'This Is Us': Mandy Moore Was "Sacred S**tless" About Playing Her Character 30 Years Older [Emmy Interview]

Mandy Moore has made a statement. No, she hasn’t given a political speech or stood up at protest rally (although she is vocal in those areas).  Moore made a statement with her impressive performance as Rebecca Pearson in Dan Fogelman‘s breakout NBC drama “This Is Us.”

As Rebecca, Moore not only plays her character in the late ’70s and early ’80s, but as a sixtysomething grandmother in modern day.  Even with expert makeup and prosthetics that’s not an easy thing to pull off, but the 33-year-old former pop star does it wonderfully.  And as discussed in an interview I originally conduced for THR not only was the old age makeup difficult, but episode after episode would find her jumping from one decade to another. That’s Something co-star Milo Ventimiglia, who portrays Rebecca’s husband Jack, never has to deal with. Moore is so good she’s considered a legitimate contender for an Emmy nomination in the  category.

And, it’s worth noting, if Moore isn’t as gracias and kind as she seems during our conversation she’s an even better actress than her work in “This Is Us” suggests.


Mandy Moore: Hello, how are you?

Gregory Ellwood: If I sound hoarse it’s because, like many in LA, I’ve been battling the flu. So , hopefully no one in your circles are fighting that but, I don’t normally sound this bizarre.

I have a terrible cold, but I am so sorry to hear that you have the flu. We’re buddies in illness, right now.

We are. We are. But let’s talk about “This Is Us”! I spoke to your co-star Sterling K. Brown a couple of months ago and he had said that when he got the pilot script his immediate reaction was like, “Oh wow, this could be something special, this isn’t just an another every day sort of drama.” Did you think the same?

It was, I mean honestly going through like a couple of failed TV pilot seasons I think I was a bit distraught.  I was careful not to interject and put myself sort of in the midst of pilot season again and setting myself up for disappointment and my expectation not being met. But I remember reading the script and off cycle a little bit and it was just undeniable how it elevated itself. And I just thought, no matter if it ends up moving forward or not it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m sure they are going to get an incredible cast and the writing is just, it felt so nuanced and so different from anything I have ever read for network television. And I thought, “You know what, I got to go for it. And hopefully I’m lucky enough to be a part of it.” I wasn’t even thinking I would potentially move forward because it’s so out of your control. But I did think, this has the potential. You read the pilot it’s like, I didn’t know how the story would necessarily unfold and I wasn’t aware we were going to be jumping around in time so much, out of sequential order. So, I didn’t even realize that that really opened the flood gates for the limitless potential and where this story could go with a show like this.

At what point did the creators let you know, “Oh by the way we got picked up and you’re not only going to be playing your character in the seventies and eighties but you’re also going to be playing her in modern day. And you’re going to go back and forth all the time.”

Honestly, that was about three weeks before we started shooting.  I’m not kidding, I got this email from our creator Dan Fogelman and it was like, “Listen, if people don’t buy it 100% we’re not going to do it and we’ll do the best casting job possible but I have this idea. I really want to see if through prosthetic work, and costume, and a wig, and all of that we could potentially have you playing this version of the character, present day.”  I had no idea that was ever, ever, ever going to be a possibility.  And honestly it wasn’t until about three weeks before and I was scared shitless until we, we did five or six different camera tests and even throughout the camera tests I was like, “I’m don’t know if this is going to work.” It wasn’t until we completed the first scene with myself and Ron Cephas Jones which I think is in episode three where I sort of confront him. It was a really emotional scene I confront the biological father that I’ve kept hidden from my son for his entire life and my first time seeing him since my child was an infant. And my son’s home and he doesn’t know that we know each other. So it, it’s a very loaded scene and it wasn’t until we finished then and I kind of looked around and saw the faces of the powers that be and saw that everybody was really happy with how it turned out and how it looked where I was like, “O.K.. I think, I think this can work.”


I don’t know how much fan approval matters sometimes. Because you can, sometimes you can pay too much attention to it but when that episode aired and the reaction was online did that also sort of give you a sigh of relief that the  audience liked i? That they thought it was important to the show?

We all have sort of been shocked at [how people have embraced[ the show. So, sure I think a big part of that is our inserted action with people via social media, but just seeing people weren’t clocking it and making it a big deal that was most important to me. That people were like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe that was Mandy.” For a while it sort of slipped under the radar the fact that the makeup wasn’t jarring to people for the most part what was, that kind of gave me the big thumbs up.