PASADENA, Calif. -- Television series can often become a comfy habit with shows like "Friends," "The Big Bang Theory" or "Roseanne." But TV shows can be more than that, as proved by NBC's popular "This is Us."
In its fourth season, the show ranks as TV's top rated drama, which is interesting because it's not a comfy habit but a hardy commitment. Creator Dan Fogelman and his writers weave timelines in and out of the narrative. The tale is about the Pearson family at various ages and stages, so characters transform from dewy teens to confused seniors.
Justin Hartley says playing the son, Kevin, simulates real life.
"It's remarkable how they can keep it so consistent with who the characters are, but at the same time, introducing all of these new things that happened to all these guys. It's like life. It's crazy. You just never know what's going to happen," he says.
Chrissy Metz portrays Kevin's sibling whose weight has plagued her most of her life. The role marked a pivotal point for her, says Metz. "It's provided incredible opportunities and an ability to connect with people I never would have before," she says.
"And to portray a character that is so important to not only a television network, but just life, that we've never seen a plus-size woman in her highs and lows and all the in-betweens and fertility issues and trying to conceive. It's all of those things ... I never thought I would ever have the ability to do," she says.
"And I get to do this in a really raw, scary, sometimes 'What am I doing?' 'Can I do this?' way ... . It's changed me as a person and as a sister, as a daughter, as a friend. And then, of course, it's provided opportunities that I never ever thought I would have. So I can't even begin to talk about how much it's changed my life."
Chris Sullivan, who costars as Metz's love, agrees.
"This has taught me what it means to love another person and what it means to be vulnerable, what it means to be honest, just by getting to live in this character. And so that's the biggest thing I've learned from this show," he says.
Mandy Moore plays the matriarch, Rebecca. At 35, Moore must transmogrify from an earnest 16-year-old to a senior citizen who's beginning to exhibit signs of senility.