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Today we’re talking about The One Time This Is Us’s Jack Pearson Was at a Loss for Words
The Scene: This Is Us Season 6, Episode 4
This Is Us patriarch Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) was famous for his speeches. Often they were about his deep commitment to his wife, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), and their kids, played in the time-hopping series by child actors as well as costars Chrissy Metz, Sterling K. Brown, and Justin Hartley. One time, while wearing tighty-whities in a flashback scene set in the 1970s, he begged a doctor to help him enlist in the Army so he could act out a grandiose scheme to save his already drafted brother, Nicky (Michael Angarano).
But almost all of his big speeches were delivered in intimate one-to-one moments that involved lots of eye contact and a stiff upper lip that was often obscured by facial hair.
Then came the death of Jack’s mom, Marilyn (Laura Niemi), in the mid-’80s, which revealed one thing the great and heroic Jack Pearson may not be good at: public speaking. In the fourth episode of This Is Us’s final season, titled “Don’t Let Me Keep You,” Jack must contend with his own guilt over his lapsed relationship with his mother as he understands that her fear of encountering his abusive father, Stanley (Peter Onorati) never went away. Delivering the eulogy he stumbles for words unti Rebecca and their elementary-aged children surprise Jack and open the church doors. In doing so, they rescue the man who always rescues them just when he needs it most.
“Rebecca is the one who gives Jack confidence and Rebecca is the one who gives Jack inspiration and Rebecca is the one that holds Jack when he needs to be held,” Ventimiglia says of what it means for his character to see his family arrive unexpectedly at such a crucial moment. “Even as stoic as the man is, Rebecca is everything that he needs…. When she walks through the door and he sees his kids, it’s very clear what he needs to say about his mom.”
Writing From the Heart
“People joke a lot about the Pearson men and their emotional speeches and we joke about it too in the writers room,” says This Is Us coexecutive producer Elan Mastai, who wrote this episode, arguing that if ever there’s a time to go all in on an emotional speech, it’s your mother’s funeral.
For this speech, the writer says he wanted “to embrace the very classic metaphor of the home”—this is a character who works in construction, after all—and that “it’s actually a rare moment of emotional clarity for Jack Pearson to really understand the things that he had to do to move on from the abuse that he suffered growing up.”
The episode also came from a personal place for Mastai, who lost his mother but says he was “too stunned and shocked and sad” at that time to “give a eulogy at all.”
Mastai says he had so much energy the day of shooting the scene, which was filmed on the third day of an eight-day shoot, that he walked the roughly two and a half miles from where he lives to the actual church they were using for their filming location. Sure, he did stop for a muffin and coffee along the way), but, Mastai says he still “arrived on set in a real, heightened state.”
As for his star, Mastai says, “I have this very clear memory of him before we shot the eulogy [where] he looked like a boxer right before a fight” and that Ventimiglia was “an athlete at the starting blocks about to run the fastest race of their life.”