The actor gets candid with ET about what’s in store in coming episodes, including Miguel and Rebecca’s courtship, more from Jack’s funeral and the high-profile politician who is secretly a fan of ‘This Is Us.’
ET recently spoke with Jon Huertas, who revealed that the heartache will only get worse as the final episodes of 2017 unfurl. According to the actor, the upcoming fall finale, titled “Number Three,” may be one of the most impactful hours of the season yet.
“The most powerful episode for me so far is episode 10, which hasn’t even aired yet,” Huertas tells ET, referencing next Tuesday’s installment that focuses on Randall. “On paper, it’s just… you’ll see, it’s so heart-wrenching.”
As the season has progressed, more and more information has been shared about Miguel. Only recently have viewers become privy to when and how Jack’s best friend and Rebecca reconnect after nearly a decade of silence following Jack’s death, and Miguel’s last name, up until this point a mystery, was finally revealed. With the first half of the season winding down, Huertas looks ahead at what awaits the Pearson family -- from Jack's funeral to Miguel and Rebecca's courtship.
What scene or episode from the season so far has been the most powerful for you to experience as a viewer?
The last scene in the first episode of the season, when Rebecca pulls up in front of the house, there’s no dialogue, there are no other actors in it -- we felt exactly what she was feeling. To me, it was a really powerful performance and a moment that if you’ve experienced grief like that, you believe that Rebecca was going through the same grief. Mandy [Moore]’s performances are always great; she’s super dedicated to the craft. It’s always surprising to people that she is so good because people still associate her with her pop career. But before she was a singer, she was also acting and doing theater -- a lot of people just don’t realize it. From our conversations, she’s technically always been an actor first, singer second. But she is definitely dialing in her performance and really getting into Rebecca’s skin deeper and deeper every single episode.
How do you think viewers’ perceptions of Miguel will change by the end of season two?
(Laughs.) I think people’s reactions to Miguel are a really natural reaction. It’s just like any other family who experiences a stepmother or a stepfather. There’s always a resistance because he isn’t their father, and with Miguel being Jack’s best friend, they already knew this guy. Probably with the kids, there was a sense of betrayal, like, “Mom, how could you be with Dad’s friend and your friend?” The audience had a similar reaction. When I was in the Air Force, we would say, “If something happened to me, please take care of my other, because I trust you. You’re my best friend” or “You’re like a brother to me.” Eventually, the way we tell the story, people will hopefully get a sense of that and say, “Wow, I wouldn’t want Jack’s wife to be with anybody else,” because there was a certain love that Jack and Miguel shared. Hopefully, we’ll see those scenes. That’s the challenge as an actor -- I’ll get the words, Mandy will get the words, the kids will get the words and we’ll see if we can actually convince the audience. It’s all of our goals as actors right now to try to convince the audience that this is a relationship they all should root for -- root for in a different way. The challenge is what’s interesting about the character. I like that people didn’t accept him right away because now, I’m challenged to change their minds.
There’s still a lot of mystery surrounding the character of Miguel a season and a half into the show. We only just found out Miguel’s last name, Rivas, for instance. Have you viewed that as a gift?
I like the mystery. We’ve talked about it and we want to keep it a little more mysterious because that strings the audience along a little bit more. About the last name -- last season, I asked a couple of times, “Does the character have a last name?” They were like, “Nah!” When the character was originally conceived, the character’s name was Mike. It wasn’t written as a Latino character, so he had a completely different first and last name. When they cast me, they didn’t have to but they changed the first name to represent the ethnicity and they were more concerned about the first name for the story. So I came up with the name, Rivas, based on someone who was very close to me when I was in the Air Force; we served together during Desert Storm. He was just a great friend and like a brother to me. To mirror the kind of relationship that maybe Miguel and Jack had, I decided to pick my friend’s name, Rivas.
Is there more to Miguel than meets the eye? Does he have more demons or faults outside of divorcing his wife, Shelly?
Oh, there’s more to Miguel. There are some layers there that you’re going to have to peel back.
It was only recently revealed that Miguel and Rebecca reconnected on Facebook in 2008 after eight years of not speaking following Jack’s death. Did that surprise you that it was Facebook?
Facebook! We had a meeting at the beginning of the season to talk about how Miguel deals with Jack’s death and what happens directly after his death. We’re going to play with that a little bit more later on this season and more next season, but the writers and producers and I wanted to make sure there was some distance between them so it didn’t feel like Rebecca jumped right into someone else’s arms. We decided, Miguel’s an ambitious guy, he’s got to go off -- and my layman’s term for what he’s doing: Miguel’s going to go off and get rich. He’s got this ambition where he wants to keep climbing the ladder at his company and he decides, instead of dealing with the death of his best friend, he immersed himself in his work and buries his head in that and it became his passion. He didn’t date anyone else seriously. He just focused on work and becoming successful in his own heart and his own mind. It was a brilliant idea to reconnect them on Facebook. If he goes away, how does he get back together? They found a great device to do that.
Was Miguel aware of the severity of Jack’s struggles with alcoholism or did he also hide it from his best friend?
I think he hid it from his best friend. There’s talk that we may play with maybe Miguel getting a whiff of it, but for the most part, he was able to hide it from his best friend and his entire family, and they lived it for them. Pretty easy for him to hide it from his best friend, too.
We’ve also seen footage from Jack’s funeral and it’s established that Rebecca, Kevin, Kate and Randall were all present. Was Miguel also there?
There is going to be more footage from his funeral that we’ll see and you can bet that Miguel’s there.
One of the biggest questions that still looms large when it comes to Miguel is what happened to Shelly and their kids. Have you been privy to that information?
We know we’re going to get into that and the relationship between Jack’s kids and Miguel’s kids, but we haven’t really talked about it yet.
You had some fun with NBA star Dwyane Wade when he recently tweeted that he was going to start watching This Is Us. That must have been pretty cool. Is he the coolest celebrity you’ve come across who’s been vocal about watching your show?
(Laughs.) That is cool. One of our biggest fans is Jennifer Lopez, and that’s pretty exciting. Having anybody who is of a high caliber, whether they be an actor or a singer or a politician, [watch our show is neat]. Hillary Clinton is a huge fan of our show, I know that. Fifth Harmony’s Ally Brooke visited [the set] and came to our [season two] premiere. We’ve got some pretty cool fans.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.