‘This Is Us’: Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore on Jack & Rebecca’s ‘Infinite’ Love
As heartbreaking as it was to lose Jack Pearson in Season 2 of This Is Us, we never really lost him – or his portrayer, Milo Ventimiglia – thanks to the magic of TV flashbacks. We also got to see Jack reunite with wife Rebecca (Mandy Moore) in the afterlife in the series’ penultimate episode, “The Train,” when the Pearson matriarch completed her final journey.
Fortunately, Kate (Chrissy Metz), who was out of the country when Rebecca took a significant downward turn, made it back in time to say goodbye to her mother. “As a viewer, as an actor, I was so grateful for that experience,” Moore told TV Insider at the This Is Us FYC (For Your Consideration) Emmy event at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles on May 22.
“I know not everyone gets to have that story,” the actress adds. “I can’t imagine the grief and guilt that comes along with that and how it goes hand-in-hand with losing someone.”
While Rebecca’s loved ones were saying goodbye to her in one reality, she was seen on a train in another one where she encountered family and friends including Dr. Nathan Katowski, played by Gerald McRaney. “You came through. You survived,” the good doctor told Rebecca, recalling the time she almost died in childbirth. “You survived just to lose a child. And then a husband. And still…what a thing you made of it all. What a big, messy, gigantic, spectacular thing. I said it to you once. I say it again. You’re as tough as they come Rebecca Pearson. And you, my dear, have earned a rest…Will you?”
“It makes me cry now,” Moore says. “That was the line that broke me the first time I read the script and [hearing it] in person was no exception. Gerald is such an extraordinary actor and person. I think that was the first time Rebecca reconciled what she was doing [on the train].”
The emotional pain of losing Rebecca was tempered with the fact that she was reunited with Jack. “Milo is the ultimate [acting] ‘partner-in-crime,’” Moore says with a smile. “I’m so grateful that [Jack and Rebecca] had that one last scene together and we, as actors, could be present and look at each other in the eye and appreciate it for what it was.”
Ventimiglia told TV Insider last month that any participation of his in future This Is Us potential series or reunion movies (yes, we are already asking for them) would be limited given that Jack passed away when the Big 3 were 17. However, in last week’s episode, viewers saw Jack in his final moments at the hospital when he interacted with a father of three named Kenny, played by Dulé Hill.
Ironically, Dr. Spencer (Bill Irwin) was busy saving Marcus (Jonigan Booth), Kenny’s son — who would grow up to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s — when Jack’s health took a sudden and fatal turn. “I don’t think you can put the blame on anybody in the case of Jack’s death — [not even] his neighbor that handed him the appliance that caused the fire. It was Jack’s time to go,” says Ventimiglia, who embraced the challenge of revisiting Jack’s last night on earth. “It was nice to step back into that moment.”
Both nice and seamless. “Director Ken Olin (thirtysomething) said to me, ‘Wow! I can’t believe how easily you slipped back into that moment we shot years ago,’” says Ventimiglia, adding, “Oh, yeah, I’m always present. I understand we bounce back and forth [in time] and I’m prepared to go wherever Jack needs to be. To play that scene with Dulé, whom I’ve been a fan of for a long time, was a lot of fun.”
Ventimiglia concurs with his TV wife that working together was always a joy. “Mandy and I didn’t have to go anywhere…we show up prepared with our lines [memorized] and we just look at each other in the eye and let these characters live,” he says. “That’s what it’s always been with us for six years.”
Moore and Ventimiglia’s scene on the train was unique in that it didn’t take place in the past or even, as he suggests, the present. “It was in the infinite,” the actor says. “That’s when it was. And there’s more to come. That’s what comes into play in the last episode.”
This Is Us, Series Finale, Tuesday, May 24, 9/8c, NBC