This Is Us: Meet the 6 People Connected By One Birthday

Ingela Ratledge
This Is Us

Ron Batzdorff/NBC

For most people, turning 36 doesn’t represent a major milestone. But on This Is Us—NBC’s new dramedy from creator Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love and Galavant)—it proves to be a landmark event, as a group of characters who share the same birthday find themselves at individual crossroads.

That’s not the only thing they have in common: Before the credits roll on the premiere, their true connections will be revealed via a series of twists. “You realize at the end of the pilot that the show is not exactly what you think it is,” Fogelman says. (He signed the first script “M. Night Fogelman,” in a nod to the writer behind the famously jaw-dropping movie The Sixth Sense.)

And that’s merely the prelude. Fogelman promises more “big moments” in Episode 2 and beyond. Here’s a primer on the guest list for fall’s biggest surprise party.

Chris Haston/NBC

Mandy Moore

Where You’ve Seen Her Before
A Walk to Remember, as the voice of Rapunzel in the Tangled movies

She Plays
Rebecca, a radiant mom-to-be who’s expecting triplets with her hubby, Jack. “She’s deeply in love with her husband and excited for this next chapter,” Moore says. “Then, the delivery takes an unexpected turn.”

This Is Her
"It’ll be a relief when the show premieres, because there’s been so much talking around what happens,” says Moore. “I’m psyched for people to see it—with all the madness in the world, I’m really proud to be part of a show that’s inherently hopeful.”

Chris Haston/NBC

Milo Ventimiglia

Where You’ve Seen Him Before
Gilmore Girls, Heroes

He Plays
Jack, a devoted husband and first-time father who retains his positive outlook even in the wake of tragedy. “He’s just a good guy. He reminds me of my own father, and that made me want to walk in his shoes,” Ventimiglia says.

This Is Him
Like Jack, Ventimiglia does his best to make lemonade. “On a daily basis, life tries to crush us. You have to choose to be happy,” he says. As for his ultra-nice rep, both on screen and off? “I’ve always thought that it takes a lot of effort to be a jerk.”

This Is Us

Chris Haston/NBC

Susan Kelechi Watson

Where You’ve Seen Her Before
Louie, Blackout

She Plays
Beth, a laid-back working mom who gets thrown a major curveball when her husband, Randall, invites his long-lost birth father into the family fold. “They’re in this great groove, and all of a sudden it’s like this asteroid comes through the window,” Watson says.

This Is Her
Best known for her recurring role as Louis C.K.’s extremely no-nonsense ex-wife on Louie, Watson is excited to showcase another side. “It’s a really fun difference, because Beth is so invested in Randall.

Chris Haston/NBC

Sterling K. Brown

Where You’ve Seen Him Before
Army Wives, The People v. O.J. Simpson

He Plays
Randall, “a very type-A overachiever,” says Brown. “He has a beautiful family, a fancy car and a great big house—but he’s never known his birth father, and he’s haunted by that ghost.” That could change when the two men meet, but there’s a catch: His dad is terminally ill.

This Is Him
Brown’s Emmy-winning portrayal of Simpson prosecutor Christopher Darden was a career game-changer. “It does feel like I’m at a new stage,” he says. “I’m being asked my thoughts on things that no one seemed to care about before—the job description has shifted.”

Chris Haston/NBC

Chrissy Metz

Where You’ve Seen Her Before
American Horror Story

She Plays
Kate, a personal assistant who decides to finally tackle her lifelong struggle with her weight. She joins a support group, where she hits it off with a charmer named Toby (Chris Sullivan). Still, warns Metz, “She doesn’t quite believe in herself yet, so she’ll try to push him away.”

This Is Her
As Kate undergoes a physical and emotional transformation, so will Metz. “I knew going in that I’d be losing weight for this part, and it’s really wonderful having my life mirror my character’s. We’re both being exposed to the woes of dieting and exercise!”

Chris Haston/NBC

Justin Hartley

Where You’ve Seen Him Before
The Young and the Restless, Mistresses

He Plays
Kevin, a TV actor “whose heart outweighs his brain a little bit,” Hartley says. Case in point? Sick of being perceived as “abs and pecs and that’s it,” Kevin has an epic meltdown on the set of his sitcom—in front of guest star Alan Thicke! “Kevin doesn’t realize how nuclear he’s going,” Hartley says. “His journey will be figuring out what to do next.”

This Is Him
“I see so many similarities between myself and Kevin, it’s ridiculous,” Hartley says. “Going in for the audition, I remember thinking, ‘If there’s ever been one role that I was born to play, this is it.’”

< >