Warning: This article contains spoilers from This Is Us episode “Strangers.”
This Is Us has once again left viewers with more questions than answers. The fourth season of the NBC drama introduced a slew of new characters in more timelines than any season before it. While it was a long and winding road before viewers found out how each of the new characters tied into the Pearson family’s story, one struck a chord in particular.
At the very end of the episode, viewers found out that the handsome blind man they watched throughout the episode was actually an adult version of Toby (Chris Sullivan) and Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) son, Jack. Viewers witnessed the unidentified character break a breakfast plate, fall in love with diner waitress Lucy, and find out he was expecting a child with her before it was revealed that he was a rock star who can fill major venues. It was also at that moment that viewers found out his name: Jack Damon.
This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman told reporters that writers knew for “a while now” that Kate’s son was going to be born prematurely, and that blindness would be a complication that would come from the high-risk, early birth, according to TV Line.
Fogelman also confirmed that “baby” Jack was in his early to mid-20s in the final scene, which would bring the timeline to approximately the early 2040s.
The actor who plays rock star Jack is Blake Stadnik. Amazingly, the legally blind, musical theater actor had never acted on camera before landing the role on This Is Us. In addition to scoring the best first on-screen credit ever, Stadnik, 27, is reportedly one of the first visually impaired actors to play a major character on a network TV show.
Stadnik was also not among the long list of new guest stars announced for This Is Us last month. So, surprise!
Fogelman revealed there were “a lot of boxes to check” when casting the role of the grown-up Damon son.
“We wanted to find an actor who could be a leading man and very handsome and very funny and look great with his bare a** on national television, but also be able to go stand in The Greek [Theatre in Los Angeles] in front of a live audience and actually perform a song…. It was quite a trial by fire for him, and he blew us away in every possible way.”
Entertainment Tonight notes that Fogelman teased that while the ending timeline for This Is Us will be the era when Rebecca (Mandy Moore) is on her deathbed — at that point, young Jack is about 12-years-old — “it doesn’t mean it’s the endgame in terms of timelines” in the seasons leading up to the finale.
Indeed, adult Jack Damon “will be returned to” this season, so Stadnik’s on-camera acting resume will get a boost.
Before his game-changing role on This Is Us, Stadnik starred in theater productions of Sweeney Todd, Newsies, 42nd Street, and Guys and Dolls.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.