Justin Hartley (‘This Is Us’) on making the jump from supporting to lead for Season 4 [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Justin Hartley was given a lot of juicy material for Season 4 of “This Is Us.” From navigating a complex relationship with his uncle Nicky (Griffin Dunne) to his conflict with his brother, Randall, (Sterling K. Brown) and an unexpected pregnancy, we got to see many sides to Kevin Pearson in the NBC drama’s fourth season. In fact, this is a contributing factor to why Hartley will now be campaigning in Best Drama Actor for the Emmys after three years of submitting in Supporting Actor. I don’t think the Kevin character is a supporting actor,” Hartley says in an exclusive new interview with Gold Derby. “I think he’s one of the lead actors on a show that is a true ensemble. That’s what I’ve always thought and then particularly this last season, he did a lot. There was a lot of stuff going on with Kevin so it was as simple as that really.” Watch the video interview above.

Some of Hartley’s most involved work came in a pair of midseason episodes, “A Hell of a Week: Part Two,” where Kevin gets the focus in both the past and present, and “A Hell of a Week: Part Three,” which the actor directed. For his big centric episode, we see Kevin dealing with Sophie as the one that got away, having screwed up their relationship on multiple occasions. “The truth is, she is the one that got away twice and he messed it up both times,” Hartley remarks. “The hope is that she’s not that person for the rest of his life that got away and that he will meet someone that is extraordinary and that he falls in love.” Then going into the very next episode, Hartley felt the pressure as a director to rise to the level of the show’s typical quality. “‘This Is Us’ is a big deal and I need to do a good job here,” he recalls thinking at the time. “So it was a daunting task for sure, but I think it turned out great.”

The Season 4 finale was pivotal in Kevin’s story as he finally came to blows with Randall over how to properly care for their mother and in the middle of everything, finding out that Madison (Caitlin Thompson) is pregnant with twins and he happens to be the father. While he and Brown are good friends offscreen, Hartley reveals that it was actually not hard to be in each other’s faces in such a vicious argument. “I trust him and he trusts me and we’re actors,” Hartley states. “I know that he’s gonna go for it and he knows I’m gonna go for it.” With the pair ending on such a sour note, the actor notes how fascinating it is to then be presented with new life in the form of Madison’s big reveal. You have an exit and you have an entrance,” Hartley observes. “It’s an interesting place to find yourself.”

Going into Season 5, Kevin will have a lot on his plate, from Madison’s pregnancy to all of the other relationships in his life. “He’s gonna have to deal with work, he’s gonna have to deal with Randall, what is that gonna look like?” Hartley teases. “Are they gonna get back on the right track or is it just total estrangement, throw in the towel and, ‘We’re done here?'”

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