. Meanwhile, Dr. K (Gerald McRaney) was designed to be “the doctor you wish you always would have but never get,” Fogelman explained. “If I had something wrong with me, I’d probably go to Mac.”
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In other news, it was revealed that Susan Kelechi Watson, a.k.a. Beth, begged Fogelman not to kill the beloved, now-late William (Ron Cephas Jones). Fogelman remembered being wowed by her delivery of Beth’s big speech to William in episode 2. “I remember going down to set that day and I said, ‘Oh, we gotta start writing more — for her.’” Speaking of speeches, Justin Hartley (Kevin) chose the Manny meltdown as the monologue that was the most fun for him to do, and he found inspiration from his own resume. “If you look me up on the IMDb, I kind of got it,” he quipped, Also, Ventimiglia’s naked butt scene from the pilot was discussed — “I’m just glad for once it was a man and it wasn’t the woman,” joked Moore — and Sterling K. Brown touched on the challenge of shooting Randall’s emotional deathbed scene with William the day after filming his breakdown scene with Kevin. “They’re trying to destroy me,” joked Brown, “they’re trying to suck every tear out of my body.”
Fans will likely be saying the same thing again when This Is Us returns for season 2 this fall.