When This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman was envisioning how Rebecca’s funeral would play out in the series’ finale, he remembered how his grief over his own mother’s death had seemed to blot out so much of her memorial service.
“I lost my mom and very similarly sat up all night the night before deciding that people were waiting for the perfect eulogy from me, and it had to be the right level of touching and funny and it had to be well written and I had to deliver it well,” the EP told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. “My experience of the day — and frankly the week or two after — was, I described in the script, I floated through space and time and didn’t hear anything. I worked so hard on that eulogy, and I don’t remember a single word I said.”
Viewers of Tuesday’s episode (read a recap) watched something similar happen to Randall who, along with his siblings, spoke at their mother’s funeral. But given the show’s stylistic and editing choices, the audience was not privy to what was said or how it was delivered.
“I wanted to visually capture that,” Fogelman said. “It was always about a son floating through a funeral of his mother as if it’s almost in slow motion and a bomb has gone off and he can’t hear anything anymore.”
However, he still had Sterling K. Brown, Justin Hartley and Chrissy Metz get up, in character, in front of the gathering on the day of shooting. So when TVLine spoke with Brown and Hartley on Sunday and Monday, respectively, we asked them to give us the lowdown on what they said when it was their turn to eulogize their on-screen mom.
TVLINE | We saw you up at the lectern, but didn’t hear what you said. Did you actually give a eulogy as Randall?
STERLING K. BROWN | So, the pad of paper that I had as [Randall] is talking to Beth, I would actually, in between takes, just start writing stuff down. In between set-ups, I was like, “OK, if I were going to do this, what would I say?” And so, I started composing something. And then the funeral scene was the next day or two days later, and I asked my man in props, I was like, “Rick, we still got that pad?” And he’s like, “Yeah, absolutely.” And I flipped to my page and I had, like, a couple of pages written, and I started writing a little bit more. It was just sort of this exercise on what would I actually say if I had to be placed in this position? And so, I said a few things.
And it was funny because at one point, Dan came out and he goes, “If the one writing Emmy that we get is because of something that you wrote on a piece of paper I will…” [Laughs] He didn’t say anything drastic, but he did say something like that.
TVLINE | Justin, Sterling wrote something. What did you do when you got up there?
JUSTIN HARTLEY | A freestyle.
TVLINE | Really?!
HARTLEY | Well, it wasn’t in the script that I was going up there. It wasn’t written at all. And then on the day, Ken [Olin, director] and Dan were like, “Justin, go up there and say something.” I’m like, “F–k, OK.” So, I go up there — I had no dialogue that day, I was basically an extra. And then I’m to go up and do this eulogy and give a speech or something? [Laughs] It’s actually really easy though, because I mean, I’ve lived this character for six years. Even days that I’m not working, I’m still thinking about him, the show and all that stuff. So, it’s really easy to sort of go back in time and give a speech about how great Mom was and what she would want for us, and how she would want to be remembered, and all of that kind of stuff.
TVLINE | Do you remember how your castmates were reacting to what you were saying?
HARTLEY | Yeah, my instructions were to, without anyone knowing, were to get people to be emotional, and then also get people to crack up. So, it was a tall task… But I said some heartfelt things that I think I would want my daughter to say at my funeral, hopefully.