BEVERLY HILLS — This Is Us will provide some early answers about the death of Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) when it returns for Season 2 on Sept. 26.
Some fans were disappointed that they didn’t learn the fate of the character, who is dead in the present day in the time-shifting drama, in last season’s finale.
“If that is a question that’s haunting people, in the course of the second season they will get all the answers they need,” executive producer Dan Fogelman told the Television Critics Association press tour Thursday. “The first episode has a big, giant piece of the puzzle that will essentially set the Internet abuzz."
Viewers also can expect at least one big guest star, Sylvester Stallone, and a short time-jump forward for the characters in the Emmy-nominated drama.
The present-day story will pick up a month or two after the Season 1 finale, as the three adult children hit their 37th birthdays, Fogelman said.
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Last season's late storylines will continue, with Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and his wife, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), proceeding with adoption plans; Kate (Chrissy Metz) pursuing a singing career; and Kevin (Justin Hartley) taking on his big film role and trying to renew a relationship with his ex-wife.
Stallone, a friend of Ventimiglia, will "do a huge part on the show," playing the father-figure co-star in Kevin's film, Fogelman said.
The show's earlier timeline will pick up the day after the season-ending fight between Jack and Rebecca that led to the couple's separation.
Randall's birth father, William (Ron Cephas Jones), who died last season, will be back, too, as promised.
Expect the tears to return, too, on a show that traffics in strong emotions. A moving clip from Season 2, in which Rebecca (Mandy Moore) explains to son Randall the decision to adopt him, left the cast and many in the room of hardened TV critics a little misty-eyed. As a writer posed a question after the clip, Brown interjected: Just give us a second.”
Us, a breakout critical and ratings hit, scored 11 Emmy nominations and is considered a strong candidate in the drama series category, which a broadcast network show hasn't won since Fox's 24 in 2006.
In a session that was part group hug, Ventimiglia discussed the special feeling for the series shared by those involved in it.
"If you're an actor and you have a job, consider yourself lucky. If you're a working actor and get to be on a show that has meaning and magnitude and grace … you want to soak up every minute of it," he said.
Brown talked about Us's ability to influence perceptions. Randall is a good father, which runs counter to "a perception that black men are absent. … To be on a show that is on network television (where) you see a black man who loves his wife to the core … that's a wonderful image to put up in the world,' Brown said. Viewers "get a chance to see Randall and say, 'That's a man I can identify with.' "
Asked about awards anticipation, Fogelman said he's only been to one another big awards show, when Us was a nominee at the Golden Globes in January.
"It was one of the most nauseating nights of my life," he said. As for the Emmys, "I'm just hoping to survive the night, honestly."