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‘This Is Us': Justin Hartley on How Jack Guides Kevin’s Journey and If He’ll See Madison Give Birth

”That is very much what his dad would have done,“ NBC star tells TheWrap

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for Tuesday’s “This Is Us.”)

“This Is Us” ended this week’s long-awaited episode on a big cliffhanger, that luckily had nothing to do with Kevin Pearson (Justin Hartley) being in physical peril, as initially teased in promos. Instead, Kevin is stuck in a Vancouver airport without his ID and very little hope of making a flight to Los Angeles in time to see Madison (Caitlin Thompson) give birth to their twins, whom are arriving weeks early.

And the reason poor Kevin might miss the birth of his children is because he was trying to do the right thing, by stopping to help a man (played by Joshua Malina) whose car had run off the road, even though all he wanted to do after abandoning his part in a big-budget Robert De Niro flick was get home as quickly as possible. Because he was trying to do what his late father, Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia), would do.

“That line Kevin says to Josh[‘s character] when he says, ‘Everything I do, I do with his voice in the back of my head.’ It’s true. That is very much what his dad would have done,” Hartley tells TheWrap. “He would have figured it out. The influence that a father has, especially taken too early — especially that father, right? — on Kevin, talk about living on past your years. In a way, you could say that Jack’s presence in Kevin’s life saved that man’s life. So you could say, in a way, that Jack is saving lives even after he’s gone, which is kind of cool.”

Kevin’s idolization of his father leads him to believe Jack would have found a way to help that man and make it “there” to see his children be born, because Jack is the “most there” man there ever was. And though Malina’s character tries to tell him that the first day of his kids’ life is surely not going to be the most important one, Kevin is devastated at the idea he could miss it due to all the previous screwups Kevin has suffered throughout his life.

“I think more than just being there for that, it was important for Kevin to start– I think it was hard for him to go leave to do this movie,” Hartley said. “I think he’s been regretting not being there since he left. And I think it’s sort of like a sore, sick feeling in his gut and he just wants to be there for everything. He wants to start this off the right way. And I think for Kevin, that pattern that he’s sort of fallen into in his life with previous things. The follow through is not always there. The starting off with a bang is not always there. Getting what you want is not always there, in fact, it hardly ever is. Nothing in his life has ever turned out the way he thought that it was going to be. Even with Madison, they have twins coming, and that’s all great and wonderful, but what is that relationship? That is not the way he saw it. He had this idea of his life, and I think for whatever reason, he just thought it was going to end up that way. And if you go all the way back to Season 2, when he’s on the football field and he’s talking about all of these things that he’s been afforded and he just keeps messing them up, and then he gets another opportunity, and he messes that up, and he gets another opportunity, and he messes that up, and he’s just going, why, why me? And he feels guilty that he’s been given all of these opportunities and he’s squandered them.”

The NBC family drama star continued: “And now here we go, and he’s figured all of that out and he’s very self-aware, and he wants this, and he’s doing all the right things, and this is not his fault and it’s not like he’s drinking or he slept in, he’s trying to do everything the right way, and yet here he is again probably not being able to start something off the right way. And ‘I think that just sort of, I can’t seem to get it right no matter what’ feeling is going on inside of him and driving him. Plus the ghost of his father. And the importance of him being there is more starting things off the right way. So what Kevin thinks is important, or the most important thing, sometimes may seem like it’s not, but for him to start this off the right way, and for him, being there for the birth of his children, it’s putting him at the brink.”

So, seeing as no good deed goes unpunished for Kevin these days, does Hartley think he will make it to see Madison give birth to their children? And if so, how, seeing as his initial attempt to explain he is the famous “Manny” star didn’t make the TSA agent jump to let him through?

“I think in that situation, I would try everything,” Hartley said. “You try to charm someone that you feel like they can be charmed. You explain the situation to someone who you feel needs to know the information. And you just do everything you can to get on the plane. But there is a time crunch, right? There is a process by which he can get on the plane, but it takes time. And they’re certainly not going to hold the plane for him, I don’t think. So, gosh, I don’t know what I would do. You exhaust every option, right? You try to figure out how in the hell you can get on that plane and you hope you’re speaking to the right person who maybe has been in that situation before.”

“He does have the benefit of being famous enough to where somewhere there hopefully says, ‘Well that actually is him. We know who it is and this is not someone trying to pull a fast one. He is who he says he is.’ That’s the benefit, in this instance, of being famous, I guess in they could look him and say well that’s him,” he added. “But how long does that take and does the plane already take off? She’s already at the hospital, she’s already in labor. It’s a sticky situation.”

“This Is Us” airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.

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