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‘This Is Us’: How the Underdog NBC Drama Can Win at the Emmys

The cast of "This Is Us" revealed who was returning in Season 2, the producers' favorite scenes, and an emotional Emmy strategy.

THIS IS US Sterling K. Brown NBC "Moonshadow" Randall

“This Is Us”

Ron Batzdorff/NBC


Competing Emmy drama nominees “This Is Us” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” both held “For Your Consideration” panels on Monday night. But only one provided branded tissues for its guests.

“Now come on: This is more fun than ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ panel, right?” quipped “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman.

Taking place on the first night of Emmy voting, Fogelman and the cast of NBC’s hit drama — the only broadcast series nominated for Outstanding Drama Series — gave voters plenty of reasons to consider it — mainly, by crying.

Eight clips were shown and discussed over a nearly two-hour panel, highlighting the acting work of nominees Sterling K. Brown, Milo Ventimiglia, Chrissy Metz, Ron Cephas Jones, and the three Guest Actor contenders: Brian Tyree Henry, Gerald McRaney, and Denis O’Hare. Everyone but Jones was in attendance, and even more cast members were there: Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, Susan Kelechi Watson, and Chris Sullivan.

The clips and conversation conveyed a variety of key messages that could prove make for a successful campaign, and Fogelman offered up a number of Season 2 details to satiate fans’ appetites (in bold below). Here’s what stood out from the producers’ “favorite scenes” and what the cast said after each screening.

Scene No. 1: Dr. K Breaks the Bad News to Jack

Featured Actor: Gerald McRaney

Much like Dr. K (McRaney) inspires Jack (Ventimiglia) after telling him his baby son died at birth, McRaney was there to lend a helping hand to his cast and creator.

He called the group one-of-a-kind and humbly deflected praise sent his way to his co-star in the scene (Ventimiglia) and the rest of the cast.

“Who do I have to pay to be on this show?” McRaney said when asked about his first thought after reading the script. “This scene was just delicious.”

That being said, the veteran actor, who’s nominated for his endearing turn as the default Pearson family doctor, earned the biggest reaction among the guest actors’ scenes, and his modesty played well to a sniffling, enthusiastic crowd.

Fogelman praised both of his actors, describing the scene from the series’ pilot as “overwritten” and crediting McRaney and Ventimiglia for making it sound natural.

“All I had to do was show up and listen,” Ventimiglia said, adding he didn’t know he was crying during McRaney’s monologue until he saw the tape. “It’s the most gratifying, humbling, delicious show ever.”

Scene No. 2: William and Jessie Make Up

Featured Actor: Denis O’Hare

The brief moment when William (Jones) and Jessie (O’Hare) reunite at a cancer support group in the Christmas episode, “Last Christmas,” emphasized how quickly “This Is Us” can build history. O’Hare is only in three episodes, but he quickly became an integral part of the families, on and off screen.

“It was magic,” Fogelman said. “When these two guys get together, you’re watching a master class.”

Season 2 News: Fogelman said, despite William’s death in Season 1, the writers are interested in exploring his relationship with Jessie further in future seasons, including Season 2.

“It’s a relationship we’re really interested in,” Fogelman said. “The hope is everyone on this stage is back early and often.”

That’s good news not only for fans of Jones and O’Hare, but Dr. K and Brian Tyree Henry’s Ricky, as well.

Continue reading for a potential Season 2 spoiler and five more favorite scenes from Season 1.

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