Justin Hartley could soon join his TV siblings as a Primetime Emmy nominee thanks to his rich body of work on the second season of This Is Us. The actor, who debuted the role of Kevin Pearson in 2016, is already a frontrunner in the Best Supporting Actor category, according to Gold Derby.
In 2017, Hartley’s TV twin, Chrissy Metz, was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for playing Kate Pearson, while Sterling K. Brown won Best Drama Actor for playing his adoptive brother Randall. While Metz and Brown will likely land as return nominees, 2018 could be Justin Hartley’s year to take home the Emmy.
Hartley had a showcase episode in the second season of This Is Us, with the episode “Number One.” The emotional episode chronicled Kevin Pearson’s rock bottom as Justin delivered a mega monologue on a high school football field, then later broke down after losing his father’s necklace during a one-nighter with a former classmate.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Justin Hartley looked back at Kevin Pearson’s rollercoaster year, revealing that he knew all along that there was more to his character than originally met the eye. Hartley told ET that while This Is Us fans thought Kevin had it all—looks, fame, money, women—what he saw was “a guy in a crowded room who’s completely alone.”
In the sophomore season of This Is Us, viewers saw Kevin battle a prescription pill addiction and lose the love of his life. Kevin’s career was also dangerously close to hitting rock bottom before a DUI arrest forced him into rehab. Justin told ET that Season 2 of This Is Us was more fun for him to play after laying the groundwork for his character’s path in the first season.
While the second season of This Is Us ended with a flash-forward of a happier and healthier Kevin (and his new girlfriend!) headed to Vietnam to find out more about his late father’s time in the war, Hartley looked back at three key scenes from the second season of the NBC drama that he thinks helped define his character’s path.
Hartley called out his pivotal scene in the “Number One” episode, when Kevin broke down on his one-night stand, Charlotte’s, front lawn after he realized he lost Jack’s military necklace during his drunken tryst. The scene was Justin Hartley’s biggest showcase of the year.
“It was really important to me that we didn’t do this thing where it was, ‘Let’s wrap it up in a bow here. He’s going to find the necklace. He’s going to be fine,” Hartley told ET. “I thought, How desperate is that that someone is clinging on to sanity via this piece of metal? But I just lost it. I care so much about him, and at that moment, I wasn’t sure that he was going to be OK.”
Hartley also pointed to the scene in the episode “Deja Vu” when Kate approached Kevin in his trailer on the set of the Ron Howard movie (a movie with Sylvester Stallone in it, by the way) and he called her “sad and damaged,” when in reality he was just angry at himself.
“It’s computing but he deflects,” Hartley explained. “You’re the one with the problem. Why don’t you work on yourself?”
Hartley also recalled his favorite scene in the “Super Bowl Sunday” episode when Kevin goes back to Jack’s favorite tree and has an emotional heart-to-heart with his late father for the first time since his death 20 years earlier. The scene could be another Emmy contender.
Incidentally, while 2018 could mark Justin Hartley’s first Emmy nod for This Is Us, the actor actually beat out his TV siblings for an Emmy honor. In 2016, Justin Hartley received a Daytime Emmy nomination for Best Actor for The Young and the Restless—three months before This Is Us even started. Looks like he really is “Number One.”
The 2018 Emmy Awards nominees will be announced on July 12.