Some mild spoilers for the new season of This is Us below.
For four seasons, This is Us has sucked audiences in with its storytelling and the way that the characters navigate life intertwined with each other and on their own. Starring now award favorites such as Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia, the show has received praise for it’s lean on family and hopefulness as well as the juggling act of multiple time frames for a set of characters that finds itself getting bigger with each arc/season.
“It’s so crazy that it’s already been four years,” Parker Bates who has played little Kevin since the start exclaims. Logan Shroyer plays teen Kevin and Justin Hartley plays adult Kevin on the series showing us the ups and downs of Kevin. So far, we’ve seen him growing up often having to learn how to make better, less selfish choices once he realized the effect it has on others (often his family) to angsty, popular football player searching for the center of attention while life quickly humbles him to an actor that found unfulfilled success on fictional sitcom The Manny but craving more that he didn’t realize until more recently in the show was about redemption and trying to be a better person. “Playing Kevin has taught me that you should spend quality time with the people that you love. If you get into an argument with someone you are close to, you should make up and move forward. You shouldn’t hold grudges and stay angry. Life is too short.”
A wise enough answer on its own, it’s the fact that Kevin is still figuring this out and learning it that stands out to Parker as he adds, “It bothers me that Kevin didn’t ever make things right with his mom and that they aren’t as close as they should be when he gets older.”
Although he hasn’t completely made amends with Rebecca, the relationships Kevin had with both Rebecca and Jack continue to weigh heavily on him especially when he’s older and Jack is no longer in his life anymore and he realizes that he doesn’t have as much of him as he thought he once did.
“I didn’t realize how close little Kevin was to Jack until I saw how badly teen and grownup Kevin were dealing,” Parker reflects on the past seasons. “Now, when I have scenes with Milo, I try to think about that and how much I look up to him. I hope when the viewers watch, they see the bond between Jack and little Kevin and that it sets up the story for teen and grownup Kevin. I also didn’t realize that I was the only Kevin that really gets that opportunity with Jack, so I feel like I have a really important part of the story to tell. I think when I was 8, I didn’t get that.”
I didn’t realize that I was the only Kevin that really gets that opportunity with Jack, so I feel like I have a really important part of the story to tell. I think when I was 8, I didn’t get that.
Within this new season, teen Kevin’s storyline has revealed that while the Pearson’s were still figuring out how to continue life not long after Jack’s death with Kate staying at home with Rebecca and Randall going to college closer to home to make sure they were okay, Kevin left to college with his childhood love Sophie and spontaneously got married. Meanwhile, adult Kevin, managing both sobriety and a breakup from his last serious relationship is looking to connect with Jack’s younger brother, his Uncle Nicky, in the hopes of learning more about and being closer to his father–a storyline Parker says is one of his favorites currently.
“I like that they are exploring into little Kevin’s funny side, so I get to be the comic relief from all the crying,” Parker notes about the times we get to see younger Kevin. “In the first couple of seasons, I feel like Kevin cried all the time and now he is growing up and finding his way. I always felt so bad that little Kevin was so mean to Randall, but that seems to be changing.” One instance that he references loving is a recent episode where little Kevin pauses his personal “Me Day” of relaxing to go up to Randall’s school and help him out of trouble when he calls home having a panic attack. “I hope that continues for the kids.”
“The most natural part to play is when I get to have fun and make jokes because that is my personality in real life as Parker. I feel like the writers got that and work in some great comedy for me to play with,” Parker explains. “The hardest part is when I have to be mean to Randall because Lonnie and I are good friends in real life. I have to get into Kevin mode and think of him as an annoying brother, so that doesn’t come as naturally.”
Making up the little Big Three is Parker, Lonnie Chavis as Randall, and Mackenzie Hancsicsak as Kate. Each era of the Big Three explores the three siblings dynamic and all the ways they care for, grow apart from, and learn from each other. But, the little Big Three is when a lot of the seeds are planted. “I honestly think some of our chemistry comes through in the writing. There was a scene, in particular, that felt very natural, and like we were just hanging out. In fact, we were asked to improv and continue the scene-off script.” The scene he’s referring to, Parker then shares, is when Kate gets her first kiss with Stuart and the three siblings sit on the bedroom floor discussing their day together. It’s a sweet and genuine moment reminiscent of moments we see with the older versions of themselves where it’s the three Pearson kids together, without their parents, figuring out a little moment in life together.
“I’m hoping for more moments like that with our little Big Three,” he says.
Meanwhile, working with Mandy Moore and Milo as their parents, we’ve seen videos of the two with the young actors on set during downtime and countless times the three have been asked about the things they’ve learned from working with them. But what has Mandy and Milo hopefully learned from working with and watching their little Big Three grow?
“I hope we have taught them to not be so hard on themselves and that it is okay to mess up, everyone is only human,” Parker starts. “I think kids have a way of getting everyone to giggle and not be so serious all the time. I also think we have taught them that kids are capable of carrying some major weight. I think they have learned to trust us as scene partners and fellow actors and that’s what makes it so much fun to work with them on screen. We push each other and bring the best we can to every scene.”
I hope we have taught [Mandy and Milo] to not be so hard on themselves and that it is okay to mess up, everyone is only human.
Aside from playing Kevin, Parker would love to tap into the more lighthearted and comedic side of him by playing Toby while acknowledging what he’s dealing with currently with Kate and the two of them figuring out how to raise Baby Jack knowing that he’s blind. “His character is complex and I guess I would like the challenge,” Parker states. “Also, he has a cute little dog, Audio, and Rebecca won’t let the little Big Three get a dog, so yeah that would be cool to work with an actor dog,” he follows up.
Parker’s newest project is the movie Magic Max. Similar in that realm of family members learning how to deal with life after a loss, the movie finds Parker’s character Tim living with his immature, magician uncle Max (Ivan Sergei) after the death of his parents. “I had never been in a movie before, so to get the opportunity to audition for the lead was insanely awesome! I had been on many movie auditions before, but it’s rare for a kid to have such a huge lead. So, really I was just excited for a chance to have so much great material. I loved the script because it was a story that was family-friendly with a great message. There was a lot of action, stunts, and even a love interest, so I was hooked from my first read,” he exclaims about the role.
Parker describes Tim as being angry and confused as he copes losing his parents. “Not only does he have to go through the death of his parents, but he has to go live with his immature, selfish uncle who hasn’t really ever been around. The movie follows Tim through the darkest part of his life to the other side,” he says. “You see Tim growing and learning to love again. You learn that Tim is kind and sweet, mischievous, and not afraid of anything!”
“Tim losing his parents makes playing the character a challenge, but I was able to relate to him in different ways. Tim has a good heart and wants to heal and move forward. Once he starts making new relationships in the movie, his personality comes through. And I feel like that personality is a lot like me,” Parker continues about the similarities and differences that he shares with Tim.
The concepts of loss and growing up are significant to the story Parker explains which makes things interesting considering Max is also a magician. “Max is a lousy, lonely magician and that’s kind of the only thing he has going until Tim comes along. Max is forced to grow up and realize Tim needs him. Somewhere along the way, he finally gets it,” Parker exclaims. “Max uses his magic to bond with Tim who finally opens up and lets Max in. Through the love of magic, they find their way,” he puts it simply.
Being there for those you love when they need you most is so important. Sometimes it is hard to be selfless and responsible, but the reward is so worth it.
“Magic Max definitely makes you take a look around you. I think viewers will take away that you should be there for your family. Being there for those you love when they need you most is so important. Sometimes it is hard to be selfless and responsible, but the reward is so worth it,” Parker pleads to note that the two take the viewers on an emotional adventure that, “proves that love wins.”
With this being his first real movie set, Parker reflects that it has it’s differences to working on television mostly because filming the movie for a couple of months, bonding with the cast and crew and then saying goodbyes. “On a TV show like This is Us, you get to work with those people for years. I can literally watch myself grow up onscreen, and that’s crazy,” Parker exclaims. He shares that he has love for both and is looking forward to going back and forth working on both mediums.
Continuing on about his love for acting, he shares that it’s hard to name just one thing that stands out to him as a favorite. “I love being on set, challenging myself with all kinds of characters, but my favorite thing about acting is probably watching the project all come together after all the hard work everyone puts in! You focus so much on your scenes and getting all the details just right, but seeing the finished episode or film is priceless,” he responds.
“I really like to travel, so I would love to film a movie somewhere I have never been to before, somewhere really cool, like Canada or New York–I think it would be super fun to explore a new city in between working on set making a movie,” he shares about what he’s looking forward to in the future as our interview wraps up. “I also look forward to working with more actors I look up to like Leonardo Dicaprio, Rami Malek, or Michelle Williams to name just a few. I have a whole list!”
This is Us airs Tuesdays at 9p/8p central on NBC.
(photo cred: Amanda Ramon)