Mandy Moore walked into the second season of This Is Uswith the weight of the show's biggest mystery on her shoulders -- Jack's (Milo Ventimiglia) death. That pressure was only compounded when it was revealed that the pinnacle event for NBC's most watched drama would air after the Super Bowl, putting potentially millions of fresh eyes on Moore as she lost her TV husband on screen.
"I think it was written and presented in such a way where everybody had a beautiful moment because we knew that maybe people are going to be watching the show that hadn't seen it before," the actress recounted for TV Guide for our Best Performances video series. "I feel like it was a feat for my character because it's not often that you have to discover somebody losing somebody on screen. I felt a ton of pressure to make sure that that moment had the power and the resonance that I believe it deserved."
The episode celebrated the event by kicking off with a gigantic house fire that forced the entire Pearson family (except for young Kevin) to escape through a second story window. To pull off the stunt, the crew built a replica of the Pearson family house set an hour and a half outside of Los Angeles, where the show films, and burned it to the ground. The audience was set up to believe that Jack would die at the house, leaving room for his shocking heart attack later at the hospital. Moore, as Rebecca, had to carry the audience through the steps of acceptance once she heard the news that Jack had died, beginning with shock and denial when the doctor informed her that Jack had passed away.
"I love the way Dan wrote that scene because people accept news like that in a multitude of different ways. I truly believe that Rebecca was so utterly confused and that then morphed into almost embarrassment at him and then admonishment of like, 'Do you understand how wrong it is, what you just did? There is some poor woman who's husband just died and you're telling me about it' as if like, 'That is so inappropriate,'" Moore explained. "It's almost like all she can do to just back herself out of that situation, and she cannot wait to go tell Jack...Then obviously she walks into the room [and discovers the truth], but I think she fully expects, until she walks in that room, to see her husband."
Moore had prepared for the stunning moment when Rebecca walks into Jack's hospital room to find him dead by reflecting on the 30 previous episodes worth of memories, but Ventimiglia surprised her on the day by actually laying lifeless on the hospital bed to help her go the extra mile.
"I thought Milo had left for the day, so as they were preparing this set-up for this particular scene of me walking down the hospital corridor right into his room, I was curled up in the fetal position. I had my headphones in, and I was listening to music. I was just in my own world," she said. "To walk into that room and to see Milo lying there with his shirt off, with the paddles lying on the bed next to him, his eyes open, staring at the ceiling not blinking -- it was everything I needed but didn't know that I needed. I was truly grateful in that moment," Moore recounted.
"We've never really talked about it, but it was this unspoken thing of, 'I'm going to be there for you in this moment.' I don't think it would have been the same without him because we only ended up doing two or three takes. I think it was the very first take that's in the episode...It just made it all the more real being able to lay my eyes on him," she added.
The tears didn't stop with the discovery of Jack's body. The following scene forced Rebecca to have to tell her kids that their family hero would never come home again. With a break in her voice, Rebecca informs her dead husband's best friend Miguel (Jon Huertas), that he has to hold it together because she has to go ruin the rest of her kids' lives. While Moore is restrained in the scene that made it to air, it took several takes of her losing it before she could find that calm center.
"It's funny because I think there were several takes of that where I just fully exploded. In a way I feel like you sometimes have to do that to then get to the other side of being able to hold it back... Sometimes you just need to pop the balloon and let the dam break a little bit in order to then pull it back," she told TV Guide. "I know that sounds weird, but for those kinds of super emotional things I felt like I needed to go there because [Rebecca] would have gone there by herself. She would have gone there by herself in the car or at the hospital and then pulled it together in order to go face telling her children."
The emotional resonance of Moore's performance, not only in "Super Bowl Sunday," but in the episodes that followed Jack's death have once again put her in the conversation for a Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy nomination, which would be the first of her storied career. Moore's quiet, heartbreaking sadness through the season's final episodes helped sway the court of public opinion -- which had prematurely judged Rebecca during This Is Us' initial season -- into seeing her as the strong mother that she is. This transcendent performance helped the millions of viewers at home process their own grief of losing the family patriarch.
"I felt like I was in this emotional dead zone for a good month because we shot this episode and then the next episode with his funeral. It was just a month of crying. Of unabashed just tears flowing all the time," Moore said. "You have to find this weird, quiet place to live, which is super uncomfortable and scary and just a really icky feeling. At the end of the day, you want to go home and take a nice bath and have a glass of wine and listen to some happy, mellow music to lull yourself out of that."
We can toast to that.
This Is Us is now streaming on Hulu. Nominations for the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be announced July 12 with the ceremony airing Sunday, Sept. 17 on NBC.
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Nashville has pulled its fair share of crazy storylines over the past six seasons, but this one might take the cake.
After Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) decided to stay in Bolivia with Darius (Josh Stamberg) and his cult rather than return home to Avery (Jonathan Jackson) and Cadence, it seemed as if she might have actually drunk the Kool-Aid and put herself beyond the reach of Avery's help. When we finally returned to her story, we saw a very different side of things at Darius' church.
The work site that had always seemed a little ominous proved to be pretty abusive, even causing one worker to pass out after being denied a break several times. When Juliette raised an issue about workplace safety, she found out just how controlling these people were, ending up imprisoned in her room as a "danger to herself." They even assigned her a guard and took her passport away so she couldn't leave!
Thankfully, that was the final red flag Juliette needed to realize Darius and his people were not the altruistic movement she'd first thought them to be, and she started to plan her escape. Once she realized she was pregnant and revealed as much to her guard Rosa (Mia Maestro), she was able to concoct an escape plan and get the HELL out of there.
The only question that remains now is whether or not she'll go back for Rosa and her son once she returns to the States and has her lawyers come at Darius hard.
Meanwhile, Avery decided to officially try to move on with Allanah (Rainee Blake) -- he even patched things up with Gunnar (Sam Palladio) -- just in time for her to leave the band and sign with Shiny New. That's absolutely going to end terribly for her, but we're more worried about how this tentative new romance is going to hold up when Juliette not only returns, but returns with a bun in the oven!
Avery and Allanah seem to have a genuine connection, and you kind of have to agree with Avery's argument that his relationship with Juliette had become toxic and exhausting. He deserves to move on with someone more stable and grounded, but will he be able to do that when he finds out Juliette is pregnant with their second child? Avery's noble to an almost self-sabotaging level, which is where this whole thing seems to be headed.
Nashville airs Thursdays at 9/8c on CMT.
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The Order of X has an important announcement: Dear White People is returning for Season 3 on Netflix.
Giancarlo Esposito, who was revealed to be the narrator of the show and a member of the secret society that had tapped Sam (Logan Browning) and Lionel (DeRon Horton) to join its ranks at the end of Season 2, announced the good news via YouTube on Thursday (June 21).
The renewal notice comes a month after Season 2 dropped on the streaming network and should come as a helpful boost for the show's Emmys campaign as the last minute votes for nominations are due Monday, June 25. The show is wildly beloved by critics, with a score of 85 on Metacritic and certified fresh at 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
The series is an adaptation/continuation from creator Justin Simien's 2014 film of the same name, focused on the black students of the fictional Winchester University as they try to find their way in a white-ruled world. The second season dove into how a campus-wide protest against the campaign to integrate the campus' only black dorm at the end of Season 1 only added gasoline to the university's racial tension fire. The show tackled hot button issues like interracial dating, abortion and the political divide in the ambitious sophomore season and the secret society cliffhanger left fans clamoring for more.
The show's ability to talk bluntly about racial issues and dissect them from all sides has been one of its major assets and a cultural necessity in the current turbulent social climate. The show earned a Season 3, and it's about time Netflix made this important decision.
Dear White People Seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming on Netflix.
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