With just three episodes left to go of This Is Us ahead of its May 24 series finale, the Dan Fogelman-created family drama fired up every emotion on Tuesday night with an emotional conclusion for one very beloved character. [Spoilers ahead for This Is Us, Season 6, Episode 15: “Miguel”] During the episode “Miguel,” chronicling the life and journey of Miguel Rivas — played by Jon Huertas — fans learned all about the husband of Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) and stepfather to the Big Three (Chrissy Metz, Sterling K. Brown and Justin Hartley). However, it was the ending of the episode that ultimately shocked fans as they discover Miguel died from heart failure, hence his absence in the flash-forwards with the entire Pearson family at their home’s compound.
In an exclusive with PopCulture.com to chat about the episode and Miguel’s ultimate fate stemming from his own declining health issues, Huertas admits the reveal was a long time coming, sharing how he and Fogelman along with the writers had discussed his character’s death three seasons ago. “Dan had come up to me and said, ‘I’ve got this great idea. Let me run it by you. This is what I think’ — and I was like, ‘Sounds cool. Love it,'” Huertas said. “I kind of helped [the writers] figure out a little bit of what Miguel’s journey was going to be. The writer, Jonny Gomez, was so talented and so good at weaving a lot of my own personal background into the character and then creating these great nuanced scenes.”
Huertas reveals throughout his time on the show, he had 46 costume changes — a record for the cast — and all of it is a testament to the layers behind his character. “There are so many scenes and the way that he tied them together was just brilliant,” he said. “It’s just a testament to Dan for hiring such amazing and talented writers to be able to just honor Miguel in the way he needed to be honored at the end of his run.”
While Huertas remains mum on whether he will still appear in the last three episodes, he notes to “never say never” in terms of a return because after all, “This is This Is Us, don’t forget,” he said. “[But] it’s sad. We love working together and so we’re all going to miss each other, especially people on the crew.” Revealing how so many of the crew followed him from Castle, Huertas shares how a lot of them have been working together for more than 15 years now. “I did tell people, I said, ‘Look, it’s my last scene, but I’m not saying bye. I’m saying, ‘I’ll see you later. It’s a small town and we will definitely cross paths again.'” Everybody’s just so wonderful and talented in what they do, God, I know that everybody on the crew and the writers and everybody will be working forever. I’m sure I’ll see them.”
As the show chronicles Miguel’s life in San Juan, Puerto Rico to the United States at a young age, Huertas admits there’s a lot of himself infused in the character thanks to the writers, especially in terms of identity that serves as a strong representation of his community and heritage. “So much of my own personal history and experiences [went] into Miguel and really marry the two stories and the two people,” he said. “Miguel is an amalgamation of a fictional character that was created for the show and myself. It’s amazing that they allowed me and gave me permission to bring that and share those aspects of my life with our audience, which is special. It’s also cathartic. It’s also nerve-wracking in a way. Even though it’s Miguel, it’s technically not me; I’m putting some of my stuff out there and my life out there. I’m a very private person, so I know it was a little nerve-wracking to think about it.”
One of the most important aspects of the episode, titled “Miguel,” was how Huertas’s character interacted with the Big Three — Kevin (Justin Hartley), Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Kate (Chrissy Metz) — near the end of his life amid the time jumps. “I think there’s some time that went by that we didn’t see the Big Three and Miguel interacting and so I believe that there were times and moments, and when Rebecca started to decline more, that the Big Three took note and noticed how important that primary caregiver is to a person.”
As portrayed in the episode and the heated argument shown upon the Big Three learning of their mother’s relationship with Miguel after he moved back, audiences will recognize that Kevin always butted heads with Miguel, the man who seemingly replaced his father, Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia). However, the two came to a mutual understanding upon Rebecca’s deteriorating health for a commonality rooted in love. “It’s something that we really wanted to have come across in the show as being highlighted, what a caregiver goes through, how hard it is for them and I think that the Big Three, even though there’s been, especially with Kevin and Miguel, sometimes a wall there. I wouldn’t say contentious — but there’s been a wall of some kind. It could not be ignored. Those kids could not ignore it. It was apparent,” he said. “And then when [Miguel] hurts himself [after the fall outside] and Kevin notices it, he has a real visceral feeling of [that] comes from a place of love for this man who his mother is just madly in love with.”
Huertas adds it was at that moment that everything came to an understanding for Kevin and his siblings, Randall and Kate. “That scene is just the pinnacle of that closure that they needed as a family because I think they sensed like, ‘All right. If we don’t step up now, something’s going to happen to him sooner than later, and then what happens to mom?’ And then I think at that moment, they realized, ‘Wow, we care about Miguel so much’ at which, I think that’s a good scene that allows anybody who’s still a holdout to care about Miguel that much as well.”
Through the show’s message of how love is about giving your heart without expectation, Miguel’s last moments with Rebecca are precious and prove how the two loved each other unconditionally following Jack’s death. With Miguel finding himself after taking time apart from Rebecca, Huertas reveals it all dealt with his character having the chance to grow by himself and figure out who he was. “He had gone through a very tough divorce and there were definitely some obstacles with his own kids,” he told PopCulture. “[He] had to go figure that out before he could be available and present to commit to the possibility of loving someone like Rebecca. Because of how much he respected her, how much he has always respected her, and always I thought she was special and that’s why he didn’t want Jack to mess it up. Because he thought she was great for Jack.”
This Is Us airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on NBC. The show is now streaming on Peacock with new episodes available the next day. For more on This Is Us and all the finale news, stay tuned to the latest from PopCulture.com.