SPOILER ALERT: Story details NBC’s January 11th This is us episode, “Lovebirds.”
This is us solved two flashforward mysteries tonight: who was in the white car that pulled into Kevin’s driveway, and who Nicky will marry in the future.
The answer to both is Edie, a new character who appears at the end of Episode 2 of This is uslast season. She is played by veteran actress Vanessa Bell Calloway, probably best known for her roles in the Coming to America movie franchise and in Showtime’s shameless. She will return, appearing in a few episodes, This is us creator/executive producer Dan Fogelman confirmed to Deadline.
The episode “Lovebirds” juxtaposed two road trips: Nicky, accompanied by Rebecca and Miguel, drove to his long-lost love, Sally, whom he’d been pining for decades. Meanwhile, Deja takes the bus to Boston to visit her boyfriend Malik, who is now at Harvard, and the two have sex.
Sally, the one who got away after Nicky ages ago, couldn’t find the courage to leave Pittsburgh and follow her to Woodstock, it’s been a popular theory about who Nicky would marry. (He has been seen wearing a wedding ring as he sat next to Rebecca’s bed in the main 2030s flashforward the series was building towards, and referred to his “wife” in the flashforward of Kate’s wedding, 4-5 years in the future. .)
There have been wilder fan hypotheses, from Nicky marrying the much younger Cassidy, played by Jennifer Morrison, to him settling down with his late brother’s widow, Mandy Moore’s Rebecca, which Fogelman has dismissed as far-fetched.
During Nicky, Rebecca, and Miguel’s sit-down with Sally, Rebecca gives the heartbreaking speech about her fears over the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s disease seen in the Season 6 trailer (“Sometimes I think about what my very last memory before the candle goes out,” she says. “I’m not afraid to forget the big things. It’s the little things that I can’t let go of yet.”)
It turns out that Sally is married – not happy it seems – and the prospect of rekindling young love with Nicky is crushed. But since all seemed lost in the romance department for Nicky, he gets into a verbal altercation on a plane with a feisty flight attendant, Edie (Calloway), aiming to lift a seat.
It is then revealed that the “Look who’s here” line that Randall uttered in a flashforward last season when he and Deja saw a car stop at Kevin’s house for a while was about Edie, getting out of the car. She hugs Randall and Deja, kisses Nicky and is joined by Rebecca’s bed.
In an interview with Deadline, Fogelman discusses the introduction of the Edie character and the rationale behind it versus Nicky ending up with Sally; Calloway’s future on the show; like This is us’ general plan for using flashforwards in the final season, which is a bit different from previous seasons.
DEADLINE: Was it always the plan for Nicky to end up with Edie? Have you considered other options who he would marry?
FOGELMAN: New. There would have been only two options. There would have been the stranger, which is a bit, and the journey led him to the opening of love, or if it was, at the end he ends up with Sally, the woman he met as a young man, and the just felt a little too easy and too convenient for him to end up with this woman.
When we recognized that, we said, what is the story we want to tell for this man that is about looking back, and about being remembered, and about memory? For us, it felt much more exciting to let him go on a journey that not only has a clean, perfect ending, that, oh, the girl is magically available after 50 years, and they still have the same feelings for each other, and it’s fine, versus a reconnection that helps him move forward on his journey. Watching the growth of Griffin, the actor in that character, was such an exciting part of the second half of our journey for all of us as writers. It’s so nice to see him on that plane a little bit of swagger at the end, from this guy who was locked in his trailer a few years ago. It has been a very exciting journey. We thought it was the right choice for him. So this romantic journey with Sally led him to love instead of being the answer to his love story.
DEADLINE: You closed that romantic chapter and then you immediately opened a new one.
DEADLINE: Like Griffin Dunne, whose cast as Nicky was kept a secret until it was revealed onscreen that Nicky was still alive, you’d kept Vanessa’s casting quiet, so we don’t have much information about the extent of her role. Will we see more of Edie in the future? Will Vanessa be a returning cast member?
FOGELMAN: Yes. Absolute. Early in the season, she has some great stuff, and you can see how Nicky is in a relationship. It’s really fun, it’s really exciting, and it’s just such a great color in the character. It’s one of the bright ways that I was excited to be, as you said, closing chapters on a television series. Here’s this man, and he had a story, and we had already started telling the end of his story, in terms of what becomes of him and what he does with his life, and what he does with his romantic life , and it’s just really satisfying and really worth seeing it. I hope the whole ending of the series can feel a bit like that too.
DEADLINE: What is your plan for the flashforwards in the final season? We usually get them once a season, towards the finale when that family gathering scene with Rebecca dying will be revealed in full. Will there be more flashforwards sprinkled everywhere – both the main one and Kate’s wedding?
FOGELMAN: Yes. We have these two periods where, as we get deeper into the season, we’re going to have some rough time in it, namely the four or five years into the future, at Kate and Phillip’s wedding, and at the house where the family comes. slowly coming together over the past few seasons. It’s going to be a little different than we’ve done in the past, which is that we’re going to do a little less – not that we won’t do it at all – but a little less, like at the end of Episode 2, where you get a glimpse of it sees to answer, versus when we get to those places, we’ll live there a little bit more.
We have a real plan on how we’re going to spread the time, and you’ll see it’s part of our plan from the start. I think it will feel very easy to follow and very deserved for people who have gone, wait, I see these glimpses of these things at the wedding or these things in the future that I want answers to the things I see. I think we’ll live in it enough that people will get all that closure they’re looking for.
DEADLINE: Speaking of which, how long will it be before we finally get the answers as to why Kate and Miguel have been MIA in the flashforward so far?
FOGELMAN: It may take a while, but you’ll get all the answers.
Calloway is represented by Zero Gravity Management.