Mandy Moore's This Is Us Work Was a Masterclass — A TVLine Appreciation

In last Tuesday’s This Is Us, as Rebecca neared the end of her time on Earth, an old friend showed up to offer a sort of benediction. “You’re as tough as they come, Rebecca Pearson,” Dr. K told her, smiling kindly. “And you, my dear, have earned a rest.”

Now, on the eve of the NBC drama’s series finale, the hour has arrived to swap out “Rebecca Pearson” for “Mandy Moore,” and “a rest” for “some Emmy love.” In other words: It’s time for Moore to get the respect and admiration she’s surely earned over the past six seasons.

This Is Us set a Herculean acting task before Moore when she joined the cast at the series’ outset: Play Pearson family matriarch Rebecca, starting in the character’s 20s and continuing into her elderly years. In Season 3, This Is Us extended that job a little further, giving viewers peeks at a flash-forward that showed Moore portraying Rebecca on her deathbed in her 80s.

It shouldn’t have worked. One look at Moore, who has been in her 30s for the series’ entire run, brings to mind words like “dewy” and “blooming” and “what moisturizer does she use and where do I get some.” Her previous TV and film roles often played to that ethereal quality, like a terminally ill pastor’s daughter in A Walk to Remember, a doomed surgery patient on Grey’s Anatomy or a literal Disney princess in Tangled.

Gathering up all of that youthful vigor and stuffing it under old-age prosthetics seems like a fool’s errand… except Moore absolutely made it work, and well. What a revelation it has been, over the course of the series’ run, to watch the pop star-turned-singer/songwriter-turned-actress absolutely nail whatever the show handed her. She was as believable in the light and playful scenes of Jack and Rebecca’s early courtship as she was in Rebecca’s handling of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, showing off a range that never failed to wow. The character’s actions, motivations — hell, even her facial expressions — always felt perfectly attuned to the corresponding point in Rebecca’s very long timeline, a job that can’t have been easy.

Any regular readers of TVLine know how much we’ve championed Moore through the years, evidenced by how often she’s shown up as our Performer of the Week and as a Dream Emmy nominee. Yet the Television Academy has been very slow to give Moore her due. Throughout This Is Us’ entire run, she’s nabbed only one Emmy nomination, for her work in 2019 (the trip to California with Jack, the panic attack at The Big Three’s high school graduation, etc.).

Moore’s performance this season has been just as captivating, if not more so, than that previously acknowledged work. While we will always show up for Moore playing Rebecca as a young mom of three just trying to figure it all out, we were devastated by the choices she made playing elderly Rebecca as she lost her memory — and herself — degree by heartbreaking degree.

How beautiful, then, that the show’s penultimate episode was a showcase honoring everything Moore has achieved as Rebecca Pearson. And how perfect it would be if that achievement were cemented with a little Emmy gold.

This Is Us‘ series finale will air Tuesday at 9/8c.

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