Today, it's hard to imagine anyone else in the roles of the Pearson family: Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz and Susan Kelechi Watson just seem destined to play Jack, Rebecca, Randall, Kate and Beth on "This Is Us."
But just a couple of years ago, they were still actors going out on yet another audition — and no one was guaranteed a job. That's what makes watching their never-before-seen audition tapes, which will be part of Tuesday's The Paley Center Salutes "This Is Us" special on NBC, so mind-blowing.
"The casting process was one of those perfect dream scenarios where I got to cast everyone I wanted to cast," show creator Dan Fogelman says in one of those clips, which we got a sneak peek of on Monday.
In those clips, we're completely charmed by seeing Jack (Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Moore) first interact, and to hear early versions of lines that ultimately made it into the show.
"I read the scene, and I could see Dan in the back of the room literally, just like, smiling and I was thinking to myself, 'OK, I think I must have done my job,'" Ventimiglia recalls in his clip; his audition included him having to give a pep talk to the doctor while Rebecca was preparing to give birth.
"It was the best network television pilot that I've ever read," says Brown, who was checking out the script while filming FX's "American Crime Story." His audition features Randall telling his Beth (Kelechi Watson) that he's found his birth father.
"I remember going to the audition and like, the birds were birdier, the sky was bluer," says Metz in her clip; her scene involved her first, slightly awkward, date with Toby (Chris Sullivan).
Moore recalls that she was probably one of the first people who read for the show. But as she notes, she didn't hear back until weeks later when they asked her to sit down with Ventimiglia for a "chemistry read."
"He was the only guy I read with, and we sort of just instantly had this connection," she says.
We can totally see it!
Be sure to see more great behind-the-scenes in the special, which airs Tuesday, September 18 at 9 p.m. And now's the time to double-check that your schedules are clear and your DVRs ready for the season three premiere of "This Is Us"!