This Is Us has taken viewers to multiple decades during its three-season run: The 1950s, ’60s ’70s, 80’s, 90’s, the present day, and even the future. But here’s one era viewers probably never saw coming on the time-hopping NBC drama: Up to the minute, as in live.
In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman revealed that this week’s episode “The Waiting Room,” will play with “real” time once again, and the showrunner also teased the possibility of a future live episode of the hit drama series.
“Because we had the right set-up based off where our episodes are going, we challenged ourselves with, ‘Let’s put a play on national television,'” Fogelman told THR.
“And to me, not just because it was ambitious, but because of how it turned out, it’s a very exciting showcase for our writing staff and for our cast. No bells and whistles. It’s just a lot of great actors saying some really cool words and shot in a beautiful way and I’m really excited.”
“The Waiting Room” episode is being described as essentially a “play” format and it was written by playwright Bekah Brunstetter. The episode will feature the entire Pearson family gathered together in a hospital waiting room and it will play out in near-real time as they await news on Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) pregnancy emergency. While it’s not a “live” episode, Fogelman says it could be, and he says he would trust his cast with such a task.
“I would put our cast on live television very comfortably because of how good they all are and because there’s not a weak link you ever have to protect, which is usually the reason you don’t do it. [‘The Waiting Room’], it’s not a live episode. But it very much feels like that. It’s long, long, long takes and it’s basically in one room, so I would do that.”
There’s nothing like the excitement of live TV, where anything can go wrong—or right. If This Is Us ever attempts a live episode it would join the ranks of past hit NBC shows like Will & Grace and 30 Rock. Will & Grace’s final season (before the recent revival) kicked off with a live episode, and 30 Rock also aired a pair of live episodes in Season 5 and Season 6.
But comedy may be a bit easier to perform live than a drama like This Is Us, so Fogelman’s tease is indeed an ambitious one. While the This Is Us writers have explored multiple formats, a live episode would be unprecedented for such a complex show.
For now, This Is Us will continue to play with time in unconventional ways. Fogelman even told THR, “There is a moment in the show where, in a weird way, the present becomes the past and the future becomes the present.”
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 pm. on NBC.