Each episode of This Is Us has left viewers in a puddle of tears for two seasons now, from Canada to the United States and beyond. The series – which stars Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia, Chrissy Metz, Sterling K. Brown and Justin Hartley – follows generations of a typical American family with an anything-but-typical story. Hannah Zeile plays the younger version of Chrissy’s character, while Niles Fitch tackles Sterling as a teen and Logan Shroyer plays young Justin – though the trio doesn’t actually have any screen time with their older counterparts.
“Even though we don’t necessarily work together in person, they do reach out to us and we keep in contact through social media or texting,” Hannah, 20, explained. Niles added, “We get more mentorship from our parents on the show – Mr. Milo and Ms. Mandy. Mr. Sterling, Ms. Chrissy and Mr. Justin just give us free range! We can always go to them if we need any advice, but they trust us with their character.”
While the celebrated trio was in Toronto promoting the upcoming third season (returns this fall on CTV), Hello! Canada had a chance to chat about working with so many Hollywood heavyweights, surreal moments in Tinseltown, what they learned from each other and their best tips on how to make it through an emotional episode.
What has it been like working with pros Milo and Mandy?
Logan: To be able to work with people of that caliber is amazing and just makes us better! But as people, I don’t think you can find someone on set that Milo doesn’t know their name. He gets out of the van first and helps everybody down. If you feel rough on a scene, Milo will come over and talk to you. He’s kind of like our dad in a way.
Niles: Ms. Mandy and he are always buying coffee and food for us!
Hannah: As actors you can play someone very different from yourself. But you can add a little bit of yourself into a character and I think Milo and Mandy do have similarities to Jack and Rebecca and they’re very much just mother and father figures on set. They’ lovely people!
What’s something that each of you have learned from your onscreen parents?
Hannah: We’ve all just learned by being around them to be better people and to be better actors. Although they’ve been in the industry for a long time and they’ve done so much work and they’re so acclimated, they’ve never made it feel like they’re above us in any way. They’ve never tried to make us feel that way. We take advice by observing more than them trying to preach to us.
How do you unwind on set after you have a particularly emotional scene?
Logan: I just sleep. Honestly, I get super exhausted and that actually feeds into it as well. When we were doing the funeral stuff, it was just like day after day of going to a funeral. I’m lucky enough that I haven’t been to a real funeral, but I can imagine it’s really exhausting.
Hannah: I’ve said this before and I think everyone thinks I’m a weirdo. Usually, when I drive home from set after that, I literally drive in silence. I’ll just self-reflect, talk to myself and debrief. I really just take time to let it all mellow out, absorb, think about what I just did.
What are some activities that you guys like to do together as a group?
All three: Six flags!
Niles: So, we went surfing... [ everyone laughs]. We’re always hanging out. Usually after set; carpools, going to get stuff to eat. I play the music; I’m a little DJ!
Hannah: Every time he gets in my car, he’s like ‘aux cord’!
What is the most surreal moment for each of you since starting the show?
Hannah: The SAG awards!
Logan:Seeing Gary Oldman in the trophy room at the SAG awards was insane.
Hannah: We were already so honoured to be invited and we’re sitting at the table and Nicole Kidman and Robert De Niro are in the audience. People that we look up to and then we’re just standing on stage thinking, ‘wow! They’re somewhere looking at us.’
Is there a moment when you got really emotional while filming when you weren’t expecting it?
Niles: When I watched William pass away in season one. That really got to me. My father also passed away … It was really touching.
Hannah: My grandfather had just passed and we were doing a scene of Rebecca coming and telling Randall and I that “[Milo’s character] inhaled too much smoke.” And they only use it for five seconds but I couldn’t pull it together after that because it was a fresh wound.
A lot of actors your age don’t get this type of material. What do you think about going to those dark places as a young person?
Hannah: We do talk to each other a lot about feeling so blessed that, at our age, we are tackling such beautiful and challenging material.
Logan: Work is work, but to be able to work on a show like this, it’s just amazing. [They’re] world class writers and filmmakers that we get to work with as young adults.
What are your tips for the viewers trying to make it through and emotional episode?
Logan: Don’t try to make it through, just ride it. Ride the wave. I think there’s something really cathartic about it.
Hannah: Cancel plans if you have them the next morning because you might be a little puffy. And I heard that if you sleep propped up, that the fluid comes out so maybe invest in an extra pillow.