This spring, “This is Us” concluded the saga of the Pearson family with a series of emotional goodbyes. And the second-to-last episode, “The Train,” showed the final journey for the family matriarch Rebecca (Mandy Moore) with an emotional episode dedicated to her passing on into the afterlife, one that takes the form of her entering the last carriage in a train. Speaking to Variety, Moore revealed that the first time she read the script for this farewell she was so moved she became physically ill.
“As soon as I finished the script, I got sick, which is true,” Moore said. “I’ve never had that reaction. I guess, if you are so overcome with emotion, sometimes that’s your body’s response, and I think that was just my response. I was like, ‘This is the end,’ I couldn’t help myself. Each time that I read it subsequently, I think I read it three or four times again, I was still so overcome. I remember feeling really fearful of the daunting task of actually filming it.”
Despite her concerns about the emotional labor it would take to send the character she spent years protecting and nurturing off into the great unknown, Moore knew she was in good hands. Plus, they did plenty of prep work. The conductor on this episode was longtime “This Is Us” director Ken Olin. “We really did discuss it beforehand, to make sure we were on the same page,” Moore continued. “Because everyone’s interpretation of the afterlife and making this transition in life, everyone is going to come to it from a different place, and I wanted to make sure that we were very much aligned.” Moore and Olin, sat down for Variety’s “Making a Scene,” presented by HBO, to discuss all the heart (and all the tears) that went into filming Rebecca’s journey and how they considered closing the book on the beloved character’s storyline.
First up, the easter egg-filled bar scene decorated with notable props from throughout the show’s history, including the Pearson wall growth chart, Lundy mug, another cup with the “world’s best dad” moniker and Milo Ventimiglia’s face on it, a bowl of lemons and so much more. According to Olin, show creator Dan Fogelman had the props department lay out a litany of Pearson memorabilia so they could dress the set inside Rebecca’s mind. One memory that didn’t make the cut? “I don’t think anybody saw it, but there was the Taboo game from earlier this season that Rebecca and Miguel play on Thanksgiving with the family, and there’s that awkward moment,” Moore revealed.