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‘This Is Us’ Season 2 Finale: Creating a Look at Present-Day Jack and Popping Into the Future


SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “The Wedding,” the second season finale of “This Is Us.”

Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) walked down the aisle on the second season finale of “This Is Us” — but they weren’t the only ones.

In a glimpse of “what could have been,” a present-day Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) renewed their vows on their 40th anniversary in a recurring dream Kate had before her own nuptials.

“It just felt very natural to us that Kate would be dreaming about her dad during this time. And then we felt [like it was] a cool way to include him in a way we’d never seen him before — as an adult man, interacting with his adult family,” executive producer Elizabeth Berger tells Variety.

“This Is Us” producers call seeing Ventimiglia don the old-age makeup “one of the most visceral punches” those who work on the show have had thus far.

However, Berger notes that they did not want to “twist the knife unnecessarily” and therefore, although they wanted to “incorporate Jack into this day as much as possible,” they didn’t consider a fantasy sequence where he actually walked her down the aisle.

“We decided pretty early on it would be the vow renewal between Jack and Rebecca, and we felt like it was the best of both worlds — seeing him as an older man but [without] laying it on too thick,” Berger says.

Instead, the episode was designed around a walk down memory lane for Kate — followed by some very quick glimpses into the future.

Here, Berger tells Variety about moving forward Kate’s relationship with her mother, the importance of including Toby’s family (guest stars Wendie Malick and Dan Lauria), and the flashback and flash forward selection in the episode.

Jack ended up at his daughter’s wedding via his urn, which Kate brought with her. How important was that to be a part of the event?

We know by now that she has this really strong attachment and it felt to us totally natural that she would have it with her. We didn’t want to talk about it too much, but we felt it was very in keeping with the character. All we have is a quick reference to it in the beginning where she’s telling Toby some of her choices are kind of odd and referencing that the urn is next to the guest book. And we see that Toby is rolling with it because he loves her and he knows how hard this is to do without her dad. We didn’t want to linger on it. But also when she can’t find the tee-shirt, and Kevin and Randall enter her room and Randall’s just sort of observing what’s going on, she says, “I know, Randall, I’m weird,” which Chrissy did in such a hilarious way.

How did you settle on which places Kate would visit to feel close to her father?

We wanted to revisit places that we had seen them together as viewers just because I think it hits home all the more emotionally when you experience those places with them. So getting to see them in the ice cream shop together, we actually had all of this great footage from the last time we were in the episode with them together that never made it onto air, so it was such a cool way to revisit and sort of re-purpose it. The same thing with the stump, it was a place we’d seen them together in the woods, and honestly, when we made the cut in editing and we went from Kate and Jack to Kate and the urn, it sort of took our breath away. We’d all experienced it, so we feel like we’ve gone through their lives with them, so it made it all the more special that we were at places we’d already seen them.

Why was Kate’s wedding day the right time for her to tell her mother she wasn’t stuck in her shadow but instead following in her footsteps in a positive way?

It was really important to us to show how far these two have grown over the course of the season. Obviously their relationship has been so difficult at different periods, and a lot of that just comes from being a mother and daughter and all that brings to it, but we felt Rebecca, having been through so much and being there for Kate during the miscarriage and Kate seeing that her mom will show up for her has brought them closer than ever before. So we really wanted to honor that at this wedding and feel definite growth between them. We knew we needed to give these two their scene and pay tribute to the love that’s grown throughout the season.

What went into casting Toby’s parents and the other key guest stars in the finale?

You don’t want to do anything that’s going to detract from telling your most important stories. We go through the process in the room where we’re developing the story and it goes through different iterations, and at one point we had [about] 10 members of Toby’s extended family. But we were like, “We can’t use our finale real estate on this.” But I think Dan and Wendie did such a beautiful job of enhancing our core story and getting us into Toby’s world more — getting us to know him better and flesh out the reality of what it looks like to get married and have your family be in it with you. It felt like they blended in seamlessly and only helped us make our story about our characters even richer.

How heavily will the insight from Toby’s parents inform where the flash forward finds him?

Toby’s parents give that very pointed speech about seeing him depressed and about how difficult it was for them, and I think it’s safe to assume he’s going to have some of those troubles moving forward.

Speaking of those flash forwards, what were the most important things to consider when deciding what to incorporate and how far in the future to go?

With any finale you want to make sure it doesn’t feel like you’ve wrapped up your series — that there are still really exciting places to go, moving forward. So we wanted to show that while we’re at Kate and Toby’s wedding and it’s a beautiful chapter and a beautiful moment in their lives, there’s still going to be really intensely difficult chapters ahead because that’s where life goes. And we wanted to show that we’re at the beginning of some exciting new possibilities for Kevin. And also that we’re going to dive back into those future stories and that that’s going to be a big part of the show going forward.