NBC’s “This Is Us” is a drama that tells the story of the Pearson family over the course of several decades: Jack and Rebecca Pearson, a young couple raising their three children, biological twins, Kate and Kevin, and an adopted son of the same age, Randall. We see the family navigate their relationships with each other, as well as the people they encounter in their lives and their own families as adults. Season 1 of “This Is Us” introduces us to the family and gives us a sense of their early days as well as where they are now. Seasons 2–4 continue to jump around in time, delving into the history of the Pearson clan from the 70s when Jack and Rebecca were kids, to when the two meet, up to the present day when their children are grown with families of their own. Season 4 ended in March 2020 and the show has already been renewed for Seasons 5 and 6, which will be its last. There have been no announcements as to when filming on Season 5 will begin due to the COVID-19 production pause, or when the next season will premiere.
“This Is Us” was created by Dan Fogelman, who also executive produces and writes for the show. He had originally written the story as a feature film and changed it to adapt the idea for television. Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger co-showrun “This Is Us.” The series began filming in early 2016 in Los Angeles and premiered on September 20, 2016 on NBC.
Backstage has had casting calls for “This Is Us” in the past and while there are none right now, keep an eye on Backstage for future opportunities to join the series. You can still find other productions casting that are worth checking out if you love the NBC tearjerker.
Throughout its first four seasons, “This Is Us” has starred:
- Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson
- Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson
- Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson
- Chrissy Metz as Kate Pearson
- Justin Hartley as Kevin Pearson
- Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth Pearson
- Chris Sullivan as Toby Damon
- Lonnie Chavis as child Randall Pearson
- Mackenzie Hancsicsak as child Kate Pearson
- Parker Bates as child Kevin Pearson
- Niles Fitch as teenage Randall Pearson
- Hannah Zeile as teenage Kate Pearson
- Logan Shroyer as teenage Kevin Pearson
- Lyric Ross as Déjà Pearson
- Eris Baker as Tess Pearson
- Faithe Herman as Annie Pearson
- Jon Huertas as Miguel Rivas
- Ron Cephas Jones as William Hill
Bernie Telsey and Tiffany Little Canfield of Telsey + Company are the casting directors of “This Is Us.” The bi-coastal team (Telsey is in New York and Canfield in Los Angeles) known for their work on Broadway and musical theater, has also cast TV shows like Apple’s “Little America,” FX’s “Fosse/Verdon,” The CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” NBC’s “Smash,” and more.
Creator Dan Fogelman told Backstage that the cast bonded during the audition process, which required rounds of chemistry reads to create the family dynamic so essential to the show’s success. Fogelman remarked that many actors who could have been offer-only were vying for the roles, but everyone came in to audition. Originally, the role of Jack Pearson was planned for a “white-collar everyman type,” but auditions changed the course of the show and Milo Ventimiglia ultimately won the role.
“Milo came in off his motorcycle with his beard and his long hair, just looking like the coolest, handsomest guy in the world,” Fogelman recalls. “And it was a complete surprise that I said, ‘Oh, this guy is the patriarch of this family.’ It was very clear, instantly, to us.” That choice influenced who the character would become.
Mandy Moore auditioned with a scene that doesn’t happen until the second episode. “Watching her do it in the room and then on tape, it was very clear that she needed to do this part,” Fogelman says. “She’s got some serious chops, and that’s really exciting.”
Fogelman said that in the end, the team was able to cast “all of our first choices.”
What actors can expect in the audition room: “They can expect to hopefully be seen and to hopefully be chosen. One thing I want every actor to know is if they don’t get the specific job they might be coming into the room for, there are so many other things about that experience that are being carried over. Always remember: You’re not being rejected, you just didn’t get that job. We have this box in our office, and [when] every one of our CDs comes out of a session, those audition sheets get circulated so everyone can see who might have done something that might be right for the thing that they’re casting. That’s the fun thing about our office, because we have so many different kinds of projects happening at the same time. We have a column on our schedules that they might be coming in for ‘Rent,’ but on the side I’m writing, ‘See for this and this and this.’ Even if they’re not getting the ‘Rent’ job, they’re coming in for ‘Wicked’ or ‘Mean Girls’ or ‘This Is Us,’ whatever it is we’re potentially casting at that moment. Every audition is another way of being seen and educating whoever might be in that room about what your talent is. There are so many other opportunities that come out of that.”—Bernie Telsey
On finding new talent: “There is theater in L.A., I know people don’t realize it but it’s true! We also look to the training programs and community theater. With technology now, we can research anyone. I’ve reached out to theaters in San Francisco and Chicago and said, ‘Hey, here’s what we’re looking for.’ Or I’ll reach out to people in charge of various theater movements and we’ve discovered talent we cast that way. There are now more platforms for performers to speak their truth. We cast an actor who was from YouTube last year. She went through the normal process but how we found her or knew her was from her channel. She was writing and creating content of her own, completely on her own with no help with anyone and found an audience and went viral because she was telling her truth. She didn’t win the part because she was on YouTube, no one cared about that at all. She has the talent and she came in and just claimed the role. It was very exciting to know that anyone could put themselves out there. It’s better than sitting and waiting at home for the phone to ring.”—Tiffany Little Canfield
The best actor for the part wins: “What has become clear is the best actor for the part wins, and you can use styling and production support to help with the physical storytelling a bit more. Like, one of the kids might have blue eyes, and the character had green eyes. We didn’t let that rule out an actor who might be excellent.” —Tiffany Little Canfield
Though there have been no public casting calls for lead roles, that doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing new faces when the series returns.
Keep in mind that for larger speaking roles—series regular, recurring, guest star, co-star, contract—you’ll likely need to go through your agent. Don’t have an agent? Here’s how to get one.
Should an audition come up, make sure you’re prepared:
Los Angeles-based Brad Bittner of Central Casting is the casting director for background actors on “This Is Us.” There are currently no open calls for Season 5 background talent, but be sure to check Central Casting’s website for updates.
Past Backstage casting calls for “This Is Us” background talent have included:
- All genders
- All ethnicities
- Thin to medium or average build. No trendy or modern haircuts or facial hair. Period costumes provided.
- Filming takes place in Memphis, TN.
Since “This Is Us” shoots mainly in Los Angeles, it’s helpful to be local to the area. Because background work often does not include relocation or travel stipends, being a local hire is crucial for getting repeat work as an extra. For more information on what it means to be a local hire, click here.
For more information on how to land work and make a living as a background actor, check out Backstage’s guide to working as an extra.