Created by Dan Fogelman for NBC, ‘This Is Us’ is a family drama that revolves around the Pearsons. By weaving in and out of the present, past, and future, the beloved show explores the complex dynamic between siblings Kevin, Kate, and Randall, and their parents, Jack and Rebecca. Dealing with hard-hitting themes such as alcoholism, racism, depression, body image issues, and PTSD, the sentimental series is appreciated by fans across the world.
With a range of multifaceted characters, the show examines the intricacies of familial communication as well as self-discovery. We hence see the personal and professional struggles of the “Big Three,” which often mirror what their parents went through during their youth. Critics and fans alike praise the show for its realism, which manages to constantly shine through its deeply emotional nature. Thus, it’s but natural to wonder if the Fogelman creation is a product of creative imagination or actual events. After all, it’s not uncommon to see big, loving families with complicated issues. Let’s dive right in and find out if ‘This Is Us’ is based on a true story.
Is This Is Us a True Story?
No, ‘This Is Us’ is not based on a true story. “There wasn’t really a ton of inspiration. I wanted to sit down and write something about people; people I knew. I was in my late 30s at the time — about 38 — and I was struck by how wildly different the lives of my peers could be, even though we were all the same age,” confessed Fogelman, who also revealed that the show’s original placeholder title was ‘36.’ “And I thought, I’m going to write something about all these people, all exactly the same age and born on the same day. Halfway through I thought, huh, maybe one story is the parents of all the others. Then I just sat down and wrote.”
Thus, we see the stories, stretching across decades, of the different generations of the Pearson family. Indeed, the “Big Three” themselves have such vastly varied experiences despite being the same age. Interestingly, some of the cast members do deeply relate to their fictional onscreen counterparts. “She [Kate] was a real woman who was really struggling, and all I could think was, ‘Oh my God, I’m Kate,’” admitted Chrissy Metz (Kate). In fact, Fogelman relied on his sister, Deborah, for Kate’s storylines; she went through every single script to make sure that Kate’s weight-related issues are being portrayed as authentically as possible.
The cast often pitched ideas to the writers’ room; in fact, the writers frequently invited outside individuals and speakers to share their experiences pertaining to various issues — from transracial adoption to weight loss-related problems — in order to faithfully represent the complexity and depth of the same.
Additionally, Fogelman used elements from his own life to add to the characters and storylines; often, he found himself utilizing his experiences for the character of Randall. “Our [Randall and I] backgrounds couldn’t be more different, but we’re both a little goofy and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be good, and so I find myself identifying with him [Randall] and pulling the most from my life for him,” stated Fogelman.
Critics and fans alike appreciate the way in which the show tackles the issue of race, which is particularly seen in Randall’s experiences growing up as a Black person in a family full of white people. The show also spends a lot of time exploring Randall’s professional and personal life in adulthood. “The perception in the country is that Black men are absent when it comes to their families,” said Sterling K. Brown (Randall). “So this [Randall’s] is a wonderful image to put out into the world and an opportunity I don’t take lightly.”
The show is passionate about maintaining authenticity, and this is particularly seen when it comes to Mandy Moore’s (Rebecca) time-intensive makeup and prosthetics. Additionally, the show also makes sure that the costumes, hairstyles, and makeup techniques used for each timeline are realistic and representative of the time period the scenes are taking place in.
Thus, we get to see, in the same vein, heartwarming romantic moments between Milo Ventimiglia‘s Jack and Rebecca in the 1980s as well as their children’s experiences in the present day. Although the timelines are made apparent, the sudden shifts between the past, present, and future do not ruin our immersive experience of watching the show.
Moreover, throughout the seasons, the series deals with several pertinent real-world topics, ranging from the PTSD that army veterans struggle with to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In season 5, the lives of real-life personas who aren’t connected to the Pearsons — Nasir and Esther Ahmed — are explored. Nasir, an Indian electrical engineer, invented the Discrete Cosine Transform, the technology which makes modern-day photo sharing and video calling possible. Nasir and Esther’s story is woven into the show to demonstrate how video calling technology enables the Pearsons to witness the birth of Kevin and Madison’s twins as well as Kate and Toby’s adopted daughter in the midst of the pandemic.
Thus, ‘This Is Us’ might not be based on a true story but it takes everyday realities in order to craft a heartwarming story about family, love, and life. Not only does the show explore common but pertinent issues faced by the masses, it also emphasizes that is possible to overcome life’s difficulties through healthy familial bonding, proper communication, and good mental health resources.
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