Next Tuesday, Oct. 27, NBC’s This Is Us is launching its fifth season with a two-hour premiere. That is a big deal — This Is Us is the first returning NBC scripted series and the first broadcast drama to debut new episodes this fall as the coronavirus pandemic delayed start of production on all shows and continues to impact filming on a daily basis.
That was not the original plan — NBC initially announced that the This Is Us two-hour Season 5 opener would air Nov. 10, the Tuesday after the Nov. 3 Presidential election. Days later, the cast of the show announced that the premiere was moving up two weeks, to the Tuesday before the election.
During a This Is Us press call on Friday, series creator Dan Fogelman explained why.
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“It was really important to me — and to us — to get these episodes on before the election, not because they are political but because I think they are difficult and they are hopeful, and we felt it was important to us to put them on TV now with no agenda other than that,” he said. “But it also created intense rush.”
To have the episodes ready, the cast and crew had to shoot on weekends and the editors have been working night and day to finish the cuts, Fogelman noted, adding that he only “locked” the episodes late Thursday last night, and they are still being mixed and are missing visual effects.
As indicated by the first Season 5 trailer featuring Kevin wearing a mask, the show will be tackling COVID in the present-day storyline.
“We’re spending a lot of time in the family cabin this year, by design,” Fogelman said. While the cabin already was revealed as the location of The Big Three 40th birthday celebration, other use of the dwelling is believed to be tied to COVID-impacted storylines.
The pandemic is impacting This Is Us production too, with everyone wearing face shields and masks.
“Actors are literally in plastic bubbles between sets,” Fogelman said. “It’s a brave new world on set but we found our normalcy pretty quickly, we haven’t lost our rhythm on set.”
Sterling K. Brown, who plays Randall spoke of the way This Is Us will reflect the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It’s such a unique perspective to for someone like Randall, who’s always sort of questioning his identity as it is, but never wavering from the fact that he knows that he is Black,” he said. “But the way in which he was raised and the conversations that happened in his house are not necessarily representative of the conversations that he wants to have with his children, by virtue of what didn’t happen.”
Brown also teased “a really interesting come-to-Jesus moment” for Randall, which will be featured in the Tuesday episodes.
The Season 4 finale featured the gut-wrenching Kevin-Randall fight. While the flash-forward at the end of the final hinted that the brothers reconcile eventually as they are seen together by their mother’s bedside, that won’t happen for awhile. The brothers’ rift “is in the front and center of our premiere, and it will be in the front and center of our show for for quite a bit,” Fogelman said.
Added Justin Hartley, who plays Kevin, “When you have fights like that, sometimes it takes an event to bring people back together.”
Season five’s planned trajectory has not been adjusted following the news of star Mandy Moore’s pregnancy. “There may be a brief period, though, where you don’t see a lot of old Rebecca on the show, because she would have some really complicated explaining to do,” Fogelman quipped.
Also not changing is the overall course of the series, said Fogelman, who plans to wrap the series in six seasons.
The Pearsons are ready for a new beginning. pic.twitter.com/cHPAOWo1rs
— This Is Us (@NBCThisisUs) October 14, 2020