This Is Us viewers caught a glimpse of Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) and her three teenagers in the days following the death of beloved patriarch Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) during the season 2 episode, “The Car,” which featured Jack’s funeral. But when the NBC drama begins its third season, viewers will also see the fractured family three months after Jack’s funeral where things aren’t going so well.
In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, This Is Us star Mandy Moore revealed that while fans of the show will get to see “the journey of young coupledom” in flashback scenes of Jack and Rebecca’s courtship in the early 1970s, the Pearson patriarch’s death also looms heavily in scenes set in the late-1990s, three months after his passing.
Moore told EW that This Is Us fans will see Rebecca and the Big Three “starting life over at square one again three months post-Jack passing,” which is just before their high school graduation.
“It’s tempers, and bad behavior from the kids, and disconnection — emotionally stunted, not really evolving past the point of just utter grief for some family members. Rebecca is trying her level best to just push forward and pick up the pieces of their shattered life. Trying to get everybody on the same page when they’re teenagers and everybody has different ways of dealing with grief is just an impossible task.”
While the new season will also feature moments of lightness and levity in scenes pre and post-Jack’s death, she warns that rocky late 1990s era will keep popping up.
“You bounce right back into the months post-Jack’s death, and that is just, ugh. It’s a s—show at home, and everybody is off the rails. Life is not going smoothly. Everything’s falling apart.”
Rebecca Pearson’s life as a widowed mom of three high school seniors will be an interesting era not yet fully explored on the show, and it sounds like there will be plenty of material to draw from during the Big Three’s pivotal high school year.
“It’s a major proving ground not just for her, but for all of the kids,” Moore explained.
“This is that juncture in their lives where everything matters all the more now. Who are they ultimately going to be? Are they going to take this horrible tragedy and try and build their life for the better from the smoldering ashes, as it were? Are they going to continue their plans of pursuing music, and going to a good school, or Kevin finding his path again and his next joy in life? It’s a proving ground for all of them, especially for Rebecca, because I still think that she really grapples with, ‘I have to do this. I have no choice. I need to be the parent that Jack always was.'”
Moore also teased that because Rebecca was never the “fun” parent, she’ll have even more on her plate as she attempts to fill Jack’s shoes.
“She wasn’t the parent that was good at making the speeches. She handled the practicalities of their life. In that sense, she’s able to continue paying the bills, and finding them a place to live, and figuring out what the next house is going to be, and getting groceries. It’s dealing with the bigger crises that arise in the kids’ personal lives that she’s maybe not as adept at dealing with.”
While she said moving past Jack’s death, a storyline that weighed heavily over Season 2, is “refreshing,” Moore admitted there will be some very difficult moments throughout the new season.
“These months, and this short amount of time afterward, and how they choose to cope, is so indicative of where they find themselves still to this day. I find it a really juicy, interesting time. There’s so much to extract from it.
“But I have to say it is so daunting and heavy and almost harder to walk around feeling that grief than playing the grief in the moment,” the This Is Us star admitted. “Playing the shock of losing somebody, you want to get to that point where you feel it and you are on the verge of tears, but then you pull back from it, so all day sitting in that kind of frame of mind is like ‘bleh’. It’s awful. It’s almost more daunting than playing the pain of losing someone.”
Moore also teased that the season 3 premiere episode, “Ave Maria,” will also feature a twist that fans will never see coming.
“It’s not heartwarming,” the This Is Us star warned. “People are going to be like, ‘Why? How? What?'”
This Is Us fans won’t have to wait long to find out how Rebecca and her teens deal with life in the months right after Jack’s death. NBC’s press site has already listed the synopsis for the second season 3 episode, titled “Philadelphia Story,” which reveals that “the teenage Big Three make college decisions.”
The This Is Us season 3 premiere airs Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.