We still have to wait another month to discover what’s next for Jack, Rebecca and the Big Three when This Is Us returns for its third season on NBC, but we’ve got something to curb your Pearson family cravings!
Only ET visited the Emmy-nominated makeup and wardrobe departments of This Is Us in Los Angeles for an exclusive tour of all the time-hopping magic with makeup department head Zoe Hay and costume designer Hala Bahmet.
These two Emmy contenders work tirelessly behind the scenes to transform the actors into their onscreen alter egos and here are six mind-blowing secrets we learned along the way...
1. Jack’s Mustache Almost Never Happened: The now-iconic facial hair of the Pearson family patriarch was almost completely different! “I like Jack with the mustache, which was a hard sell in the beginning,” Hay recalled before adding that there was major drama known as “beard-gate” in the early days of This Is Us’ first season.
“In the second episode of the first season, it was scripted that Jack was clean-shaven but eight years older, and I said, ‘Maybe I should be wearing a mustache.’” Milo Ventimiglia explained to ET’s Keltie Knight at a This Is Us Emmys celebration event last week. “We shaved half of my face and we get a, ‘Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait!’ [from production.]”
Hay revealed that the series' executive producers didn’t know if they were going to be “happy” with older Jack sporting a ‘stache, but by then, the damage was already done. “We were like, ‘Too late! We already did it,’” she said with a smile.
2. Mandy Moore Helps Create Rebecca’s Aged-Up Look: In order to play the songstress turned mother-of-three turned widow Rebecca Pearson, leading lady Mandy Moore time travels into the makeup trailer more than any other actor on This Is Us. (FYI, Rebecca’s timeline on the NBC drama ranges from mid-twenties in the groovy flashbacks of the ‘70s to 68 years old in the present-day storylines.)
Hay shared that it takes roughly three and a half hours to complete Rebecca’s aged-up look, but there’s no early morning napping in the makeup chair for Moore — she’s an active participant in the process! “She has to blow dry [the prosthetics] for us,” Hay said. “She's switching her position all the time and she's a real trouper. It's a lot. It's a lot to go through that process.“
In order to keep things fun during those strenuous makeup sessions, Hay spilled that a good playlist is key. “We play some groovy 1940s music, so we have a nice, chill atmosphere,” she said.
3. The Older Looks Are Inspired by the Actors’ Parents: With two seasons of This Is Us in the books, we’ve already been introduced to elderly Rebecca, old man Randall, and in one heartbreaking dream sequence, we saw what a silver fox Jack would’ve become had he lived past 1998.
Hay dished that she has a go-to trick for how to realistically age up the stars of the show. “With the actors I often ask them if they have pictures of their parents when they were older,” she explained. “Milo is great. He had a picture of his dad, and he brought this in, and we actually use that as a basis to do the sculpture for his old-age makeup, so that's really helpful that we had that.”
4. There Are a Lot of Rules While Wearing Prosthetics: Due to the fact that it takes more than three hours of diligent work to apply the aged-up makeup and prosthetics, there are a few very important rules that the cast of This Is Us must follow for the rest of the day on set.
Rule #1: Be careful what you eat. Hay admitted that Ventimiglia is only allowed to “take small bites of food” when he’s wearing his fake mustache on set.
Rule #2: Try not to laugh too hard. At the risk of tearing the prosthetics, the actors are encouraged to keep the big belly laughter to a minimum — which has resulted in a few interesting onscreen character traits. “Milo has a great, little chuckle that he does when he's got on the mustache, so it's not a big laugh,” Hay said. “He sort of goes, 'Huh! Huh! Huh!’ It's very cute.”
Rule #3: Keep the crying to a minimum. “Prosthetics' worst enemy is probably tears, which is not good on our show, 'cause there's lots of crying!” Hay revealed. Moore added that the cast has to be very “careful” not to unleash the waterworks too early on set. “The salt I guess and the tears sort of act as, like, some sort of conduit to break down the prosthetics,” Moore dished. “The crying portions of the scenes are pushed to the end of the day and then it can act as a lubricant to help me remove the prosthetics.”
5. The Wardrobe Department Can Never Get Rid of an Outfit: Since the Pearson family storylines are constantly shifting around multiple timelines, this makes things particularly challenging for Bahmet and the rest of the This Is Us wardrobe department.
“We have to be prepared to always move around in time and we have to hang on to every piece of clothing,” Bahmet revealed. ”A lot of television shows will return their clothing at the end of a season thinking they'll never need it again. For us, we have to hang on to every piece of clothing because we never know if in two years, we're going to be featuring another garment or the same garment again.”
In order to house the thousands of items of clothing, shoes and accessories, there are four storage rooms spread across the various This Is Us soundstages. “We have a pretty complicated operation going on over here,” she said. “We have the four different areas and they're not all in the same building, so we find ourselves having to cart around with our golf cart in between them and so it gets complicated.”
6. Kate’s Wedding Dress Is One of a Kind: If you were looking to walk down the aisle in the same white gown as Kate Pearson, Chrissy Metz has some bad news for you: “People are asking me, like, where can I buy the dress and I'm like, ‘It’s couture, you can’t!’”
This “couture” wedding gown was created by Bahmet, who has also created dozens of custom dresses for Kate over the past two seasons. “I've made so many dresses for her, I wanted to make sure the wedding dress had some new elements that people hadn't seen before,” she said of the French-beaded lace fabric.
“It was gorgeous!” Bahmet beamed. “And our stitcher worked on it for almost three weeks. It's all handmade and the bodice is encrusted with additional hand-beading and it's layered all in silk. It's really a couture, a beautiful couture dress and I'm very proud of it.”
Season three of This Is Us premieres Tuesday, Sept. 25 on NBC.