With only four episodes remaining, “This Is Us” is tying up key storylines, ranging from the demise of Kate and Toby’s marriage to the reunion romance of Kevin and Sophie, while one of the show’s biggest mysteries looks poised to be solved. That mystery, of course, is who, exactly, is Miguel?
As Jack’s best friend who later marries his widow, Rebecca, Miguel has remained a kind of wild card in the “This Is Us” universe, but viewers will get a look at what makes him tick in next week’s episode.
“We’re going to go really far back to a time period that we haven’t seen at all yet with Miguel, and we are going to learn about his family and maybe how his family has affected how he responds in situations with the Pearson family,” Jon Huertas, who plays Miguel, told TODAY in a phone interview.
While Miguel has been on the outside looking in when it comes to the Pearsons, Huertas says there’s much more to him.
“There’s always been, I think, a drive in Miguel that, if you’re not paying attention, is not apparent. But if you are paying attention it’s very apparent how Miguel’s drive to become successful comes from a very deep place,” he said. “And he’s always wanted that for Jack, so that Jack could do for his family what Miguel maybe couldn’t even do for his own family because of the situation with his family.”
Viewers may recall a season three episode in which Miguel and Rebecca have a tense Thanksgiving with his kids after he divorced his wife, exposing his fractured relationship with his children, one of the rare instances providing insight into his past.
Miguel has spent much of the “This Is Us” run hanging on the periphery of the Pearson family, a stepfather who could never quite fill the big shoes left behind by Jack.
From the outset, not everyone embraced him, adding to the layered tension of the familial relationships, but he has won over fans, especially given how he has become Rebecca’s fierce protector while she struggles with Alzheimer’s disease.
“People that once really did not care for Miguel, as far as audience goes, they have definitely come around,” he said.
The show's penchant for shuttling back and forth through time helped structure its narrative, while also piquing the interest of viewers. We’ve always known Miguel and Rebecca end up married, but how did that happen? It’s a question that viewers have long wondered. The origins of their relationship haven’t been addressed directly until this season and Huertas thinks it’s been wise not to reveal too much about his character along the way.
“When you unveil too much on any series too early, then it doesn’t give the audience something to hope for, to root for,” he said
“Holding out some kind of secret is a very smart, intelligent way that the writers have been able to keep stringing the audience along with something on the show,” he said.
Miguel is interesting, not only because he has remained something of an unknown quantity for so long, but also for the dynamic he brings to the Pearson family. Huertas said it was important not to win over the audience in one fell swoop, instead noting how series creator Dan Fogelman chose to draw out just who Miguel is and how he fits in over the duration of the series.
“We knew at the very beginning that people didn’t love Miguel so much, didn’t understand what the relationship between Miguel and Rebecca were,” he said.
“And so we could have early on tried to turn the audience around, like with some kind of big story point. But instead to play that long game, and Dan wanted to do that, from the beginning, has been so challenging as an actor and so much kind of fun to play with the story in that way that I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
While Jack was the gold standard of fathers, Miguel has been cast in many eyes as the man in his shadow who takes his place. Huertas says show creator Dan Fogelman has done a masterful job explaining that Miguel is actually his own man and not necessarily living in Jack’s shadow.
“He’s figured out how to show people ... that Miguel isn’t trying to replace and never was trying to replace Jack and he really isn’t a replacement Jack. He is someone that’s filling a void in Rebecca’s heart.
“And I think that’s the magic of what Dan and the writers have done is that they’ve let the audience kind of see that, but still hold on to the idea that that Miguel might be replacing Jack.”