We promise: WE WILL NOT SPOIL THE SEASON FINALE OF “THIS IS US.”
The finale, which screened Monday afternoon during the South by Southwest Film Festival, offered plenty of tears and plenty of laughs, too, to a packed audience at the Paramount Theatre. It airs Tuesday night on NBC.
Before the screening, the audience heeded a call from actor Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Jack Pearson on the NBC drama, to put their phones down. When one of America’s favorite TV dads speaks, the audience listens.
Ventimiglia joined costars Mandy Moore, who plays his TV wife, Rebecca Pearson, and Justin Hartley, who plays his adult son, Kevin Pearson, on the red carpet prior to the screening.
“The show is emotional, but it’s ‘hopefully emotional,’” Ventimiglia told Austin360. “I think that’s something that kind of makes up for how many tears you cry, you know, because it’s one of those feel-good cries.”
The show has struck a chord with viewers in part because it touches on a variety of important themes including adoption, foster care, obesity and addiction.
“For me if we can get one person to make a phone call that maybe they would not have made, if it helps them, then we’ve done our job,” said Hartley, whose character battled alcohol and prescription drug addiction this season. “I was proud of the way that we told that story.”
Ventimiglia, Moore and Hartley will also speak as part of the ‘This Is Us’ SXSW cast panel on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. at the Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D.
X, Y, and Why — Writing Gender and Sexuality
10:45 a.m. Saturday, The Omni Hotel, Capital Ballroom
Panelists: Jack Burditt, creator of “Last Man Standing”; writer/executive producer of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “The Mindy Project” and “30 Rock”; writer/co-producer of “Frasier.” Kathy Greenberg, co-creator of “The L Word”; writer of “Ratatouille” and “Gnomeo & Juliet.” Rodrigo Garcia, writer/director of “Last Days in the Desert,” “Mother and Child,” “Nine Lives”; director of “Albert Nobbs”; executive producer of “In Treatment.”
Moderator: Bethany Johnson
In short: The panelists discussed their experiences writing for characters of different genders and sexual identities. They talked about their influences, boundary-pushing, dealing with criticism, and their current/next projects.
Highlights: Panelists’ influences ranged from the films of Akira Kurosawa to “Get Smart.” They noted that there is not a lot of boundary pushing in network television, with Burrito noting that “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” his Netflix series, was written for NBC and the outlet shift was not made until the final episode was filming. This led to a discussion with co-creator Tina Fey about whether or not to push more boundaries in the upcoming second season with the ultimate decision that the tone should stay largely the same.
Garcia noted that, working in cable, he’d rarely run into efforts to censor his work. In fact, cable encourages creators to push boundaries.
In terms of difficulties writing for characters of different genders, ethnicities and sexual identity, it was noted that having a diverse staff helps. There is a line between relying on (and poking fun at) stereotypes and avoiding them, Greenberg says she tries to write the truth according to the character and to be honest about it.
Panelists discussed how they deal with criticism. “I cry a lot before bedtime,” Garcia said. Greenberg admitted that “The L Word” got heat for not representing everybody, but explained that the show was about a subculture of a subculture. “You can’t be everything to everybody and we had to own that,” she said. Burditt noted that “Kimmy Schmidt” was criticized for not exploring the dating life of gay character Titus Andronicus. He said the first season was always meant to explore the journey of the lead character, Kimmy, and that plans were to expand the other characters in subsequent seasons. he seemed perturbed that online complainers would think the upcoming focus on the Titus character was a result of those complaints.
Garcia said that he has written domestic servant and imprisoned characters that are Hispanic.
“I live in LA,” he explained. “I go to prisons and practically everyone in there is Latino or black. The housekeepers are Latina. I think what’s offensive is to think that all housekeepers are the same, but not if you imbue that person with her own qualities. I think it would be offensive to not admit that most domestic workers in LA are Latina.
Quotes: “I write a lot of female characters. I’m not a woman, so I have no idea what women are really like, but I have a sense in my own imagination of what the women I write might be like. How could she be like me? The fact that she’s a woman could not make her completely unlike me. I know when writing that eventually an actress will read it, so I know I will have to eventually pass that bar, especially with the sexual stuff. I call it ‘leave your (expletive) at the door writing.’ ” — Garcia
“Guys are just basically dumb and stupid, which is why I write female characters.” — Burditt
“Writing women takes me somewhere. Going into the heads of female characters is very exotic. It takes me super far away.” — Garcia