SPOLER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched “The Night Before the Wedding,” the April 26 episode of “This Is Us.”
Another “This Is Us” mystery was solved during Tuesday’s episode. In previous flash-forwards, Kevin (Justin Hartley) is wearing a wedding ring, but his wife was not yet identified — until now. At Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) wedding to Phillip (Chris Geere), Kevin reconnected with his ex-wife, Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge), whom he has loved since they met in grade school. Although she was hesitant at first since he’d broken her heart many times and they had too much history, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), who thought she was talking to young Sophie due to her dementia, told her that while Kevin may not be ready now for her, he would be one day.
With that, Sophie agreed that now was the right time to give their romance another shot.
Breckenridge had a recurring role in the first season of “This Is Us,” and a main role in Season 2. Her part then moved to being a guest role in the remaining seasons — mostly because she landed the lead on Netflix’s “Virgin River.”
Here, Hartley and Breckenridge talk to Variety about Sophie and Kevin’s highly anticipated reunion, why now was the right time for creator Dan Fogelman to get them together and the characters’ futures.
First things first: We didn’t get the main flash-forward in this episode. Is it safe to assume that Sophie is Kevin’s wife in the future?
Justin Hartley: I think that you can safely assume that. Gosh, that would be a tragedy of epic proportions. No. 1, how many times is this guy going to mess up? And even worse, how many times is this woman going to let him back? So I think it’s safe to assume that they have found their peace and they’ve found their partner and it was always the same person all along — and through a bunch of missteps and immaturity that played a huge role. Just being insecure and self-absorbed and all that, as far as Kevin is concerned, Sophie just got there a lot sooner than Kevin did and I think Kevin has been able to catch up and meet her exactly where she is.
Alexandra Breckenridge: I think it would be a very short time in which to partner him with someone else by the end of the show. We’ve only got four more episodes! I think they really do a good job of saying that they have come together at the end of the episode.
When did the discussion start about bringing you back?
Breckenridge: A couple of years ago, I was trying to come back, but I was filming the second season of “Virgin River.” They came back and wanted me to come on the show. I was very excited, but I couldn’t do it because of the shooting schedule. This time, we were supposed to start filming Season 5 of “Virgin River” in March, but we got we pushed until July. So if I was up there filming right now, I don’t know that I would have been able to do “This Is Us.” I think it was always the plan for them. We had been talking about Kevin and Sophie coming back together for awhile, and it just kept not happening because of the filming schedule with COVID. I couldn’t come back and forth from Canada because of the quarantine restrictions.
Did you think it always had to be Sophie in the end?
Hartley: I didn’t think it always had to be Sophie. The reason the show is so successful is I think people relate to all of the characters, no matter if you’re a man or a woman, if you’re old or young, if you’re Black or white, if you’re gay or straight, if you’re super religious or you don’t really care, whatever it might be, I think people relate to all of the characters. You have a guy on the show who is, for all intents and purposes, a rich and famous man who seemingly has it all. And yet there are times on the show, quite a few times, where I think he’s the most relatable of all of the characters and that is so bizarre. It’s a testament to the writing. That’s part of the problem with writing Superman, right? It’s hard to relate to him. But imagine writing a script where you’ve got this guy who is rich and famous and you’ve got every single thing you could possibly imagine. And then making him somehow relatable. That’s just great writing.
Long way around to your question, I didn’t always think that it had to be Sophie. I had enough faith in the writers, and I knew that they had this one. And if it was someone else, they were going to build a story around this guy’s life that made sense for that character. I knew that whatever it was going to be was going to be the right decision. You’d have to ask Dan! Maybe Dan knew all along, but in building all of that stuff, all those relationships that you saw Kevin deal with — Cassidy and Madison and all the ones in between, the condom girl even — all of those relationships, they tell a story and it actually adds to the richness of and earns Kevin the right to go back to Sophie and earns Sophie the right to trust Kevin again. It’s a really beautiful, full circle story.
Breckenridge: Ultimately, even though the characters didn’t end up together sooner, what I like about it and I think is rather satisfying is that you’ve got two people that were able to develop as whole humans on their own. It’s so much better when people can be fully formed when they enter back into a relationship, especially given their history, and given how many times Kevin has broken Sophie’s heart. He really needed that time to find himself. So, ultimately, I think it’s still very satisfying when they come together.
Jennifer Maas contributed to this interview, which has been edited and condensed.