EW: Let me start here: Do you need a hug?
GERALD MCRANEY: (Laughs) Always. Always. It’s amazing — the older you get, the more open to having them you are.
I like that. Now let’s back up, actually, to the beginning. The pilot script for This Is Us comes your way. You read the part of Dr. K. What are your first thoughts? What intrigued you about this role?
What a great role it was to begin with. That one speech after the baby has been lost, advising him to try and move on with his life. When I first read that, it was like, “Gee! Who do I have to pay for this?”
That is one of the most memorable moments of the pilot: Dr. K’s speech to Jack when he’s consoling him. And then you issue that gem: “I’d like to think that one day you’ll be an old man like me talking a young man’s ear off explaining to him how you took the sourest lemon that life had to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade.”
What a great line!
Did you know how special that line was at the time?
It felt that way to me when I read it, yeah. It’s an interesting use on words, because the doctor doesn’t say turn it into lemonade. Turn it into something resembling lemonade, which in plain speak is: Do the best you can with what you have.
Life isn’t all bunnies and rainbows.
No. And that’s one of the things I love about this show is that it doesn’t tie things up in a nice little ribbon at the end of everything — but people are going to try.
By the way, do waiters bring you free lemonades when you go out to eat now? Is it free lemonades for life?
No. No. I don’t get lemonade anywhere.
Really? I’m surprised. Are you not a fan?
No, I love lemonade! I make my own!
Dr. K returned in the fall finale and barely survived that very critical surgery. Were you surprised that they brought you back again? And were you thinking that when they did that it might be his last go-around considering the seriousness of the situation?
When I do a project like this, I don’t think too much in terms of where it’s headed in terms of my being on the show. It’s just such a joy to do it that I appreciate it when I’m doing it, and that’s one of the things in my approach to acting is I just enjoy the process, not so much the result…
You knew there was something special with this after the pilot. Were you thinking, “They may have me back once or twice”? What kind of role were you expecting?
I thought that they might bring me back for one or two episodes because I knew that they were going to be going back and forth in time. But I had no idea what that might be, and then what it might entail for me.
I heard that initially the way that script was written for the fall finale, Dr. K, like Toby, was left in jeopardy, as a cliffhanger. Were you asking them, “Well, what will my fate be?”
No. I left that totally up to them, because when you’re dealing with writing that good, who the hell am I to tell them how to do something differently? I mean, that would be ridiculous! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.