‘This Is Us’: Jon Huertas on Miguel’s backstory, that shocking ending

SPOLE ALERT: Don’t read if you haven’t watched “Miguel,” the May 3 episode of “It’s us.”

“Miguel through the years” was the simple description given for Tuesday’s “This Is Us,” the penultimate episode of Dan Fogelman’s NBC family drama. While accurate, this hookup line doesn’t do the hour, aptly titled “Miguel”, justice, as it’s truly the fans of the day in the spotlight of Jon Huertas‘ Miguel Rivas waited six seasons – and also the one in which the character dies.

The episode shows viewers Miguel’s origins in Puerto Rico, how he came to Pennsylvania as a boy with his parents and aunt, how he didn’t get along with the wife of his best friend Jack (Milo Ventimiglia ), Rebecca (Mandy Moore), and how years after Jack’s death, Rebecca and Miguel found each other again, this time as romantic partners. In the current timeline, Miguel cares for an increasingly deteriorated Rebecca — whose children Kate (Chrissy Metz), Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) — would rather he leave behind a professional caretaker. take care of himself. rest of the aging body. Eventually Miguel admits he can’t do it anymore, leaving someone else to take care of his wife with Alzheimer’s disease. and himself, to change.

The episode ends with the Pearsons’ and Miguel’s children, having reunited with their father before his final days, saying goodbye to Miguel after his sudden death between scenes.

Variety spoke with Huertas about filming the Miguel-centric “This Is Us” episode and whether or not we’ll see him again before the May 24 series finale in just three episodes.

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Jon Huertas as Miguel, Mandy Moore as Rebecca in “This Is Us” – Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

How did you hear about the episode of Miguel and have your say in the story?

I’ve known this episode for a few seasons now. The way the timing worked, the episode is different than it would have been had it come sooner, because it’s so close to the end and we had to address Miguel’s death in this episode. I knew the details of the kind of story we were going to tell, but we started really talking about it two months before the holidays. And I jumped into the writers room with Dan, and we helped find all these ideas and influences in my life. And our writer, Jonny Gomez, made it a really complete episode.

How do you think fans will react to Miguel’s story and his death?

There may be fans who say “Yay, he’s gone!” But you know where those fans can go. There are other fans that it will hit them very hard. They’re going to worry that they haven’t invested enough in Miguel. But if they go back and think about all the big moments and little tidbits Miguel may have injected into certain episodes and situations with the Pearson family, they’ll realize, “Oh, that all makes sense. The story they told us in this episode makes so much sense for who Miguel is and how he played into the Pearson family dynamic. And I think they’ll come away feeling very full, very satisfied. But I don’t think they’ll be ready for the end, for Miguel’s departure. I really don’t think they’ll be ready for that.

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Yael Ocasio as Young Miguel in “This Is Us” – Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

What were the parallels you saw between Miguel’s relationship with his father and his relationship with his own son?

When he was brought to this country, it was a time in this country when civil rights were still fighting. There was definitely that divide that immigrants and people of color always faced. The problem with Latinx people is that we’ve always been made up of natives, black people, and a BIPOC demo, and the idea of ​​assimilation has always been forced as Latinx people. This story is the classic story of a child who assimilates and says that the only way to get ahead in life, to be successful and to have the things that make you an American is to assimilate. . And even though his dad wanted to take him to this better place with more opportunities and wanted him to succeed, I think his dad really felt that guilt with Miguel. And then that’s what Miguel felt with his own son. It was one of those things that he clung to for so long, the idea that “I have to succeed. I need to improve my life. Instead of realizing that maybe her life is already great. Maybe you have everything you could have dreamed of, you don’t have to keep driving. And because he did that, he pushed his own children away. Even though he thought he could do it for his son and for his daughter and for his wife, Shelly, he ended up creating this void between them – just like what happened with him and his own father.

Miguel’s romantic relationship with Rebecca is seen throughout this episode, until the end. The caretaker stadium means a lot to Miguel, and one he won’t let go easily, even when his stepchildren tell him to let a professional take care of him and Rebecca. Why do you think that is?

When Miguel has to be that guardian, I think that’s a very important aspect of this episode. For people to get something out of this, never forget or underestimate what this guardian means to this person. Whether they’re struggling with cognitive decline, have had an accident, and just can’t take care of themselves like they used to. I loved the way we told this story.

And Mandy and I really talked about that a lot. I found myself never wanting to leave Mandy’s side while we were in our elder makeup. Even when we were on stage and not filming in the scene, I wondered where Mandy was and I wanted to be next to her, I wanted to be near her. I felt like that, I wanted to make sure she knew I was nearby. I stumbled into this almost by accident. I noticed I was doing it in the moment, I didn’t show up to work saying, “I’m not going to leave Mandy because that’s what Miguel would do.” It just happened.

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Paul Calderon as Risto, Jon Huertas as Miguel, Eileen Galindo as Beatriz in “This Is Us” – Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Miguel’s death is not shown on screen. Did you think that should have been the case?

I had this conversation with a completely different show and showrunner, something I was going to direct this summer. I feel like when someone dies, even if it’s a thriller or a horror movie, what interests me more is people’s reactions rather than seeing the person die. It’s when you see someone’s reaction to that person, that’s where the emotion comes from. And our show is built on moving moments that hopefully evoke emotions in our audience. So instead of seeing Miguel take his last breath and his last breath, to see how it affects Rebecca, how it brought together these two boys who apparently had this breakup with Miguel for so long – his eldest son and then his stepson – to come together and share this moment of spreading his ashes. I think it’s way more interesting than watching Miguel breathe his last. And we see Rebecca in her deathbed and we’re heading towards that. And this is Rebecca’s device, it’s for Rebecca’s death. So what other device can we use for Miguel? And I think it’s just great the way we’ve done it. It’s also more surprising like that. To me, it surprises you that Miguel suddenly left.

There are three episodes of “This Is Us” left. Will we see Miguel again before the end?

I’ve said the whole time I’ve been on this show, Miguel is a time traveler. It is he who goes from the 50s to the present day. So you can never count Miguel out. He might make an appearance.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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