- This Is Us -Producer Ken Olin Talks Fan Theories, Loose Ends, & The "Satisfying" Series Finale
The sixth and final season of This Is Us will premiere on Tuesday, January 4 at 9 p.m. on NBC and fans everywhere are getting ready to bid farewell to the Pearson family for good, and so are the folks behind the seasons. Cast, crew, and production members – including none other than executive producer and veteran TIU director Ken Olin – are also coming to terms with the fact that soon, our beloved Big Three won’t be beamed into our living rooms every week.
I recently re-connected with Olin to learn more about the This Is Us final season: what storylines are going to get wrapped up in a pretty little bow, and which will stay a mystery? What’s going on with Toby and Kate? In what time period will Season 6 spend the most energy? And of course, I had to ask him about all the fan theories out there ranging from Miguel being dead to Nicky and Sally’s relationship. Per usual, our conversation, did not disappoint.
Below, my conversation with Ken Olin.
Lauren Dana for The Dipp: Is there anything you can reveal about the Season 6 premiere?
Ken Olin: I think it’ll be a launching pad. You’re going to get a sense of the stories that are going to take us through the season.
Like, what is Rebecca's story? What are Toby and Kate gonna be dealing with? Where are Kevin and Madison, given what we saw at the end of last season? And with Randall and Beth... so now, where is Randall? Where's he going in terms of his career and his ambitions? And what’s happening with Deja?
All those sorts of things will be set up. We’re just gonna give you a sense of the arena and how all of these different characters are entering into it.
How would you describe the new season in three or five words?
It’s a season about looking forward to the future. It’s now very much embracing that there is a generation of Pearsons coming up whose lives we're not going to explore the same way we have this generation of Pearsons.
Also, there’s definitely a lot of babies around, and that’s very much what it's about. And, we’re going back in time, but we're dealing with the Big Three when they were little; when they were, like, five, six years old.
I read that some parts of the series finale were filmed already. Were you involved in filming parts of the finale over the years?
I directed them. During the past couple of years, [creator and showrunner] Dan Fogelman would script a couple of things, mostly in anticipation of the reality that the children were growing, so that for the series finale, if we wanted to capture moments where they would be visually appropriate to the period that we were evoking, we had to film in advance.
I mean, The Big Three kids are like four, five, six inches taller than they were two or three years ago!
I also read that Dan told Entertainment Weekly: “There's one storyline that's one of our stakes in the ground for Season 6 that when I speak about it, my eyes start welling up with tears. And I'm not a crier.” Do you know anything about that?
No, but he is a crier. [Laughs.] He says that all the time.
He’s said it quite a few times, true.
Yeah. He’s not different than any of us in that way. But, I have a feeling what he's talking about is the Rebecca storyline. For Dan, I think so much of this has to do with his mother, who's no longer alive, and I think that the show is a saga that's really about this woman, Rebecca, from the time she was really young, all the way to the end of her life.
It becomes, in some way, a metaphor for saying goodbye to the show. It’s also celebrating what Mandy Moore has done with this part, and how much we all are indebted to her for how hard she's worked and how soulful her work is.
I would imagine that's what he's talking about.
Do you think that viewers can expect all loose ends to be tied up when the series ends?
I think that whatever big questions are looming out there will be answered. And then, I would imagine that, like life, there will be some sort of sense of, “Well, what comes next?” But, who knows what that is?
That said, I don't think it's gonna feel emotionally open-ended.
I’m happy to hear that.
I think it'll be really satisfying.
Now, fan theory time: There are some wild ones. One of them is that Miguel is dead since he’s not in the flash-forward.
Yeah. That's interesting.
I think by the end of the season, one of the things we're definitely gonna do is explore a little more of Miguel and Rebecca's history. So yes, that will all be resolved.
And we also know that Toby and Kate are going to get divorced, since we see a flash-forward of Kate on her wedding day to Philip. But, it seems that Toby is still close to the family since he’s in all the flash-forwards.
I don't know about all that. Dan hasn't shared with me how that all connects. That’s the beautiful thing about Dan’s storytelling. He teases how it ends up, and then you see the drama of how it all happened. That’s the way Dan tells a love story.
Can we expect Philip to have a larger role this season so that we can learn a little bit more about him and Kate?
Would you personally be happy if Madison and Kevin got back together? Because some people do think that they're gonna get back together, but others think that he'll get back with Sophie.
[Laughs.] I'm just personally happy when I direct scenes with them. So, I don't really care whether they get back together or not. [Laughs.] It makes me happy when we do scenes together, whether they're fighting or they're playing… it just gives me real pleasure. I love directing both of them. And they're really fun.
There’s some stuff in the premiere that’s great. It’s a fun setting, where they are and how they’re gonna try to negotiate their relationship going forward.
Can we expect to see more of Sophie?
I don't know, actually. I'm not sure.
Okay. And a lot of people now think Nicky ends up with Sally.
Well, I guess you'll have to watch and find out. You know, one of the things that’s great that Dan will do is he'll answer that question, and that'll raise another question. Then that’ll lead to more questions or certainly more of Nicky’s story. But, it won't simply be about answering that question. [Laughs.]
What will you miss most about being on set?
There’s a very relaxed confidence in the way we all work together, and I’ll miss that. Out of this very relaxed atmosphere comes these moments that are just so electric emotionally. They’re just so good. And I’ll miss that.
And, it’s such a rare thing to be doing something that you're really proud of that goes on for this long in this business. To have that and to have the security of a job like this – and also to not feel that with that security, I've had to compromise my creativity. And I'll miss that. I think most of us are gonna miss that.
I’ll miss the cast, but I’ll really miss the crew. I love working with this camera department and the production department, and all the producers. It's pretty perfect.
Anything else you can reveal about this finale season?
I mean, the only thing I can tell you is that probably the last six, seven episodes... they'll be the biggest episodes that we’ve done. They’re gonna be really big. I mean, it's gonna be deaths and weddings and huge family things. We’re gonna go to a couple different places. It's gonna be really, really, big. It’s cool. It’s exciting.