“This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman (Suzanne Kreiter/ The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
With three Golden Globes nominations, "This Is Us" received more honors from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Monday morning than HBO’s highly decorated epic series "Game of Thrones."
Below, creator Dan Fogelman talks with the L.A. Times about his NBC series that became the network’s first series to earn a nomination in the drama category in 10 years.
You cannot tell me you didn’t see THIS twist coming?
I hear there’s a group text going—
Yes, there’s one going with some of the producers and the cast. The cast is the coolest, they are so supportive of each other. And they’re so excited for Mandy [Moore] and Chrissy [Metz]. And they are excited the show is nominated. I mean, you feel it when you watch them onscreen. It’s a genuinely nice group of people. It radiates off of them. That makes it really fun.
This was a show that started out as a spec film script that you eventually made into a TV series. Its trailer notched an insane amount of views—but you were unsure of whether that would mean anything. Now you’ve got yourself a hit.
More than anything, our casting directors cast the eight right people. It kind of all went from there. The cast is beautiful and NBC got it out there the right way. They positioned it to win. They’re marketing was great.
Honestly, I’ve never had this kind of creative experience in my life, they completely let me make the show I wanted to make. All the other stuff is this slippery thing that you can’t even figure out how or why something happens this way. It just does. Whatever that magic is caught here. I hope it’s staying because we’re enjoying it.
You guys are the only broadcast contender in the drama category. What statement do you think that makes in an era of Peak TV?
I watch everything. I’m not a student of television in that way. I know the general perception that cable is cooler and edgier than network TV. I’ve always believed there’s a form of populist and accessible entertainment that I think, especially recently, hasn’t been sold as much to the masses—or at least rewarded this way, getting nominations for things.
Wait. What am I saying? What on earth am I talking about? I woke up at 5:30 a.m. this morning. I think there’s a place for this type of entertainment and I think we’re the lucky show that came around at the right time to be the one to breakthrough.
In the spirit of the show, how often do you think about who your parents were before they had you and how their lives changed?
A lot of this came from that. My mom passed away eight years ago. She was pretty young. I’ve experienced all these milestones in my life, subsequently. I got married for the first time. All this stuff has happened in my work. My sister just had a baby. My mother and I were very close. Introspectively, that’s a big part of my formation right now.
As you get through your 30s, you think about that a lot as you move forward in creating your own family, you think about the family that came before you. It’s a part of the show that I think people are attaching to—the basic concept of that, seeing parallels in their own lives. The cast and I are all struck by the ways in which people are responding to the show. It’s different than anything I have ever worked on in terms of not just the amount of people that are watching it, or the number of people who want to take selfies with Mandy. That always happens. It’s the interpersonal connections to the show beyond just ‘I love that show,’ but telling a story from an episode as it relates to their family or their childhood. It has caught us all by surprise.
I want to see lots of selfies the night of. I need to see the kids dressed up as they take in the night.
Honestly, last night I went to [Critics’ Choice Awards]. I don’t think I’ve ever been to an award show. I’ve been involved in films that got a modicum of awards recognition here or there–even TV shows. But never enough to be invited to one. I literally had to go and buy a tux.
I was watching it the whole night last night and was like, so, this is what happens—every commercial break, all the most famous people in the world, race up from their tables to go drunkenly talk to their actor peers at other tables. It’s really stressful. You’re watching everyone go around the room.
I wound up at a dinner party with Ryan Murphy last Friday night and he had been telling me that ["This Is Us"] was going to get nominations and he needed to take me shopping. I’m terrified of it. I saw him last night and he was like, we’re going shopping if you get those nominations tomorrow.
My wife thinks it’s really funny and I’m terrified he’s going to make me spend a gazillion dollars on a tuxedo. This is literally all I’m thinking about. Everyone keeps asking me if I’m excited about the show’s nomination and I’m like: I’m worried Ryan Murphy is going to make me spend $40,000 on clothes.
Can I be a fly on the wall for this shopping trip?
I think there’s a reality show in there somewhere.
Are you constantly being hounded for more information about the show?
I have friends who’ve had falling outs with friends, and those friends are getting in contact so they can ask me if Toby is alive. People who haven’t spoken in decades are putting aside grudges to find out answers. I have maybe 200 emails a day from people I haven’t heard from in ages asking what happens to Toby.
Has there been an episode that’s made you teary-eyed?
Every episode has a moment that moves me. When I saw the cut of last week’s episode, it was little Kevin walking side by side with his sister, little Kate, as she’s being wheeled in for surgery. Something was welling up inside me. I was like, oh [crap]. The little moments catch me off guard.
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