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‘This Is Us’ Creator on Finale’s 2nd Wedding Twist, Final-Season Answers to Timeline Mysteries

”There will be no looming questions when we get to the end of next season, everything will be resolved,“ Dan Fogelman says

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Season 5 finale of “This Is Us.”)

“This Is Us” set up its sixth and final season with Tuesday’s Season 5 finale episode, which dropped one big bombshell on the Pearson family themselves and another on us viewers.

First, there was the twist that Madison (Caitlin Thompson) backed out of her wedding to Kevin (Justin Hartley) at the last minute, concerned there just wasn’t enough love on his end to proceed with the marriage.

Then, there was a second wedding-related twist that was literally about a second wedding: a flash-forward to four years in the future, where it’s revealed that Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) have gotten divorced, and she’s in the middle of getting ready for her nuptials to her now-boss at the music school for blind children, Phillip (played by Chris Geere).

With two big shockers like that heading into the final season of TV’s highest-rated drama, we turned to “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman to shed some light on where things go from here for Kate, Toby, Phillip, Madison and Kevin — as well as Randall (Sterling K. Brown), Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), Rebecca (Mandy Moore), Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Miguel (Jon Huertas). See below for what Fogelman told reporters during a Season 5 finale press conference Tuesday.

On the matter of Kate’s second wedding and Chris Geere’s participation in Season 6:

Obviously, Chris [Geere] is going to be a big part of the show next year. So, yes, series regular, or whatever it’s called, we owe a lot of him… We’re big fans of him on the show. This is obviously a plot point that we’ve known was coming for quite some time, Kate’s second wedding, and we knew the reveal would be at the end of the season. So we’d actually had Chris come down and meet with Chrissy much earlier in the season, under severe testing protocols and everything, so we could kind of put that together and feel them out during such an unusual season. And as for the decision to have this timeline, which is essentially four years in the future, be Chrissy’s second wedding, it’s been part of our plan all along from the go. So obviously we’ve hinted at many times in the immediate future that something was amiss, something was not normal between [Kate and Toby], and here we are.

On Chrissy Metz and Chris Sullivan’s reaction to Kate and Toby’s future split:

Chrissy and Sully have known for quite a while, for many seasons, where they are going and where this season was going. So nothing came as a surprise to them… There’s so much love there, both between the actors in real life and between the characters on camera that it’s difficult when you are trying to tap into this stuff. Our actors are beautiful in that, even if they don’t always love a choice I make for their characters, they don’t express it to me. I just go back to all the times that I’ve been at the most beautiful and loving weddings, where nothing could go wrong. And then there you are years later at that person’s second wedding. So the journey from A to B is something we really haven’t done on this show yet, and I think these two actors are going to have some really meaty stuff to dig into next year. I think, like everything in our show, we’re going to be able to find something difficult and find something beautiful inside it.

On the indication in the second-wedding flash-forward that there may be something flirtatious going on between Madison and Kevin:

The future with Kevin and Madison, I think the main takeaway should be that, yes, despite the heartbreak of that beautiful scene between them and the unusual breakup between them, clearly something is very right with them in that future timeline at the end of the episode. To go beyond on that, I can’t say. We have our plan and we’ve had it for quite some time.

On if and when we’ll find out who Kevin ends up with:

With Kevin, and recently with Kate’s relationship, the show has always tried to put forward some really successful marriages. But the honest truth is, really loving, great marriages don’t always survive and marriage is not for everybody. So with both Kevin and with the second marriage of Kate, we have some new territory to explore… That will be a big thing driving us forward next season. Who will Kevin end up with, will he end up with anybody we know, does he end up with anybody at all. One way or another, that question will be answered. I can’t answer if he winds up getting married or not, though.

On how many timelines “This Is Us” has left to tie up:

The current timelines that exist in our show are manifold. We have the young period of Jack and Rebecca pre-children and now with babies, they kind of merge into one. We have our little five-year-olds. We have our 13-year-olds. Then we have our 18-year-olds, 19-year-olds. And then, in terms of the present-day and future-day storylines, we have a continuation of our main storyline, which would be their 41st year of life next year. We have this 45th year of life wedding timeline. And then we have this 10, 15 years later at the house where everybody is gathering and Rebecca is in that bed. Those are our timelines that we will live between. We also have gone even deeper into the future. We show Baby Jack grown up as a future musician, et cetera. These are all places that we will traverse next season. But it’s fair to say that we will, of course, lean heavily in both the period that we just saw at the end of this finale, the wedding, and lean heavily in the period where everybody is gathering at the house in a much older, future timeline, where Randall and Beth’s kids are grown up, et cetera.

On how he will bring together all of those timelines to a conclusion in Season 6:

The show has always been challenging with the plays in time, and we always knew that Season 6 would be epic in terms of the way it jumps time, and even more ambitious than other seasons. Because our audience has been so devoted and I think because, hopefully, we’ve smartly set up the contained areas where these future timelines live, I think you’re going to have a real sense of resolution and completion for this family. It’s the mixed-up VHS tapes of this family’s existence that will kind of all coalesce to speak to one another in completion. We have been working tirelessly to set up this rewarding final season to make all the pieces fit together. We know what we owe. We know what our plan is. That’s been part of the great benefit of, from the very beginning with the early success of the show, allowing us to kind of know our endgame, and has allowed us to build what we hope will be a very rewarding final season.

On his promise there will be no questions left for fans at the end of the final season:

All of those timelines are going to be brought to completion and explained. There will be no looming questions when we get to the end of next season, everything will be resolved. You can’t always claim that 100% of your audience is going to like every single decision you make for the characters, but I don’t think anything will be left on the table. So all those locations you’ve been to, all those future timelines we’ve been to, they will all get resolutions.

On how next season, which is being held until midseason on NBC’s schedule, will begin:

I think the hope for any season, when we’re on our birthdays and we’re blowing out those candles and we make that wish, we’re wishing for a happy ending for ourselves and the people we like and whatever storyline we’re currently looking at. So I think for Kevin’s character in particular, all of us, the people who write him and the people who are fans of him and the people who have varying relationships that they root for, you’re hoping he finds his romantic center. And whether that is in marriage, whether that’s in a relationship, whether that’s in kind of finding his center internally and just single, I think that’s one of the looming questions on the show: Will Kevin find that happy ending, in whatever form it takes? As a person who writes him, I’m rooting for that.

On what other storylines “This Is Us” plans to dive into in its final season, including Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) Alzheimer’s:

A big one that we’ve always planned on diving into heavily next season is the courtship and then coming together and then ultimate separation and then coming back together of Rebecca and Miguel. It’s a big storyline. Mandy is going to have a tremendously ambitious season next year as an actress. And obviously, as you’re traversing this timeline, these timelines into the future and have a character battling Alzheimer’s, it’s going to be quite a showcase for a young woman who — I’ve been beating the drums for a while now — is doing something extraordinary on television.

On if “This Is Us” will get a couple extra episodes in its final season to make up for the two it lost this year due to the pandemic:

We haven’t gotten into that in great detail yet. It’s going to ultimately come down to what the network wants. The 16 episodes this season was just simply the nature of scheduling and room and our our ability to get them out quickly enough… So we were able to know that early enough so that it didn’t really affect our storytelling. We had a specialized episode that will get pushed to next season, but not at the expense of anything else. So I don’t have the answer to that and it’s a little bit out of my control.

On what that magazine profile of Randall (Sterling K. Brown) in Kate’s second-wedding flash-forward means for his career future:

When you get a profile written like that, something is happening in his career, with his star. I can’t go into great detail, but we do have a plan that we’ve had for a while. I think we’ve built it successfully with his early rise and slight indications of the local, and even borderline national, profile just growing in small doses. So that’s a jarring and interesting time. We’ll be able to tell that story.

On how he plans to end the “This Is Us” series finale:

Since the very beginning, I have had a strong feeling about where I want this to end. And it won’t just involve the series finale, but it involves the final season, its moments, its images, its scenes, its ideas. I have a list of them that I wanted to tell in a pretty specific order, and I’m grateful to be able to end it that way. There are less popular shows that have not ended on their own terms. It’s a real gift to be able to have been thinking about those images, those scenes, those literal lines of dialogue and be able to execute them the way you want to. You can’t really ask for anything more in the modern state of television. So, yes, to have all of that. Obviously, there’s shaping that, but there’s images and our cast knows many of them, and some of them have been shot. So yes, I’m excited to be able to end it the way we’ve talked about ending it since the first season of the show.

“This Is Us” will debut its sixth and final season at midseason on NBC.