Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers from the This Is Us season 2 finale, “The Wedding.”
This Is Us‘ Kate Pearson has two TV legends for in-laws. The Season 2 finale of the NBC hit introduced Toby Damon’s (Chris Sullivan) parents, and it gave viewers a bit more insight into Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) complicated future husband. But the stars cast to play mom and dad Damon were kept under wraps until shortly before the This Is Us finale episode, “The Wedding,” aired on NBC.
When Toby went to pick up his parents to drive them to the wedding locale at the Pearson family cabin, This Is Us viewers quickly recognized them as TV royalty: Wendie Malick and Dan Lauria, best known for their roles on Just Shoot Me and The Wonder Years, respectively.
Malick and Lauria have both worked with This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman in the past. In 2016, Lauria starred as the Padres manager on Fogelman’s Fox baseball drama Pitch, while Malick had a recurring role as a major shareholder of the team’s corporate parent on the short-lived series, according to Entertainment Weekly.
Ahead of “The Wedding” episode, This Is Us star Chrissy Metz told EW: “[Toby’s] parents are everything and nothing you’d expect”—and she was right.
— Wendie Malick (@WendieMalick) March 13, 2018
As Toby’s divorced parents bickered about alimony payments in the backseat, it was clear there was a lot to learn about Toby’s backstory. Later, they expressed concern that Kate (Chrissy Metz) seemed “unstable” and even compared her to their son’s ex-wife, Josie. This Is Us viewers may recall that Toby contemplated suicide after his ex-wife left him.
But Toby set his parents straight on Kate, telling them if anyone in the relationship is unstable it is him.
This Is Us executive producer Elizabeth Berger said Toby’s parents had reason to be worried.
“Obviously they’re very protective of their son and they’ve seen him go through romantic heartaches, first in his first relationship, and then with Kate,” the This Is Us producer told the Hollywood Reporter.
“We were thinking that if you were watching his relationship from afar, it might raise some flags. We see them as totally great, concerned parents who just don’t know the inner-workings of his relationship, and then butted in when it wasn’t really necessary.”
Berger acknowledged that Toby’s parents may not know the depth of their son’s issues with depression.
“I think they’re just overprotective, loving parents, but they don’t necessarily have their pulse on exactly how Toby’s mental health actually works,” Berger said.
Toby and Kate eventually tied the knot, but their future doesn’t look happily ever after. A flash forward to the future showed a depressed Toby in bed with Kate by his side saying, “I just spoke to the doctor, he wants you to come in tomorrow about adjusting your meds.”
“I think we’ve seen Kate and Toby weather a lot,” Berger said.
“Toby has often had to be the strong and supportive one. This is a situation where Kate may have to take the lead on that front. I think she is now really emotionally prepared to be that person for him. We’ll see some of that moving forward.”
After “The Wedding” episode aired, Berger told TV Line the introduction of Toby’s parents gave new insight into the character, and she left the door open for the in-demand actors to return in Season 3.
“With Dan and Wendie, they were so fantastic, we’d be thrilled to have them back,” Berger told TV Line. “And for us, it rounded out Toby in a way we hadn’t previously seen before and felt really exciting. So we’d love, moving forward, to get to know him even better through other members of his family.”
On the This Is Us after-show, Chris Sullivan talked about the future of his character.
“As we get to know the formative people in Toby’s life we’re going to start to see why Toby is the way he is,” the This Is Us star said. “You’ll where the hard wiring comes from. You see where the humor came in as a tool or defense or coping….His parents are nervous. There are so many expectations, outside expectations that can be placed. It’s so interesting to see those relationships established on a finale. A finale is an interesting place to introduce new characters and we’ll see what happens in Season 3.”
This Is Us returns for Season 3 this fall on NBC.