Mandy Moore Says 'Nothing Is Off Limits' in 'This Is Us' Season 4

Jim Halterman
Fall Preview Jeff Lipsky/NBC

Mandy Moore was 14 when her life took a major turn. The aspiring singer was making a demo when a FedEx employee delivering to the recording studio overheard her. He took the demo to a contact at Epic Records, and she landed her first music deal.

"It changed my life, and here we are," the star of This Is Us says with a smile in her eyes. Acting came next and, flash-forward to the present (she's used to time-jumping, given her day job), she's nabbed her first Emmy nomination for playing compassionate matriarch Rebecca Pearson on the hit NBC drama. 

The tearjerker's third round left viewers with some major questions: Why was a weary eightysomething Rebecca resting in bed while her son Randall (Sterling K. Brown) introduced himself to her? Alzheimer's disease? Something else? "Our season opener will leave people with even more questions!" Moore promises.

Life changes drive Season 4. "Our family is embarking on new chapters," executive producer Dan Fogelman confirms. Pearson daughter Kate (Chrissy Metz) and husband Toby (Chris Sullivan) come home with a new baby.

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Randall and wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) move with their three girls to Philadelphia after switching careers. And newly single Kevin (Justin Hartley), the third of the Pearson siblings, "faces a big existential question, which is, 'Am I a good person and can I be a better person?'" Fogelman notes. (Jennifer Morrison, Omar Epps and M. Night Shyamalan also join the cast in yet-to-be-revealed roles.)

But now it's Mom's time, as Moore talks about her trick to playing older Rebecca and why singer and actress Bette Midler is her inspiration. 

(Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Did you always plan to pursue music and acting?

Mandy Moore: Music has always been the thing I've been most passionate about. But I knew that if I ever got my foot in the door, I definitely wanted to try my hand at acting. I was a nerdy theater kid — my biggest dream of dreams was to be on Broadway. I wanted to be Bette Midler. I recognized how unique she was.

Can we please see Rebecca sing again this season?

There perhaps will be a bit of music entering the equation again. I hope she finds it post-Jack's passing. [Milo Ventimiglia plays Rebecca's first husband.] It's so deeply ingrained in her fiber that I can't imagine it doesn't factor into her life down the road. 

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Where do things pick up for Rebecca and Jack in the timeline that explores their early relationship?

We find them back in Pittsburgh right after their California road trip [from] last season. They're figuring out, "Now what do we do? Are we going to be together?" He has to meet her family, right? It's the '70s, so it's young and carefree. 

In the present day, Rebecca and Kate tend to clash. How are they doing?

Things are fraught. Kate is a mother [now], and Rebecca and Miguel [her second husband, played by Jon Huertas] have moved to California and are in close proximity. I'm sure that is going to inflame some tensions at certain points, but I think Rebecca is also well versed in how to cautiously tiptoe around that situation.

(Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC) 

You made the choice to give older Rebecca arthritis, so you squeeze your wrist and hand when playing that age. How does that detail help you?

It's just something I do every now and then that I associate with her in that age. I do that before the cameras roll, and I'm immediately transported back.

Which one of Rebecca's ages is the scariest to play?

The time immediately after Jack's death. It's not the most difficult, but it wears on you [emotionally] the most. But it's also so fundamentally formative as to who this woman is. I'm excited to keep exploring that time period because it's also [the kids'] entrée into who they are as adults.

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'This Is Us' Cast on Kate's Future, Beth & Randall's Next Chapter and More in Season 4

Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia, and the rest of the Pearsons also preview a 'healthier' Kevin and Jack's 'darker side.'

If you could craft a story for Rebecca, what would you want to see happen?

I don't think any ideas from my brain could exceed what the writers are doing. The great thing about our show is nothing is off limits. 

By the way, congrats on your first Emmy nomination.

Thank you! I had my fingers crossed that the show would get recognized, but I was shocked to find out about my nomination. It's just insane to be a part of a show where [we are] even in the conversation.  

This Is Us, Season 4 Premiere, Tuesday, September 24, 9/8c, NBC