'This Is Us': Parker Bates on Working With His TV Dad & Kevin's Love Life
Rightfully so, as the young star got his start on the award-winning, critically acclaimed NBC series This Is Us. That’s right, Bates kicked off his career playing young Kevin Pearson on one of the biggest shows on television. When your first acting gig after moving to Los Angeles is playing Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore’s son, the only way is up — and Bates is well on his way.
In between telling us all that he could about where young Kevin is at this moment in time (the early 1990s) and spilling his own thoughts on present-day Kevin’s tumultuous love-life, the talented Texas native gave us a taste of his upcoming movie, Magic Max.
In the latest episode of This Is Us, "Changes," we got to see you and your TV dad have a sweet and fun father-son moment while beginning to lift weights. Weightlifting, as well as genuine family bonding, is a little bit of a new territory for young Kevin. What were filming the scenes like for you?
Parker Bates: It was kind of really cool, because Milo helped me through it. He does that a lot, so those kinds of moments, it feels like he really does know what he is talking about. It’s just fun to be there and be taught by him. It was also my first day back that one day that we were filming the weightlifting, so it was really nice to see everyone, too. It was a little weird because of the whole COVID thing, but it was great.
Without giving too much away, but still talking about the weight-lifting that Jack helps inspire, does that foreshadow anything for next week? Can we expect this newfound hobby to stick around for Kevin?
I would say yes. We do know that teenage Kevin (Logan Shroyer) plays football.
Those do go hand in hand. Now, as kind of the first-generation Kevin Pearson, you really set the tone for who he is and who he continues to become. I think we saw a lot this week. Do you pay attention to that evolution of Kevin when going into a scene of your own?
This time was a little weird because we hadn’t been back for awhile and then when we were filming it, we weren’t watching it, because we had hiatus, but I would say for sure. I watch scenes with Logan and Justin [Hartley] and whenever I watch the show I pay attention to whatever they do. I feel like the casting director did a really good job of matching our personalities, so that makes it a lot easier to play one Kevin.
From the show and social media, it seems like you and your cast members, but specifically your fellow members of the Big Three, get along very well. What was it like to get back to work with them after this weird period of time?
We've been working together for five years now and I feel like we've been really close since the first day. They’re like my best friends here. We did actually get to see each other a couple times over quarantine through social distancing, but it was nice to be able to talk to them face-to-face and just do what we like to do together while being back in an almost normal way.
Speaking of where Kevin is at the moment with getting into weightlifting and football, we are finally seeing this athletic side of him. I know that you're an athlete yourself, so do you go into playing a sport similar to how you go into an acting role? Or are those two things totally different in your mind?
Well, I've played soccer since I was three years old, and I feel like whenever you try out for a team, it's the same as going into an audition, because you’re kind of competing for what position you are trying to get. You need to practice and prepare for both, too, so yeah, I think they're pretty similar, but, of course, they are a lot of different, too.
We know that present-day Kevin is expecting children soon with Madison (Caitlin Thompson), but we know that you are involved with the very first love story of his, young Sophie (Sophia Coto). So I was wondering, on a very personal note, are you team Kevin and Sophie? Or are you just letting the adult version of your character do his own thing in the future?
Kevin and Sophie, for me, personally, was pretty good because it gave me a good storyline and it gave me some more character, I guess. I don't know, but as his first love, I would say that it does kind of suck that he didn’t go with Sophie at the end. As a sappy romantic, I feel like they should have gone to the end, but Justin messed it up.
Tell me a little bit about your movie Magic Max, which looks so fun and comes out in just a few months. What is your character, Tim Hart, like?
He is kind of all over the place. He likes to prank people and have fun, but it is still around the storyline of his parents dying and he has to go live with his uncle. I feel like a lot of this role was trying to get to know my character and getting to know all of his problems. I don’t want to spoil too much, but towards the end, it kind of just wraps up and everything is great for him.
Do you think that you yourself relate more to Kevin on This Is Us or Tim in Magic Max?
I know Tim has a lot of problems that I haven't experienced, so I feel like as Kevin, I've been working on the show for five years, so I've been able to bring some of myself into Kevin. The writers of This Is Us watch my Instagram and see what I do, so they try to give me some stuff that fits who I am. I guess I’d relate more to Kevin, then.
I know you were saying how you don't get to have a lot of scenes in This Is Us with people in the different eras of the Pearson family, but regardless of those different points in time, what actors from the show have you not gotten to share the screen with but wish you could – if there were no time jumps?
I would have to say Chris Sullivan. I just think he’s a great dude. He is really funny and it's just really fun to be around him also. Whenever we’re with each other, it’s just the best time. I actually did a table read for one of his movies and so that was really amazing, because I just think that getting to work with him is always really cool. I know we did a scene with Sterling [K. Brown] a few seasons back where it was one of his dreams or something – or he was high, that works, too – and he got to come back to the past. It was short, but it was fun getting to work with him, as well.
This Is Us, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC