Our favourite new TV drama This Is Us covers plenty of time periods thanks to its flashback-inspired, nostalgia-filled storylines. But there’s one time period series star Mandy Moore maybe misses most in real life: the late nineties and early 2000s when she was pursuing a successful career in music.
She just didn’t realize how much she missed that music part of her life until she took on the role of Rebecca Pearson on the hit CTV series and started singing as that character.
“If anything, just being a part of this show and having music be a part of my life again has been a really beautiful discovery,” she tells us. “I’ve really realized how much I missed it and how much I want it in my life.”
In Tuesday night’s first season finale (the show has already been renewed for a second and third season), This Is Us went back in time to when Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca first met, and Rebecca was pursuing the idea of becoming a recording artist. Despite making a demo tape and singing in bars nearly every night, she wasn’t getting much traction beyond that, and eventually wound up putting her career on hold when she married Jack and got pregnant with triplets.
The second timeline in the finale picked up in the mid-90s as Rebecca was getting ready to reignite her career with a band by going on tour for a couple of weeks, leaving her husband and three teenage kids at home. Of course those plans fell short when bandleader Ben (Sam Trammell) put the moves on her and Jack wound up pummelling him.
“It’s just heartbreaking to me that this is a woman who clearly had drive and a passion for this side of her life but she didn’t have the support of her family or friends,” Moore says. “The record label rejected her. And then flash forward to years later when she has the opportunity to go on tour for a couple of weeks, her bandleader makes a move on her. Her husband gets in a fight and it just all blows up in her face and she never gets to see it to fruition. It never gets started for her, and it breaks my heart that she was never able to realize her full potential. So I guess in that sense I’m a lot luckier than her. But I definitely had those moments in my life that makes that situation all too relatable.”
In real life Moore says she can’t necessarily relate to the struggle that moms have trying to balance a family and a career since she isn’t a mother herself, but she doesn’t understand why it would be selfish — like some people on social media have suggested in response to the show’s storyline — for her to want to do both.
“I would imagine there are plenty of women who have been doing that their whole lives and not just sort of seeking out one identity over another and trying to prove that they could do it all and have it all,” she says. “I’m not a mother myself, but I hope that I can sort of follow in those same footsteps. Perhaps there is a sense that what Rebecca is doing is sort of revelatory — at least from some of the comments I see on social media. People think that Rebecca’s selfish for wanting to leave her family for a couple of weeks and go on the road. I can’t entirely wrap my head around that. I don’t relate to that at all. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask.”
For now it looks like Rebecca certainly can’t have it all. The season ended with a gigantic fight between her and Jack in which he called her career “ridiculous.” In the show’s final moments Jack left the house so the couple could take a break, which not only ended the show on a bittersweet note but left us all wondering if Rebecca would ever get back onstage. Especially since we haven’t yet seen her sing in the present-day storyline, but her now-grown daughter Kate (Chrissy Metz) has made the decision to pursue music too.
“I don’t know the answer to that. This is a horribly traumatic situation; I have to think it would take a miracle to get her on stage again… But who knows? Maybe her way of coping with this potential break in her marriage is getting back on stage,” Moore says. “It’s certainly not with Ben. I actually loved that the episode opens the possibility up for Kate. Maybe she’ll be able to carry the torch for her mom and have the career that her mom was never able to have. Or at least have that in her life the way that her mom was never able to have. That’s a really beautiful way to sort of end that story for Rebecca — or start the story for Kate.”