‘This Is Us’ Director Catherine Hardwicke Shares Behind-the-Scenes Secrets

This Is Us The Cabin Big Three
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Famed filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke has tackled many complicated projects including the big-budget smash Twilight and the Biblical tale The Nativity Story. But it’s the NBC time-jumping drama This Is Us, of which she’s directed two episodes, that she calls “mind-blowing” for the way the Emmy-winning series follows the Pearson family through several decades in their lives, with different actors portraying the same characters in different time periods.

“As a director, you’re trying to find that connection, so that it really does feel [like] the same person but the younger version, even though of course we change as we grow up,” Hardwicke tells TV Insider. “They’ve done a fascinating job of casting the actors, and as the show goes on, the actors all start, in some ways, to do a mind meld.”

But because the actors playing these characters at different ages don’t interact on-screen, “it’s up to the director to find that continuity and find those connections,” she says. “This Is Us is kind of how real life is. There will be moments in our real life where anything can just trigger an incident from your childhood. … They really mine those details, which I think is very fascinating, to see how much your past affects your present affects your future.”

Speaking of that connection, it was the second episode Hardwicke directed, Season 4’s “The Cabin,” that saw patriarch Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) sketching a bigger house (below) … which his son Kevin (Justin Hartley) owned in the flash-forwards. “That was fun for me because I’m an architect, and I got to do the drawing that Jack does of the house and figure out how the house could connect to his personal style and the style of the house they’d already shot in,” Hardwicke reveals.

Milo Ventimiglia This Is Us The Cabin Sketch Jack

(Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

On the flip side, the other episode she helmed, Season 3’s “Six Thanksgivings” wasn’t as fun for her as a vegetarian—especially when Toby (Chris Sullivan) burned the turkey. “I guess they cooked the turkey for 10 minutes and then they blow-torched and scorched the outside, and when they brought it on the set—I’ve never been in a morgue or around many dead bodies, but that’s what we all thought it must smell like,” she shares.

While things are very much up in the air in Hollywood at the moment, she is hopeful that she’ll return to direct a third episode of the series, which NBC announced will return in the fall. “All the actors are just fantastic and beautiful. It’s a really thoughtful show. The writers and the producers are great. It’s just a pleasure,” she says.

“I like that they keep challenging the show and going to different places and different seasons and I just love how they keep pushing it and exploring more stuff,” she adds.

This Is Us, Season 5, Tuesdays, NBC