“This Is Us” Is Back (Now Stop Sobbing)

NJ native Dan Fogelman never imagined his hit series "This Is Us" would make viewers cry so much.

This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman.

Photo courtesy of Chris Haston/NBC

When Dan Fogelman created This Is Us, NBC’s breakout hit of the 2016-17 television season, he didn’t intend to break viewers’ hearts.

“I never imagined people would cry so much,” says the 41-year-old Fogelman, whose show earned 10 Emmy Award nominations in its first season, winning two, including Sterling K. Brown for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. This Is Us has already been renewed through the 2018-19 season. “I knew viewers would laugh, hopefully be moved…But all this crying caught me off guard.”

Among other factors, This Is Us is notable for its unconventional story structure as it follows the intertwining stories of the Pearson family. The big reveal in the new, second season, scheduled to begin September 26, is how Jack Pearson died. The series has already shown his funeral, when his now-adult children were teenagers.

“When I started showing the pilot to people it started happening,” says Fogelman, who grew up in River Vale and attended Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale. “I turned to people I’d screened it for when it was over, to ask what they thought, and they’d be sobbing.”

All those tears prompted one television critic to write that each of the characters in This Is Us is “sad.” Fogelman disputes that.

“I don’t know if I’d use the word ‘sad’ to describe our characters,” he says, “but there are definitely moments of sadness for each of them.”

Fogelman’s previous credits include the screenplays for Cars, Tangled and Crazy, Stupid, Love. He also wrote and executive produced the film, The Guilt Trip. In it, the character portrayed by Barbra Streisand is based on Fogelman’s own mother, Joyce, with whom he took a long-ago road trip from New Jersey to Las Vegas.

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