SPOILER ALERT: The story includes details about the Jan. 11 episode, “Lovebirds”, of NBC’s This Is Us.
This Is Us resolved two flashforward mysteries tonight — who was in the white car pulling into Kevin’s driveway and who Nicky is married to in the future.
The answer to both is Edie, a new character that was introduced at the end of Episode 2 of This Is Us‘ final season. She is played by veteran actress Vanessa Bell Calloway, probably best known for her roles in the Coming To America movie franchise and in Showtime’s Shameless. She will be recurring, appearing in a few episodes, This Is Us creator/executive producer Dan Fogelman confirmed to Deadline.
The episode, “Lovebirds”, juxtaposed two road trips: Nicky, joined by Rebecca and Miguel, drove to see his longlost love, Sally, for whom he had been pining for decades. Meanwhile Deja takes the bus to Boston to visit her boyfriend, Malik, who is now at Harvard, and the two have sex.
Sally, the one who got away after Nicky ages ago could not find the courage to leave Pittsburgh and follow her to Woodstock, has been a popular theory as to whom Nicky would get married to. (He has been seen wearing a wedding band while sitting by Rebecca’s bedside in the main 2030s flashforward the series has been building toward, and referred to his “wife” in the Kate’s wedding flashforward 4-5 years into the future.
There have been wilder fan hypotheses, from Nicky marrying the much younger Cassidy, played byJennifer Morrison, to him settling down with his late brother’s widow, Mandy Moore’s Rebecca, which Fogelman has dismissed as farfetched.
During Nicky, Rebecca and Miguel’s sit-down with Sally, Rebecca gives the heartbreaking speech about her fears over the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s that was featured in the Season 6 trailer (“I’m losing my memory, Sometimes I think about what my very last memory will be before the candle goes out,” she says. “I’m not worried about forgetting about the big stuff. It’s the little things I’m not ready to let go of yet.”)
It turns out Sally is married — not happily it seems — squashing the prospect of her rekindling the young love with Nicky. But as all seemed lost in the romance department for Nicky, he gets into a verbal spat on a plane with a spirited flight attendant, Edie (Calloway), over the purpose of putting a seat up.
It is then revealed that the “Look who’s here” line Randall uttered in a flashforward last season as he and Deja saw a while car pull up at Kevin’s house, was about Edie who walked out of the car. She embraces Randall and Deja, she then kisses Nicky and is seen accompanying him by Rebecca’s bedside.
In an interview with Deadline, Fogelman discusses the introduction of the Edie character and the rationale behind it vs. having Nicky end up with Sally, Calloway’s future on the show as well as This Is Us’ overall plan for the use of flashforwards in the final season, which is a little different than previous seasons.
DEADLINE: Was the plan always for Nicky to end up with Edie? Did you consider other options who he would marry?
FOGELMAN: No. There would’ve only been two options. There would’ve been the stranger, which is kind of, and the journey led him to the opening to love, or whether it was, does he wind up with Sally at the end, the woman he met as a young man, and it just felt a little bit too easy and too convenient to have him just wind up with this woman.
As we recognized that, we said, what is the story we’re interested in telling for this guy that’s about looking back, and about being remembered, and about memory. To us, it felt much more exciting to have him go on a journey that doesn’t just have a clean, perfect ending, that, oh, the girl’s magically available after 50 years, and they still have the same feelings towards one another, and it’s fine, versus a reconnection that moves him forward on his journey. Watching Griffin’s growth, the actor in that character, has been such an exciting part of the back half of our journey for all of us as writers. It’s so fun to watch him, on that plane at the end, have a little bit of swagger, from this guy who was shut in in his trailer just a couple of years ago. It’s been a really exciting journey. We felt it was the right choice for him. So, this romantic journey with Sally led him to love as opposed to being the answer to his love story.
DEADLINE: You closed that romantic chapter and then you immediately opened a new one.
DEADLINE: Like Griffin Dunne, whose casting as Nicky was kept under wraps until it was revealed onscreen that Nicky was alive, you’d kept Vanessa’s casting quiet, so we don’t have much information about the extent of her role. Will we see more of Edie going forward? Will Vanessa be a recurring cast member?
FOGELMAN: Yeah. Absolutely. Early in the season, she has this great stuff, and you get to see what Nicky is like in a relationship. It’s really fun, it’s really exciting, and it’s just such a great color in the character. It’s one of the bright ways I was excited about to, as you said, close chapters on a television series. Here’s this guy, and he had a story, and we had started already telling the ending of his story, in terms of what becomes of him and what he does with his life, and what he does with his romantic life, and it’s just really fulfilling and really rewarding to see him. My hope is that the whole end of the series can feel a little bit like that, as well.
DEADLINE: What is your plan for the flash-forwards in the final season? Usually, we get them once a season, building towards the finale when that scene with the family gathering as Rebecca is dying will be fully revealed. Will there be more flashforwards sprinkled throughout — both the main one and Kate’s wedding?
FOGELMAN: Yeah. We’ve got these two periods that, as we get deeper into the season, we’ll have some heavy time spent in them, which is the 4 or 5 years in the future, at Kate and Phillip’s wedding, and at the house where the family is gathering, slowly, over the course of these past few seasons. It’ll be a little different than we’ve done in the past which is, we’re going to be doing a little less — not that we won’t be doing it at all — but a little less of those, like at the end of episode two, where you see a glimpse of it to provide an answer, versus when we get to those places, we’ll live there a little bit more.
We have a real plan on how we’re going to spread out time, and you’ll see that it’s been part of our plan since the beginning. I think it will feel very easy to follow and very earned for people who’ve gone, wait, I’m seeing these glimpses of these things at the wedding or these things in the future that I want answers to the things I see. I think we’re going to live in them enough that people will get all of that closure that they’re looking for.
DEADLINE: Speaking of that, how long before we finally get the answers about why Kate and Miguel have been MIA in the flashforward so far?
FOGELMAN: That one could take a while, but you’re going to get all the answers.