Need some inspiration? Watch This Is Us with a critical eye and I guarantee you’ll learn something about excellent storytelling.
The recurring question discussed in this show is, ‘How do we turn the crappy moments of life into something resembling lemonade?’ Which is something all creatives, whether you’re an actor or a screenwriter should consider incorporating in your own art. It challenged me to be a better storyteller. To be more truthful.
We’ve all gone through sour moments. The loss of a loved one, the rejection of an absent parent, sibling or crush, the pitfalls of a career not as fulfilling as we thought it’d be. We’ve doubted ourselves and felt like we don’t fit in. We’ve all had to take those lemons and try to move on as best as we know how.
What makes this show so powerful, is how it incorporates these things. It’s done with a raw honesty and in turn, the general public are falling in love with the show, because they’re identifying with the characters.
At the heart of the show, the glue holding it all together, is the character of Jack, dad extraordinaire.
Jack is played by Milo Ventimiglia, who is best remembered as Jess Mariano on Gilmore Girls and Peter Petrelli on Heroes. He’s an old hat to the biz, but Jack Pearson is making Ventimiglia a household name.
THE IMPACT OF JACK
I grew up in a single-parent family. My father was absent and it was my biggest wish to have a great dad. Watching Jack interact with his kids, sacrificing his dreams in order to see his kids succeed in life, going the extra mile to show them they were loved… it healed something in me that was broken.
Chrissy Mets, who plays Kate, mentions in one of the Aftershow specials that she doesn’t have a relationship with her own biological father and says to Milo, “It’s honestly emotional and overwhelming, because I’ve never had that, that I really do feel a connection to you… as Chrissy and of course as Kate.”
In the same interview, Executive Producer/Director Ken Olin is speechless about what an incredible dad Jack is. It’s clear on his face, the character impacts him.
Take note filmmakers and writers, this is what story should do. Take the lemon of our life and make something resembling lemonade.
THE IMPACT OF GOOD STORY
How do you write or portray such an epic character and still ground him in reality?
I just finished reading Stephen King’s On Writing. While it’s written with the novel writer in mind, much of what is said can translate to screenwriters. In it, he mentions the importance of telling the truth in your story, even if it’s ugly or vulgar.
This Is Us tells the truth to the extreme sense of the word. Jack is by no means a perfect father. He’s got vices, drinking being one of them, but in telling the truth about this complex character, we are given hope for a new generation of epic fathers. He’s setting the way, showing men what it means to be a father. Not shirking from the sacrifices of being a good father, but showing those sacrifices are worth it.
But it’s not just the writers and filmmakers who are telling the truth in this show, it’s the actors too. Especially Milo. There’s no hint of falseness in his portrayal of Jack. Talk about an ‘Ugly Actor’, he’s willing to show the raw and real and it’s stunning.
Actors take note. The love Milo brings to life through Jack is touching hearts and bringing healing to a generation of people who’ve grown up without the love of a father.
I’m a firm believer in story impacting society. It’s not always done well and sometimes the effect is negative, but This Is Us, is full of impactful stories and moments. And it’s my hope more people will watch the show and allow it to transform their own lives.
Each character and each story is reviving those who watch it. Below is a sample of the impact This Is Us is making on its viewers.
This clip moved me to tears, because, well, isn’t this what we want our stories to do to those who watch or read them? Don’t we all want our stories to impact the world for good?
To me, this show sets a challenge: To write and act with conviction. To tell the truth, even if I might be ridiculed for it.
Not all the characters we write or portray are going to be politically correct or ‘good’. But if our aim is to impart something resembling lemonade, then we’ve got to show the ugly truth in order to show the goodness.
Be tenacious in your art, dreamers.