This post contains spoilers from this week This is us. Proceed as follows.
Although Nicky’s reunion with Sally and Déja’s first sexual experience with Malik – not to mention the flash forward scene – were the headlines, Tuesday This is us also told the story of how Rebecca is beginning to consider the progress of her Alzheimer’s disease. (Read a full summary.)
“Sometimes I think about what my very last memory will be before the candle goes out,” Rebecca told Miguel, Nicky, Sally, and Sally’s husband (!) Eric, musing about how being sick should make it easier to deal with the minor annoyances of being sick. life to go… but so far that hasn’t turned out to be true.
TVLine spoke with executive producer Kay Oyegun, who directed the episode, and co-executive producer Kevin Falls, who wrote it, about Rebecca’s path as This is us is getting closer and closer to the ultimate end of the matriarch (and the show itself).
TVLINE | We’re in this weird period of procrastination, where Rebecca knows things are going a little downhill, and she’s very much aware of what’s ahead. How do you deal with that delicate spot for the character? How much discussion was there about how far to go with her deterioration, and when?
KAY OYEGUN | Kevin, I’ll let you talk to the writing, but for us in the [writers’] room, a lot of experts came in to talk to us. We’ve had doctors walk us through the process and timeline. We know what the endgame is, in terms of age and time frame that Rebecca will eventually pass, and so we knew there would be a long period of this kind of decline. We just wanted to calibrate and modulate it properly.
and Mandy [Moore]God bless her has done such an incredible amount of homework on how to execute this character and process. For me, from a directorial standpoint, it’s really just being a little patient with her. It’s just allowing a brilliant actress to embody a character she knows so well. Frankly, it’s bizarre to say, but let the camera sit there, let her take her time.
I think you will see that the season is a very patient season, especially when it comes to Mandy’s performance, simply because we always play fair. But yes, research has been a big part of it. All of our scripts are read by doctors, and I’m letting Kevin, who wrote such a wonderfully mature episode, take the wheel.
KEVIN VALTO | Yes, Kay made it. All the experts coming in, Dan [Fogelman, series creator/executive producer] always impresses us that we have to do it right, be it Vietnam or Alzheimer’s disease. We are also aware that we wanted to see her in a state of confusion from the start, half way through the season. And it’s interesting, Kay, now, because we’re in the room, and really busy seeing scripts where we start to see the decline, and her struggles with memory, which is important: that we don’t just watch the TV- version where it’s temporary, and she’s aware of it, and doesn’t really feel the effects…
So we want to make that real, and how it doesn’t just affect her, how it affects the family… We’ve tried to make it real, and we have one more way to do it, but it’s hard. It’s rough, isn’t it, Kay? These are not nice things.
OYEGUN | It’s a tricky business. I think that’s why we wanted – it’s so weird to say, but – to adjust our pace. As an opportunity to really hold these memories and look back, we wanted to be able to play with that a lot. This episode is so much about love, and second chances, and second romance, and the nostalgia of first love. We definitely wanted her memory space to be there. She still has it, and we wanted to investigate it.
TVLINE | I know people have been asking to learn more about Rebecca and Miguel’s dating, and we certainly got some of that in this episode. Will there be more of that this season?
TRAPS | Timely question. Go, Kay.
OYEGUN | One million percent, more on the way… More coming.
TRAPS | In fact, we’re working on it today.
OYEGUN | Literally.
TVLINE | I was touched by the moment when Rebecca says Miguel is in for an ordeal, and he says he will be “great” for her – which is a great feeling, and I’m sure he means it, but putting it into practice is so much harder . Can you talk to me a bit about the battle ahead for Miguel, who is one of the most easygoing characters on the show so far?
TRAPS | Yes, and that easygoing Miguel, [the one for whom] things seem to be rolling off of him, whether it’s Kevin busting his chops and thinking he might be a bit of a snake for stealing Jack’s wife, and all those things he’s been rolling off his back for the greater well, namely Rebecca’s happiness, and that of her family, and we’re going to look into that as well. But we will also have to deal with the toll it takes, and the heroic gestures to support a loved one, be it your mother, your father, your spouse or significant other.
So we’ll see, and he’ll have to deal with it, and then slowly he’ll earn not so much the scornful respect, but the long-awaited respect of the Big Three. He’s kind of a silent hero. I wouldn’t say he suffers. He doesn’t show that to anyone. But Miguel has a depth that we go into that also influences the way he supports his wife through this difficult period.
TVLINE | During that dinner scene, whose idea was it to have Nicky and Miguel swap hair accessories at the table? I loved it. Was it scripted?
TRAPS | [Laughs] That was scripted. Then every script passes and we’re always thankful for that, because it’s so great. That haircut, he did that, and I thought it was really funny, and it stayed there. I made the mistake of really saying we could lift it because we were running for a long time, and that didn’t go down well. [Laughs] It stayed inside so I’m glad you like it.