AAfter 106 episodes, six seasons and gallons of tears worldwide, This is us comes to an end. Since its debut in 2016, the timeline-twisting, heartbreaking family drama has been a hit with ratings and critics. Not only did the show make stars of the actors who play its main siblings – Sterling K. Brown, Justin Hartley and Chrissy Metz – but it has also been praised for and has won the awards for its considered portrayal of grief, transracial adoption and mental health ( four Emmys, two SAG Awards and a Golden Globe). Still, there is an element of This is us Often overlooked and long overdue for recognition: former pop star actress and singer-songwriter Mandy Moore giving the performance of her life as family matriarch Rebecca Pearson.
This is us tells the long, decades-long story of the Pearsons, a family that originally consisted of married couple Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca and their three children: twins Kevin (Hartley) and Kate (Metz)., and adopted Randall (Brown), who was born on the same day and abandoned at the same hospital. After Jack’s sudden death in the late 1990s, when the children are 18, the family is forced to reconsider their settled plans and adjust to a world without him. When we meet them in the pilot, it’s the mid-2010s and the “Big Three” are all grown up and celebrating their 36th birthday together. Through flashbacks, the audience sees how their lives have unfolded since their loss and how Jack’s death shaped their respective adulthoods.
Since most shows take place after the triplets have grown, Moore spends a large chunk of it This is us play their mother as an elderly woman, complete with gray hair, neck wrinkles and liver spots. Conceptually, it’s a big hit: how convincing could Moore – incidentally, the youngest actor in the adult main cast – really convince as a woman in her sixties and beyond? But viewers learned early on that this wasn’t an ill-conceived gimmick. Moore was 32 when the series premiered, and while her first appearance in aged makeup came as a surprise, her ability to make us believe she’s a mother of three adults and a grandmother of two teenagers was even more surprising .
Instead of caricaturing old age with a hunched back and a raspy voice, Moore is subtle and effective. Her movements are slow and delicate, while her speech patterns evoke warmth and emotional stability. Her transformation has always been taken seriously, to the extent that no matter how familiar you are with Moore off-show, you tend to think of her character as having aged by default. The combination of great makeup and great writing can only go so far; It’s Moore’s deep commitment to the role that has made the show’s use of multiple timelines such a success.
When she was thrown in This is us, Moore hadn’t made an album in several years and needed an acting win. Despite popular projects such as An unforgettable walk, The Princess Diaries and Tangled Under her belt she had ground to a halt in Hollywood. Also, she was nearing the end of her marriage to musician Ryan Adams, who she claimed had “mentally abused” her (Adams later apologized for “abusing people” in his life and career, but not on Moore’s specific answer has answered allegations). Speaking about her life just before taking on the role of Rebecca, Moore admitted to feeling down after four years in a row of unsuccessfully filming pilots for planned television shows.
“Some were about to be picked up, but it never happened,” she said Los Angeles Times in 2021. “So I started to wonder if I should even still be in this acting game… Did I have my moment in the sun and maybe I should go back to school?” Maybe just make music full-time again? I was very lost.” Perhaps the fact that Rebecca came into Moore’s life at the right time made her performance that much more special.
Despite being the character with the least screen time in the pilot, Rebecca has emerged as the heart of over the course of the series This is us. Like many motherly roles in film and television, Rebecca was the show’s quiet constant, her family taking center stage while supporting them from the sidelines. To an inferior performer, this might have been translated as forgetful and easily faded into the background. But by fleshing out her character as a whole person with her own dreams and desires, Moore makes Rebecca a silent force. As an actress, she is guaranteed to bring depth or lightness wherever needed.
Outside of her aging scenes, Moore has put on some of the show’s strongest acting performances while simply looking like herself. One of the best examples of this takes place in the Season 2 episode “Super Bowl Sunday” where Jack suffers a heart attack and dies after a house fire. When Rebecca breaks the news to a doctor, her first reaction is confused rejection. She storms into Jack’s hospital room to see the truth for herself. With her husband’s body on the bed in front of her, Rebecca freezes in place. Her face flickers between multiple emotions before finally collapsing and falling to the ground. Moore’s rendition of total, instantaneous heartbreak is searing and sticks with you long after the episode ends.
Towards the end of the series, the elderly Rebecca is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. It starts with not being able to remember the occasional word mid-sentence. It then develops into Rebecca forgetting the names of family members and mistaking her adult son Kevin for Jack long after he has died. Moore’s diligence in showing the devastation that comes from losing mental and physical abilities gives the other characters the fuel to react and strengthens the cast as a whole. Although it is a group effort to convey the pain of the situation, it would not have been possible without an absolutely convincing performance to inspire them.
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The final episodes of the series are a reminder of how great the show was overall. This current season has been a celebration of the characters’ journeys and a cathartic conclusion to a family history that spans generations. Although it consists of many parts, This is us wouldn’t have been the same show without Moore’s consistently outstanding work. She has yet to receive any awards for her acting, but it will be a huge oversight if the next cycle of ceremonies counts her out. True, some have dismissed the show as too soapy or melodramatic. But to underestimate him and Moore is to miss out on one of the best acting performances of the last 10 years.
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