This Is Us cast members and executive producers recently gathered at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood for PaleyFest 2017, and they dropped a few clues about the upcoming second season of the hit NBC drama. But fans looking for specific details on the death of Jack Pearson, played by Milo Ventimiglia, can only scratch one theory off their list for good: Jack didn’t die in a plane crash on 9/11.
Fans who are keeping careful track of the show’s timeline may have already deduced that the character died in the mid- to late-1990s when his three kids were teenagers, but that hasn’t stopped the fan theories that Jack somehow died a hero on the worst day in American history. While two This Is Us producers have now nixed that scenario, they stopped short of taking a plane crash death theory completely off the table.
According to Entertainment Weekly, This Is Us cast members Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Justin Hartley, Chrissy Metz, Chris Sullivan, Ron Cephas Jones, Susan Kelechi Watson, Gerald Jon Huertas, and Gerald McRaney were joined by executive producers John Requa and Glenn Ficarra to talk about the show.
When moderator Kristin Dos Santos asked the EPs to discount at least one of the death theories currently making the rounds online, they immediately debunked the idea that Jack died during the attacks against the U.S. on September 11. But while the This Is Us producers disregarded the 9/11 death theory, they didn’t give any further details regarding the show’s biggest burning question.
In addition to the now-debunked 9/11 theory, other popular theories about Jack’s death are that Kate accidentally killed him, Rebecca and Miguel murdered him, he committed suicide or he died in car crash. A few hopeful fans even believe the character is not actually dead.
But This Is Us fans have long noted Kate Pearson’s (Metz) fear of flying and her twin brother Kevin’s (Hartley) revelation that after his father died, he got rid of all of the model airplanes he made with him. And while a 9/11 airplane death is off the table, a plane crash theory was not entirely ruled out during the This Is Us PaleyFest chat.
Of course, some This Is Us fans point to the USAir crash that occurred outside of Pittsburgh in 1994, in which 132 people died. The This Is Us scenes set in the 1980s and ’90s are set in Pittsburgh. But the real-life 1994 tragedy seemingly occurred a year or two before the show’s later scenes with Jack when his kids are teens, so the math doesn’t quite add up.
Interestingly, though, the bar scene in This Is Us’ penultimate episode, “What Now?,” which shows Jack getting drunk before hitting the road to head to his wife’s ill-fated show in Cleveland, featured the 1994 Toadies song “Possum King.” Viewers know this show time travels, but there’s no way that scene was set in 1994, right?
Requa teased that This Is Us fans “got to see Jack from a certain perspective this season” and “might get him from another perspective in other characters [next season].” And to further fuel the fan theory fire, Ficarra cracked a joke about Huertas’ character, Miguel, who is married to Jack’s widow Rebecca in the present day.
“Without spoiling anything, I forgive him for killing Jack,” the This Is Us exec joked.
Requa said he’s “90 percent certain” the story behind Miguel and Rebecca’s romantic beginning will be addressed next season and that he’s confident the Pearson patriarch’s best friend will prove to be just as dedicated a husband as Jack was.
While fans have a while to wait for answers on the death storyline, This Is Us star Chris Sullivan (Toby) acknowledged that all of the cast members know how Jack died.
“It happens exactly how you think it is going to,” the This Is Us star joked, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
This Is Us writers head back to work in June, with shooting for the second season of the show slated to start later this summer. This Is Us is expected to return to NBC this fall.
Take a look at the video below for more on This Is Us fan theories on Jack’s death.
[Featured Image by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]