This season of “This Is Us” is not afraid of the news. Pictured here is Eris Baker as Tess, Faithe Herman as Annie, Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth, Sterling K. Brown as Randall.
Thankfully, the show will be back next week with stories inspired by what has dominated everyone’s life in recent months. But the decision to wade in challenging waters, such as the coronavirus pandemic and racial injustice, wasn’t lightly, creator Dan Fogelman told reporters Friday.
“Our choice has always been to be apolitical. We don’t speak of, you know, Democrat or Republican or you know who on the show,” he said, believed as a referral to President Donald Trump.
“It’s more about just American life, and when I was sitting down and weighing the decision of what we were going to do and just considering where our show lives — with like this American family that has a lot of different pockets and spans time — it felt almost irresponsible not to kind of take on the moment.”
The episodes continue to be told through the prism of the characters that viewers know and love, Fogelman said, with the emphasis still on “talking about the human experience and not the political background. “
The screenplay for the first two episodes made actress Susan Kelechi Watson proud of how the show handled the arguments. The series stars Watson Beth Pearson, the wife of Randall, one of the Pearson brothers at the NBC drama center.
“One of the things I said when we first got these episodes was ‘It’s like the eavesdropped in on people’s lives,'” she said. “So much of it was just things that I had lived, or I know people had lived.”
Conversations between Beth and Randall and their children will be candid and reflect their individual experiences. In the series, Randall, a black man who grew up in a white family, has “a fascinating kind of moment coming to Jesus through these first two episodes which we will see on Tuesday, which I think is fascinating,” l ‘actor Sterling K. Brown teased him.
“They’re the kind of parents who I think invite their children to [the conversation]. It’s not something they necessarily have to protect them from, but try to guide them through, so I think that’s how we approach it,” Watson added.
The episodes that aired Tuesday were produced on a limited-time basis after the show, like others, was delayed to start its production due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, it was essential to Fogelman and the producers that the first two episodes air before the upcoming November election.
“Not because they’re political, but because I think they’re difficult and then hopeful,” Fogelman said. “And it felt important to us to just put it on TV now with no agenda other than that. But it also created like an intense rush.”
“This Is Us” is currently in Los Angeles production, where restrictions are still in place due to the pandemic. While the cast is now following protocols and wearing personal protective equipment to stay safe, Fogelman said that not much has changed.
“It’s a brave new world over on set, but we found our normalcy quickly, and we haven’t lost our rhythm on set, believe it or not,” he said.
Fogelman credits the work they’ve done over the past five years with their effectiveness as a production, as well as the cast.
“We keep saying on set, I would not envy a first-year show or a pilot being made, who are all finding their rhythm and their relationships and whatnot,” he said.
On its way to its fifth season, “This Is Us” continues to be where heartfelt stories meet tearful drama. Fogelman said they are moving forward this season, keeping in mind all the areas it has traveled so far as they discuss current events.
“We have not been afraid to touch on things like addiction or body image or race, or Alzheimer’s or any of the myriad of things we’ve taken on,” he said. “So I think we’ve attacked it in hopefully an elegant way that is very much of our show, but speaks to what our show tries to do and tries to be.”