When This Is Us first premiered everyone instantly fell in love with Milo Ventimiglia’s character Jack Pearson. In the audience’s eyes, he was the Pearson patriarch, Rebecca’s soulmate, and #Number1Dad. So, by the time the end of the second episode rolled around and it was revealed that after Jack’s death, Rebecca had remarried Jack’s best friend Miguel, the audience had a lot of questions.
Much like Miguel was fighting an uphill battle with the This Is Us family, so was Jon Huertas, the actor who plays him. While the audience was never given any inclination that Miguel had betrayed his best friend, they immediately assumed that was the case and struggled to accept him. However, over the past two seasons Miguel’s rays of charisma, charm, love, and pure kindness have really shined, and as season 2 came to a close, fans were finally starting to see the light when it came to his character. From his obsession with pigs in a blanket to his fierce friendship with Jack to his respect for the entire Pearson clan, Miguel is almost impossible to not like, and that’s thanks in part to Huertas’ subtle yet moving performance.NBC
We had the opportunity to talk with Jon Huertas about that season finale (Old Jack?!), Miguel’s journey through the timelines, what viewers can expect to dive deeper into in season 3, and how in a way Miguel is just as much a stepdad to the This Is Us audience as he is to the Pearson family. Check it out below!
Casey Perriccio: First off, congratulations on an amazing second season of This Is Us! You guys whipped out all the stops in your season finale.
Jon Huertas: Yeah! Did you like it?
CP: I loved it. I was bracing myself for some huge twist, but it was a very touching episode. I thought it was really well done.
JH: Yes, I think that sometimes less is more, and because of the marketing and the promo for this episode with Old Jack, people thought it was going to be some kind of major split, but there still were a couple of cool cliffhangers at the end with what the future might hold for certain characters. It was a great, sweet end to a love story…not end…but the next step in a love story for Toby and Kate.
CP: I agree. It was a very sweet episode and it hit all the marks. Those wedding scenes must’ve been really fun for you to all film, especially because all of the cast, including Milo, were able to be together. Could you share anything from the behind-the-scenes about what it was like filming those weddings?
JH: It was a lot of fun! First of all, we all got to get dressed up, so everyone looked amazing and beautiful, and when you put on beautiful clothes, you feel great. There were a lot of smiles, and then there was the fact that we all were in the same place together, which is rare. There was the renewal of wedding vows between Jack and Rebecca and we got to see Milo as well, so everybody worked on the same stage, which was great. We had a lot of fun shooting the reception stuff as well. I’m a younger guy playing an older guy so I got to show off some Miguel moves – a lot more flexible than his age. That was fun.
It’s also just so amazing to work with Mandy [Moore]. She’s so present, and we spent a lot of time together in this episode. She is so dedicated to her character and to this craft- I’m juicing off her all the time.
CP: She’s done incredible work both seasons thus far especially with the everchanging time periods. How challenging is it for you both to be working alongside actors who are your age but having to act 30-some years older than them?
JH: It can be challenging because everybody has a young vibe and spirit on set. Sterling K. Brown has a lot of energy with this show and everything that he does outside of This is Us. Justin Hartley is this really young and vibrant guy as well, and with them being so funny and the same age as you, you kind of want to be one of the guys, but I’ve got to turn that off when it’s time to be older Miguel.
Mandy and I have discussed what it would be like for us to be older. We’ve talked about what our idea of an old person is. We try to be more relaxed and laid back, slowed down a little bit and really thinking before you speak. When we’re on camera and in the makeup chair, we try to just take everything a little easier and a little slower.
CP: Let’s dive a little deeper into the season finale! There was a moment when Miguel opens up to Rebecca about how he would rather go to the wedding as a tree if he could, and it seemed like Rebecca brushed him off a bit. I’m wondering if that’s something that will be explored in the next season – how Rebecca views Miguel in her family versus how he views himself.
JH: Yes, I think there is definitely something there. I do think he’s probably swallowed his words more times than not when it comes to feeling like an outsider in the Pearson family. Every once in a while he might say something like what Miguel said in the finale, and I would like to see more of that kind of conversation between Rebecca and Miguel at some point – just how hard it is for Miguel to be accepted into this family.
CP: The situation is even more complicated because all they ever knew was him as Jack’s best friend.
JH: Yes. It’s got to be so hard for a guy to come into this really tight-knit, close family. And they were perfect in his eyes too. Rebecca and Jack’s love was perfect in Miguel’s eyes, and it’s got to be tremendously hard. For him to say something like that to Rebecca – that he wouldn’t mind just disappearing – is Miguel’s way of saying ‘I don’t want to take away from Kate’s happiness. I don’t want there to be any tension or friction.’ Rebecca’s just like, ‘Hey, come on, you’re my husband, you’re my family, you’re part of the Pearson family,’ and I feel like that’s where Rebecca’s coming from when she brushes him off. It not like she doesn’t want to hear him, it’s just that she fully accepts him and she expects everyone else to fully accept him.
CP: Much like the Big Three, the audience has had some trouble accepting Miguel into the Pearson family as well, but I think that what you’ve done so well this season is give so much more life to the character. Miguel’s funny, goofy and he’s a likable guy. I think that a big turning point for your character was when the second half of the season kicked off and you were with Toby and Beth and you guys…
JH: The new Big Three?
CP: Yes, the new Big Three! They were venting their frustrations about the Pearson’s and Miguel had an opportunity to say something too, but instead, he somewhat clapped back and had the Pearson’s backs. I think that was a big turning point for the audience when it came to your character.
JH: Right, that’s the thing. Toby and Beth didn’t know Jack and Rebecca like Miguel knew Jack and Rebecca. They don’t get it. They don’t get what Miguel gets. They have the opportunity to complain a little bit and air some of their frustrations, but at the same time, Miguel wants them to understand that they can’t let it bother them. Again, this family has been through something that not a lot of families go through, and that’s something that Miguel understands. Hopefully, the writers continue to go in that direction as we move forward to season three and to see the kindling that starts to flame between Miguel and Rebecca.
I’d like to be able to see just how understanding Miguel is and how he understands where Rebecca might be with her heart and where the family might be with regards to their relationship. It would make for great television to see how difficult that is for Miguel to deal with as he falls in love and I’d like to see people rooting for them to overcome it.
As an actor, you’re taught to always try to be likable. You want the audience to like you, even if you’re the villain. If you make yourself a likable villain, it’s harder for them to hate you and want you to lose, but eventually, they’ll want you to lose if you’re the villain. In this case, I’m not even the villain, but no matter what I do right now, as likable as he is, he’s still the stepdad. I’m not just the stepdad to the Big Three, I’m the stepdad to the entire audience.
CP: I’ve never thought about it that way. That’s interesting.
JH: It takes a while to accept a stepdad or a stepmom.
JH: At first all kids think that the stepdad or stepmom is going to be the evil stepdad or evil stepmom. There are all of these fairytales where the step-parent is always bad and evil. For instance, Cinderella. I remember watching Cinderella when I was five years old so my thought was that all step-parents are evil. Then when my mom got married to a new guy, automatically he was the evil stepdad. It’s easy for kids and people to think that step-parents are not as good as the real parents, and I think that’s what we were dealing with here with Miguel as the kids’ stepdad.
CP: Yes, and Miguel also this interesting layer to him because he actually knew Jack the longest. He’s been in flashbacks with Jack prior to Rebecca and I think sometimes the audience forgets that Miguel probably knows the most about Jack.
CP: He could add a whole new level to Jack’s story that even Rebecca and the Big Three didn’t know about. Do you think that as we head into season three we’ll be able to see the beginning of Miguel and Jack’s friendship?
JH: That’s what I’ve heard. We’re definitely going to explore how they became friends, the early days of the relationship between Jack, Rebecca and myself, and just how that all came together. I definitely do think that we’re going to see how Jack and Miguel met before he met Rebecca, and it’s gonna be somewhere around the time Jack’s coming back from Vietnam.
CP: Oh, that’s exciting!
JH: We’re definitely going to see a lot of Jack in the coming season. Well, it’s rumored… I haven’t read anything yet.NBC
CP: I want to take a moment to talk about the scene where Rebecca tells Miguel that Jack died. As a viewer that interaction between you two was the first time since the doctor broke the news to her that it felt real. When she said those words out loud it felt final, and your stunned reaction was so heartbreaking and moving. What did you and Mandy do to prepare for that scene?
JH: Before Mandy shoots an emotional scene she takes herself to a really emotional place, that’s her process as an actress. So, there was a little bit of silence before we shot. I was off on my own, she was off on her own, and both of us got to an emotional place that’s different than the normal Everyday Joe feel. There was also a scene that’s not in the episode that was supposed to be before that, which was cut out. We had a scene that showed her dropping the kids off at Miguel’s house, and so, he saw Jack and assumed he was fine. So, when he comes out of the house he’s just like, “Hey, where’s Jack?’. There’s definitely a sadness in the air right before emotional scenes like that. It gets very real and profound.
CP: This show can go from a super-heavy scene to a super-uplifting, funny scene in the blink of an eye.
JH: Yes, and Chris Sullivan (Toby) shows the fun the best, you know.
CP: I can imagine, he’s hilarious! Do you think that we’ll get to dive into Miguel’s family a little more in the upcoming season?
JH: I hope so. People have asked me a lot, ‘where are Miguel’s kids?’ and I’d like to know where Miguel’s kids are as well. There might be a sort of animosity between him and his kids, so yes, I would like to know but we haven’t really gotten any hints or anything. I’m hoping that we have enough time to get into that. They’re going to be spending a lot of time on Miguel and Rebecca’s love story as well as a lot of time on Jack’s life prior to Rebecca. Then there’s the Big Three and the grown-up Big Three, so I hope there’s enough time.
CP: So do we! Now that the show is going on a hiatus, do you have any new projects coming up that you’d like to talk about?
JH: Right now I’m just kind of taking some time to breathe. I started a company about a year and a half ago and we’ve been developing some projects, so I have a couple of things in development.
CP: That’s awesome! Would you care to share any more about it?
JH: Yes, it’s TV and film stuff and we have some great talent attached, so I’m going to be working on that. We have offices here in Culver City and there’s a proof of concept we’re shooting for a feature film a friend of mine set up with a company called Original Film. It’s a sci-fi civil war project, so I’m shooting that with him next month – it’s really cool.
CP: Well, we are definitely looking forward to seeing some of the stuff that you guys are putting out! So, our last question is kind of my sign-off question – just for fun. If snow could fall in any flavor, what would you choose?
JH: I would probably choose…oh, that’s a hard question…mango flavor.
CP: Solid choice. You’d have free mango smoothies for life.
JH: Exactly! How great would that be?
We’d like to thank Jon Huertas for taking the time to talk with us and can’t wait to watch his journey and story as Miguel further unfold when This Is Us returns to NBC this fall!
Having studied Media & Writing at James Madison University, I always knew that I wanted to do some type of creative writing, but being able to write about zombies, Starks, and superheroes on a daily basis for Fan Fest is my actual dream. While I probably shouldn’t be as proud as I am to be so similar to Nick Miller, I do hope to one day write my own “Pepperwood Chronicles’.